Chevrolet SS — All-American sports sedan from down under

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The Chevrolet SS arrived for the 2014 model year the embodiment of a true modern-day muscle car sedan, oozing an in-your-face All-American attitude with its rumbling Corvette-derived V-8 engine, the antithesis of the polished BMW M5. But the big Chevy sedan is more than just old-school tire-burning muscle, displaying its own brand of sophistication that includes the precision dynamics of a European sports sedan.

This is a true driver's car as well as a large comfortable people mover, the type of large horsepower-infused sedan that made Chevrolet the performance king of the hill midway through the 20th Century. Today the SS serves as the basis for Chevrolet's current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, replacing the Impala.

Ironically, this engaging ride comes not from the U.S., but from GM's Australia subsidiary based on the current-generation Holden Commodore VF. If you were a fan of the Pontiac G8 GXP just before the demise of Pontiac than you might find some similarities. The G8 was perhaps the best Pontiac in decades. It was based on the previous-generation Commodore VE. The SS benefits from more modern yet conservative styling, a new interior that features improved materials including an eight-inch touchscreen and a superior suspension system.

The 2015 SS, which is powered by the same LS3 6.2-liter V-8 found in the last-generation Corvette, benefits from some noteworthy changes from the inaugural 2014 model. It now features the vaunted Magnetic Ride Control suspension that General Motors calls "the world's fastest-reacting damping system" — with three different driving modes (Tour, Sport and Performance) — that allows for spirited cornering or a refined highway ride, whatever your flavor of the day.

We gave the suspension a thorough test in all modes and found the Performance setting on our usual twisting back-road blacktop to be exactly what it implies, firming up the suspension and steering close to Corvette levels.

Perhaps the biggest change is the addition of a six-speed manual transmission as a no-cost option. The easy-to-shift manual gives the SS an old-style muscle-car feel and sets it apart from its one direct rival, the Dodge Charger 6.4 Hemi. We were lucky to get the option, and we found it a hoot to drive. And finally, Chevrolet has added Brembo performance brakes to the rear wheels to complement the upfront Brembo brakes that came with the 2014 SS. Stopping power — 60 to 0 in a scant 110 feet according to one magazine measurement.

While the Charger 6.4-liter V-8 is slightly faster than the SS — according to published times — the Chevy has got the big Dodge, which feels more ponderous behind the wheel, beat in overall agility.

So why didn't the General put the newest Corvette engine under the hood? We don't have the answer to that question, but we can say that the LS3 with 415 hors
epower and 415 pound-feet of torque gives the SS outstanding go-fast capability measured at 4.5 seconds from 0-to-60 and 12.9 seconds at 110 mph in the quarter mile. It suited us just fine and the manual transmission allows the SS to avoid the gas guzzler tax even though it is rather thirsty, rated at 15 mpg city, 21 highway and 17 combined on premium gas, almost identical to the standard six-speed automatic rated at 14/21/17.

The interior of the SS is noteworthy with standard leather upholstery that is taken one step further with contrast stitching and simulated suede inserts on the doors and wraparound dashboard. The eight-inch touchscreen with smartphone app integration provides colorful and easy-to-read displays including satellite radio information.

Additional standard equipment for a base price of $46,645 with destination charge includes 19-inch forged aluminum wheels, summer performance tires, navigation, head-up display, xenon headlights, keyless entry and ign
ition, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated eight-way power seats, and driver memory settings. The bottom line on our test car was $47,640 with addition of a $900 sunroof. In fact there is only one other option available, a full-size spare tire for $500.

Standard safety is also impressive including a rearview camera, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert.

A couple of big questions loom over this high-value unique sedan. The biggest is will the SS survive after the closing of the Holden plant in Elizabeth, South Australia, in 2017? And if it survives — and we hope GM will find a way to continue to build it — will it eventually come with the latest Corvette LT1 V-8 making 455 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque?

Base price: $46,645; as driven, $47,640
Engine: 6.2-liter V-8
Horsepower: 415 @ 5,900 rpm
Torque: 415 pound-feet @ 4,600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 114.8 inches
Length: 195.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,975 pounds
Turning circle: 37.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 16.4 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18.8 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 21 highway, 15 city, 17 combined
0-60: 4.5 seconds (Motor Trend)
Also consider: Dodge Charger 6.4 Hemi, BMW M5, Cadillac CTS-V

The Good
• Powerful V-8 performance
• Cutting-edge Magnetic Ride Control
• Six-speed manual transmission available
• Ample passenger space

The Bad
• Price of admission on high side

The Ugly
• Poor fuel economy