2014 Chevrolet SS review: Rumble from Down Under

2014 Chevrolet SS

2014 Chevrolet SS

While we respect all the safety, infotainment and communication capabilities that come with this car, we know that none of those will be a prime factor in the purchase of the 2014 Chevrolet SS. Rather we know that it’s the muscle of these this Aussie import that matters, just as the clients of a, ahem, male dance troupe from Australia don’t care about how well they can use a telephone, play a radio or use Power Point.

It’s all about that emotional response.

We can’t say much—at this particular member of the CarBuzzard team—about the bipedal antipodal attraction, but this particular Chevrolet, based on the same platform as the Australian Holden VF Commodore, the Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle and Chevrolet Camaro, is all about desire. Specifically, desire for 415 horsepower/415 lb-ft of torque in a rear-drive four-door family sedan.

2014 Chevrolet SS dash

Driver’s eye view of the 2014 Chevrolet SS includes easy-to-read dials and crisp, legible graphics. (click to enlarge)

Of course that family is one that, well, you might not want to take to that other Aussie extravaganza, but one that is all about a high performance sedan that’s ready for a track day at local road course as the local quarter mile.

Drag racers will probably take offense, but the drag strip is a piece of cheese cake for the Chevrolet SS . To be road course ready, however, means that the Chevrolet SS not only has to go straight but also turn left and right as well as stop, and do so over and over again.

The going straight is taken care of in the 2014 Chevrolet SS by the familiar LS3 6.2-liter Chevrolet V-8, using the customary GM six-speed automatic, conventional with the addition of paddle shifting. As of right now this very minute, Chevy hasn’t mentioned the availability of a manual transmission for the SS, but assorted websites have been abuzz with Motor Trend’s announcement that the manual cog changer will arrive in June for the 2015 model year. As this is written, that’s in the next few weeks, so we’ll know.

2014 Chevrolet SS seats

The 2014 Chevrolet SS seats have neat “SS” embroidered in backrest, but “seatbelt passthroughs” are merely decorative. (click to enlarge)

That’s important, or not. For some, a manual transmission is a sine qua non for a performance car, but we wouldn’t kick the automatic out of bed for eating crackers. In regular automatic mode, the tranny’s shifts are smooth and unobtrusive, just what one would want in stop-and-go rush hour traffic. But slip it over to manual mode and the paddles take over. At full throttle, the shift bang through satisfactorily, with a solid hit as it goes into the next gear. And it won’t shift up on its own at redline; the engine just bounces off redline if the driver doesn’t tap the paddle marked “+”.

On the other hand, flip the “-“ paddle for a downshift, and the transmission delivers the next gear down immediately, complete with blip of the throttle to keep deceleration jerk-free. And speaking of decel, on the override, the Chevy SS makes a snap, crackle and pop that would make Kellogg’s jealous. It’s almost as fun as pushing that tall skinny pedal on the right.

Chevrolet has equipped the SS with a 3.27:1 final-drive ratio, and that, along with the 415/415 power/torque thing gets the Chevy SS from nil to sixty in about five seconds. It may be, as Chevrolet claims, “one of the quickest sedans on the market,” but anything that’s quicker is twice or triple the price of an SS.

The suspension, though not the Magnetic Ride Control that some in the media lust for (but don’t pay for), is a MacPherson strut front and multi-link independent rear suspension that’s quite satisfactory for its task. Several passengers commented negatively on its ride, though we’re curious whether it’s sufficiently tied down for the track. Combined with the electric power steering, which Chevrolet calls “optimized for performance driving,” the Chevrolet SS was confidence inspiring for everything we did on the public road. We saw .7 g on the head-up display that’s standard on the SS.

Speaking of handling, the 2014 Chevrolet SS has a competition setting for its stability control. Intended for track use, it’s accessed by quickly pushing the traction control button twice. The competition mode “loosens” the stability control, allowing the SS to slide a little more before stepping in.

2014 Chevrolet SS engine

Alas, the 2014 Chevrolet SS engine is under a plastic cover, but also is mounted well back under the cowl. (click to enlarge)

The competition mode isn’t for jest. Pages 9-5 and 9-6 of the owner’s manual gives specific instructions, after a stern warning that playing on a race track may void the car’s warranty, on how to go about doing it. The manual advises to watch the oil level because for a “vehicle used for track events and competitive driving, the engine may use more oil than it would with normal use.” Also recommended is high performance brake fluid, although if the stock stuff isn’t up to hard use, why not just give the SS the good stuff to begin with?

And because “the [rear differential] fluid temperatures may be higher, it is necessary to change the rear axle fluid every 24 hours of racing or competitive driving.” Finally, the book advises that for the first time on the track, not to drive as long or as fast—be gentle—for the sake of the rear axle, but for extended use on the track, Chevy advises installing a rear differential cooler.

You won’t see that kind of advice in a Chevy Spark owner’s manual.

2014 Chevrolet SS

The rather plain exterior of the 2014 Chevrolet SS accents the front fender flares. (click to enlarge)

You won’t find Brembo front disc brakes, either, especially not with four-piston, two-piece aluminum front calipers and huge 14-inch two-piece front rotors. Chevy notes that the aluminum front calipers “provide increased stiffness to reduce fluid displacement and caliper deformation without adding weight.” We doubt—especially with a change of brake fluid—that we’d ever heat the brakes to fading, but it may have been our imagination, but we were sure we could in a heaviness of the brake pedal feel the capability of the brakes, even in casual driving. Yup, we’re sure that it was.