HINT: Go to Post #31 for the full-update...the moderators combined my two threads there.
By CL member-request (and my own interest), a Review of the 2014 Chevrolet SS
(At this time, within a reasonable driving distance from my house, no current SS models are available for a regular test-drive, although some are on order. Like its sister Camaro SS when it debuted several years ago, it is currently in high demand and very short supply, and the typical dealership has no unsold ones at all or one maybe parked in the back of the showroom where it can't easily be taken out on a test drive. The Chevy people say that more of the 2015 models will be available in a few months.....the 2014 models are on a very tight production schedule. But, since I did
spend a fair amount of time on a static review, I figured there was no sense wasting the work I've done, so I'll post it for those of you who are interested, and then, later, when more become available, do the test-drive)
IN A NUTSHELL: A nicer, updated Pontiac/Holden G8 GT, for those who mourned its loss.
CLOSEST AMERICAN-MARKET COMPETITORS: Dodge Charger R/T / SRT-8, Chrysler 300 Hemi / SRT-8.
In 1932, Ford decided to mass-produce the first low-cost V8 engine (the classic Flathead), and it became a sensation in the Model A and subsequent vehicles. But it was Chevrolet, in 1955, that introduced and perfected the (arguably) first modern mass-produced V8 engine for low-priced cars. Earlier attempts, such as the Oldsmobile "Rocket" V8s of the late 1940s and early 50s, had generally been confined to sedans and coupes in a higher price range than your typical Chevy, which putt-putted around with slug-like in-line sixes. The original 265 cubic inch (4.4L) V8 of 1955 was a sensation, and also helped provide some salvation for the first-generation Corvette, which, in 1953-54, had been a joke with its 150 HP in-line six and 2-speed automatic transmission. The small-block Chevy V8 went on to become one of the company's most popular engines of all time....later being bored out and/or reworked to 283, 307, 327, 350 c.i., and a special 302 c.i. for the late-60s Camaro Z28. Larger-block V8s, of course, were also produced, in 396, 409, 427, and 454 c.i., which were also immensely popular in 60s-vintage Chevy muscle-cars, though the end of the muscle-car age in the 1970s killed most of them off.
Today's Australian (Holden)-platform Chevy SS traces its roots to the classic 1955 Chevy Bel-Air and the (then) all-new Chevy 265 V8. The even better-looking and superb 1957 model (with the larger 283) went on to become arguably THE most classic auto-symbol of the 1950s (except possibly for the way over-garish 1959 Cadillac and its outrageous fins). A year later, in 1958, the new, larger Chevy Impala debuted with its quad-headlights. Previously, the Biscayne had been Chevy's entry-level model, with the Bel Air the step-up option. Those two trim lines were retained, but the Impala was the new flagship until the Caprice was introduced in the mid-1960s.
In the early 1960s, the desire of the Detroit firms to market to the enormous Baby-Boom generation (the oldest of whom were just reaching driving age) led to the first full-size Chevy SS (Super Sport) models in the Impala line with the big-block 409 stuffed in. The Impala SS became a classic Friday/Saturday night touring (and drag-racing) car, and was enormously popular, despite growing competition from Pontiac's new mid-size GTO and other mid-size muscle-cars later. Hit songs from groups like the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean were written about both the Chevy 409 SS and the GTO. The 409 could (and did) hold its own on the local drag-strips, but its light weight and somewhat thin block-casting led to a large number of engine-failures under abuse...it lacked the structural rigidity of comparable big-block Ford/Chrysler V8s, and, with its classic short stroke, also revved to higher RPMs.
The Seventies, of course, brought the end of both full-size and mid-size/compact muscle-cars, though the Mustang and Camaro soldered on with greatly emasculated power-plants. The full-size Chevy sedans, along with their full-sized GM cousins, were downsized in 1977, and then downsized several more times in coming years and decades. Build-quality declined as GM, under the notorious Roger Smith, became steadily more interested in the bottom line than in customer satisfaction. Drive-wheels shifted from rear to front in the mid-1980s, though from 1991 to 1996 a large RWD Caprice/Impala SS was put into production along with ta sister Buick Roadmaster and Cadillac Fleetwood until GM decided to cannibalize the plant for truck/SUV production.
After that, some smaller FWD Impalas were done (including a hastily-done and rather unimpressive FWD SS with a transverse-mount small V8). For the most part, these were second-class (and even third-class) rental-grade vehicles that often started to fall apart after a couple of years. (However, don't confuse those earlier unimpressive Impalas with the superb new FWD 2014 Impala, which is totally different and light-years ahead of them). Also came the RWD 2004 Pontiac GTO with its big 6.2L big-block GM V8, done on an Australian Holden Monaro platform, and the later RWD Pontiac G8 GT, done on the slightly larger Holden Commodore platform. The GTO died after only four years or so from low sales (many thought it looked like a rental car, but I disagreed, especially after the retro twin hood scoops were added), and the G8 died with Pontiac's demise after the GM buyout/reorganization.
I liked the G8 GT overall, and did a full-review of it, though I found its all-coal-black interior and cheapish parts inside to be rather unimpressive. Still, it was fun to drive, and brought back at least a tad of that 1960s SS-feel with the big full-sized RWD sedans, though, of course, it was nowhere near the size of those 1960s dinosaurs. There weren't many G8 takers, as, like the GTO, its sales were rather mundane, but those who liked the G8 really missed it.
Well, G8 lovers, your ship has returned, though this time wearing a Chevy bow-tie and a fairly stiff price. IMO it has a significantly better interior than the G8, though the SS's interior, even with some chrome and better trim, is still a little darkish inside (more on that below). Strong rumor has it that Buick will do a Grand National/GNX version of the new SS, but Buick officials are mum on that (I couldn't pry it out of them at the D.C. Auto Show). This new Commodore platform for the SS is, of course, a somewhat updated version of the one that the G8 was based on, but, overall, is not that much different. In Europe, a Vauxhall Maloo version of the Commodore platform (a two-door with a truck-bed, similar to the old Chevy El Camino, is marketed, but there are no plans to bring that here to America as a new El Camino, even though one was considered for Pontiac before the division folded, and, IMO, would fit right into the Chevy line.
For 2014, the SS marketing is quite simple. Only one basic version of the SS is offered, a four-door sedan with the big 6.2L LS3 V8 of 415 HP and 415 ft-lbs. of torque, a 6-speed Sport-Shift automatic, and 3.27 limited-slip differential...the grandson of the old Posi-Traction Chevy differential of the 60s. Base price is $43,475, so this car isn't cheap, and you will have to open your wallet.....I suspect that some dealerships will ask more than list, at least for awhile. IMO, the new SS currently represents the only true large RWD American-nameplate competition to Hemi/SRT-8 versions of the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300, which, for the last several years, have pretty much had this market to themselves. They aren't cheap, either, BTW, and the Charger sells roughly in the SS's price-range. Those SS enthusiasts from the 60s (mostly from my generation) may wish that the new one offered a true 3-pedal manual like the ones from the 60's. But, of course, in many areas of the country, driving conditions (and congestion) have radically changed in the last 50 years, and manual transmissions just aren't suited to today's gridlock and stop/go conditions.
The Chevy/Buick/GMC dealership I was at for the review was quite large (one of the largest on the East Coast, and the same place I had bought my Verano). It had a nice white SS (along with about a dozen other vehicles) in the big showroom. With it being a cool damp cloudy day outside with light rain, and no other ones outside, I did the static review on the white one, a very nice car, I might add. Like I said earlier, I'll do the test-drive when more become available.
MODEL REVIEWED: 2014 Chevrolet SS
BASE PRICE: $43,475
FEDERAL GAS GUZZLER TAX: $1300
Full-size Spare Tire/Wheel: $500
Power Sunroof: $900
DESTINATION/FREIGHT: $995 (steep, but this is a fairly large heavy car by today's standards)
FACTORY REBATE: -$500 (Guess what?....that pays for the spare tire)
LIST PRICE AS REVIEWED: $46,670
DRIVETRAIN: RWD, Longitudinally-mounted 6.2L LS3 V8, 415 HP @ 5900 RPM, Torque 415 Ft-lbs. @ 4600 RPM, 6-speed Sport-Shift automatic transmission with paddle-controls, 3.27 Limited-Slip differential.
EPA MILEAGE RATING: 14 City, 21 Highway
EXTERIOR COLOR: Heron White
INTERIOR: Black Leather Sport seats with red SS logo.
Finally, the Hemi Charger and 300 have some REAL competition.
Handsome (IMO) body styling.
Just what the old Pontiac G8 GT fans were waiting for.
Nice gas strut for the hood instead of manual prop-rod.
Rock-solid body sheet metal by today's standards.
Well-done pant job.
Excellent, well-done interior hardware.
Impressively solid workmanship/materials inside.
Fairly easy-to-use controls/buttons/*****.
Very nice stereo sound (but not a killer)
A real spare tire/wheel (but it is a $500 option).
No AWD option for bad weather like on the Dodge Charger/Chrysler 300.
Fairly stiff base price (but this is also the case for its competition).
Subject to Federal Gas Guzzler Tax.
Fairly low ground clearance from the lower-body fairings.
Only a fair underhood layout for Do-it-Yourselfers.
Paint and interior color-choices far too limited.
Sport-oriented front seat-bolsters a little too narrow for wide rumps/torsos.
So-so trunk/cargo-area trim for the price.
Even from the very first glance, there's no mistaking where the basic design of the SS came from. Just like its Pontiac G8 GT predecessor, most of it is taken from GM's Australian Holden Commodore, and there are marked similarities in the SS's body, roofline, and rear end to both the G8 and Commodore. Up front, however, is a classic Chevy grille/front end and bow-tie emblem (I like the way Chevy does the bow tie in gold on its products). The body sheet metal seems very strong by today's standards (perhaps from its Australian origin), but the front and rear doors, while reasonably solid-feeling, don't close with nearly as much of a thud as you would expect. But the hood and trunk do....more on that below. The paint job, like on most newer GM products, is quite well-done, though the choice of only six exterior colors and one interior color (black) is, IMO, disappointing for a car of this price-range. On top of that, the SS lacks the former G8 GT's choice of some pretty nice cheerful colors, and, has only one color that will actually keep you awake....bright red (RedHot2). On each front fender is a nice chrome vent-assembly...a sport-painted one is an option, but I prefer the chrome. The twin side-mirror housings swivel/snap/lock east, smoothly,and precisely. The lower-body fairings, though, typical for sport-sedans, tend to lower the ground-clearance of the car, so some extra care may need to be taken on ramps, humps, speed-bumps, etc..... And, as usual, there was no body-side molding to protect the paint in parking-lots, although GM is starting to bring that feature back on some of its products as an option.
Overall, though, very nice job on the outside. I was impressed. This is, IMO, a very handsome car.
Open the SOLID hood (it shuts like the Rock of Gibraltar), and a single large gas strut on the right side holds it up for you.....no fumbling with a manual prop-rod. On the underside of the hood is the usual sound-insulation pad. The big, longitudinally-mounted 6.2L LS3 V8 fits in fairly well, and, even with the large plastic engine cover (a special sport-red engine cover is optional), there is at least some room around the edges to reach lower components towards the front of the block. Dipsticks, filler-caps, and fluid-reservoirs are generally readily-accessible. But covers block access to most of the rest of the underhood items.
Nice as the exterior is, the SS's interior is, IMO, as nice or better, even limited to only one color choice. I found only one or two very minor complaints, though one is not unusual for sport-oriented vehicles. The seat-bolsters/cushions up front are a little narrow for wide torsos/rumps like mine (and this car is supposed to be for big American Baby-Boomers who drove the original Impala SS half a century ago). But it is still marginal, and I can fit in, even if my rump isn't quite as comfortable as it should be.
But virtually everything else inside impresses in one form or another. There is adequate headroom, even with the sunroof housing, both up front and in the rear for guys my height (6' 2") and a cap. Legroom in the back is not limo-like, but will generally do for most adults. The sun visors and celling-liner use a nice fabric covering that is fairly pleasant to the touch. The sport-oriented steering wheel is very well-done, comfortable to hold, and has nice trim. The large chrome-trim bars in the center of the dash are solid, well-finished, and well-applied. The air vents have solid-feeling adjusters with rubber finger-grips on them. The glove box door shuts with a solid feel and latches securely.....something you don't always see in new vehicles today. The black leather on the seats is smooth, nice-feeling, yet doesn't feel overly-slippery or make you slide around in the seat. Up high on the seat-backs are nice red SS emblems befitting the car's image. On the right-front dash, in front of the passenger, is a nice suede-like material, with a padded-surface above that. and another red SS logo. The gauges are well-designed and easy to read, though their bright-red-lit needle-markers may be a little overdone for my tastes. Virtually all of the hardware, *****/buttons, and primary controls feel solid and well-attached, and the high-quality trim materials all seem nice, solid, and well-attached. The stereo sound quality is very good, though I wouldn't place it in the killer class.
Nice job, Chevy/Holden. The bean-counters on this car definitely did NOT cut corners inside on materials, except perhaps with the single black color choice which makes it overly-dark and monotone for my tastes, but the chrome strips help. And, of course, that high-quality interior is reflected somewhat in the car's base price.
Open up the solid (yes, I mean SOLID) trunk lid, and it flips up past vertical on nice, pleasantly-damped, articulated hinges to keep your head out of the way. Inside is a fairly good amount of cargo space, but that is to be expected given the car's size. There's a nice fabric net attached across the back of the trunk to help hold some items in place. The fairly thin dark gray fabric covering on the trunk floor and walls is better-feeling then bare hard plastic, but not particularly nice for a car of this class. When I lifted the floor-cover up, though, and looked underneath, I almost went into shock. There was a REAL spare tire, mounted on a REAL matching chrome-alloy wheel. I thought for a second that maybe I hadn't had enough coffee that morning (or too much)....until I looked at the price sticker on the window and saw it was a $500 option, replacing the standard compressed-air bottle. Still, the factory gives you a $500 rebate on an SS purchase......just enough to cover the cost of the tire.
ON THE ROAD:
The test-drive, of course, is on hold until more SS models become available....probably in a couple of months. But, in the meantime, given that it is an updated version of the Pontiac G8 GT (which I have
reviewed and test-driven), it can probably be expected to have more or less the same driving manners, though, with the SS's lower-profile tires and larger wheels, a slightly stiffer ride and better handling/braking.
From a purely static view from what I saw in the showroom, Chevy has done a superb job with this car. The base price is rather stiff for a Chevy sedan, but this car may be worth it. Fit/finish are first-rate, excellent materials are used inside and out, the white paint job was very well done. If the production numbers get there (which they aren't yet) this car should definitely compete very well with the V8 Hemi Chargers and Chrysler 300. Chevy needs to consider an AWD version, though......currently, that is a major selling point for the two Chrysler products.
And, as always......Happy car-shopping.