Not since the mid-1990s have we seen a rear-wheel drive performance car drive out of the Chevrolet brand. At one time the SS badge on a Chevrolet meant the car had the muscle to impress in the stop light drags. There was also a time when the SS badge became a bit tarnished. Who can forget the short lived Cobalt SS. OK so this front-driver had a performance orientated drivetrain. And, even I proclaimed the car was fun to drive, to a point. Unfortunately, the Cobalt suffered from some quality issues in the pre-bankruptcy General Motors. Not surprisingly, the Cobalt SS continues to have a strong enthusiasts following even though it is no longer in production having been replaced by the Chevy Cruze.
We can assure you memory of any of these less than stiller SS models is quickly dashed once one experiences the new Chevrolet SS performance sedan. I have driven early models of this vehicle in Australia, as it is derived from the Holden VF Commodore. At that early drive I wondered why GM did not capitalize on Australian’s wonderful vehicle. As it turns out shortly after that visit to Oz the Pontiac G8 was announced. But alas it was also short lived not because the car had short comings but more that the General was looking to stave off the losses too many brands brought about so the entire brand that was Pontiac went away.
Some of the more performance orientated folks at GM however did not give up and saw to it that the Holden sedan was represented here in the States as the Caprice PPV Police package sedan. Hearing the accolades from the few media who were able to put that car through the ringer, Chevrolet looked into a consumer version with a few changes. Short comings of the PPV police car were few but the car needed to bring creature comforts to a higher level and it needed to be less work focused and more performance and sport orientated.
The 2014 Chevrolet SS hits that mark quite well with plenty of features the make it comfortable and accommodating. Big V-8 powered Chevrolets once dominated the boulevards of America with straight-line power that dominated the race from stop light to stop light. That is gone and in a way thankfully because most enthusiasts would like to have excellent cornering and braking as well as comforts in their vehicles. The Chevy SS does it and you get big V-8 power.
Though it is a version of an earlier Corvette motor, this LS3 6.2-liter V-8 will impress you with its cubed numbers of 415 horsepower and 415 lb-ft. of torque. Those numbers give the SS a jump on the competition at the traffic light and plenty to sustain it through the straights. An additional advantage here over those SS models of yesteryear is major attention was paid to achieving excellent cornering abilities while at the same time not creating an overly harsh ride.
Chevrolet engineers have long understood in this day you cannot give a vehicle big power and outstanding athletic abilities without adding in big brakes that work as they should. It is the old adage in racing, big power means big brakes. Large four-wheel discs include Brembo race-styled front brakes and large 14-inch two-piece rotors bring the Chevy SS to a stop quickly no matter the speed.
A great deal of the spirited driving fun comes from the six-speed automatic transmission and its steering-wheel mounted TAPshift paddle shifters. In the day and age of 99 percent of the America cars outfitted with automatics, we cannot see why any manufacturer would not install paddle shifters. It is the same with leather wrapped steering wheels. These are inexpensive to install and elevates the impression of your vehicle ten-fold.
Holden Program Engineering Manager, Steve Manson, who attended the drive program in the US as a representative from the Holden engineering team said, “The car was acquitting itself very well. The SS will play its part in Chevrolet’s performance car line up.” Manson continued, “We knew that the SS would be well-received here in the United States.” (See video of Manson talking with Car Buzzard on the Chevrolet SS)
Hard as it maybe to believe this SS is the first rear-wheel drive performance sedan in Chevrolet’s lineup this century. And it comes as no surprise that is assembled with a great deal more features than we remember of earlier SS models.
The combination of power ability to shine in the corners and its smoothness in transformation from boulevard cruiser to performance sedan proved to be quite a surprise for one Corvette owner during my test of the SS. Leaving a small Southern California desert town that was base for our adventure, I drove up into the mountains that head west toward San Diego. I came upon a spirited Corvette driver. Being a little competitive we danced to the summit. I could tell by the look in his eyes in the rear view mirror that he was surprised that the Chevy sedan on his tail was not getting any smaller. I played for a short while but pulled back and let him go only to come to a rest stop to see him leaning against his car, so I pulled in. His first comment was, “What the h**l is that thing?” I may have sold the first Corvette owner on a family sedan.
Coupling the exceptional power exuding from that big V-8 and the crispness of the shifts from the paddle shifter assures this SS is yet another satisfying performance car from Chevrolet. Nearing the end of our test and knowing that we must return the car back to Chevrolet we fantasized a bit about how we might forgo that meeting and continue on our merry way. Well that is exactly what we did, well sort of.
Driving into the return lot we spotted Manson and declared to him that we need tons more time behind the wheel of his Australian baby. With a slight wave of his hand we snuck out the back exit, venturing up into the mountains on the prowl for yet another unsuspecting driver to surprise. We just love these unexpected reactions from folks. In true enthusiasts fashion they are always excited to see the next cool ride.