- Corvette engine in a rear-drive sedan
- Great steering and brakes
- Clean, simple interface
- A look more anonymous than Impala
- Ride too firm for some
- Automatic transmission not to be rushed
The 2015 Chevrolet SS makes the right strides to appeal to enthusiasts, layering a manual transmission and three-mode suspension on top of an already impressive package.
Chevy this past year returned to the rear-wheel-drive V-8 performance-sedan category with the SS. It's the first such entry since the rear-drive Impala SS went out of production in the 1990s. It's also the spiritual successor to Pontiac's G8, as the two share a basic architecture that was developed by GM's Australian arm.
The 2015 Chevrolet SS packs a 415-horsepower version of the last-gen Corvette's LS3 V-8. And truth be told, the timing seems a little odd; as the automaker and others turn to smaller, turbocharged engines and worry about mileage numbers, the SS arrives as a 14-mpg lush that's subject to the federal gas guzzler tax. And after the introduction of a more curvaceous Impala, the SS and its conservative profile look like a carry-over from another time at Chevrolet.
The Chevy SS is meant as a relatively limited-volume offering—more of a sedan mate to the Camaro, and a spicier alternative to those mainstream sedans like the Impala and Malibu. Its effect on GM's average fuel economy will therefore be minimal, and it should attract buyers based on its performance chops even if they aren't wowed by the aesthetics.
If you squint just a bit and feel like you've seen this car before—at least from the outside—you wouldn't be too far off. The SS is essentially a reworked version of the latest VF Commodore SS (the flagship muscle sedan from GM's Australian division, Holden), which in its previous generation made it Stateside as the Pontiac G8. The SS is essentially a refined, more aggressively styled iteration of the Chevrolet Caprice PPV that's sold to police fleets. With staggered wheels, a low, wedgy shape, and a tapered, teardrop-like greenhouse, the new SS looks just a little muscle-car-like, while the big bow-tie grille calls it out as a Chevrolet. Inside, the SS has more of a cockpit-like layout than other current models from the Chevy stable (with ice-blue lighting).
The mammoth V-8 was initially hooked up only to a six-speed automatic transmission, while a six-speed manual has been added to the options list for 2015. Acceleration to 60 mph takes a claimed 4.7 seconds. Strong Brembo brakes (front and rear now, instead of just on the front for 2014) are standard, there's a near-perfect 52/48 weight distribution, and the rear axle is kept in place by a true multi-link independent suspension. Another change for 2015, the SS now comes standard with Magnetic Ride Control dampers like those available on the Camaro and Corvette; a magnetic fluid in the damper body can change responsiveness and damping force in any of three modes, Tour, Sport and Performance. Forged aluminum wheels with Z-rated tires also call out some serious performance intent.
And it delivers on that promise for the most part. Everything has been really well calibrated—with the goods to take on serious driving roads, yet just enough comfort for those in areas with relatively good road quality. The only significant disappointment, dynamically, is how the automatic transmission contributes; it's too muted and delayed in its responses—lazy in Drive, but still not sharp enough in its Sport mode. Thankfully, the manual option is now available for true enthusiasts, allowing them to shift as quickly or as slowly as they please.
Hydraulically damped bushings for the suspension, and rubber isolation in back, should help keep the cabin relatively quiet from road noise. Very aggressively bolstered sport seats look set up to hold you in place on the track of your choice (or just while you're doing burnouts). Back seat space is surprisingly ample.
Chevrolet has loaded the SS with active-safety features, including standard forward collision alert, lane departure warning, side blind-zone alert, and rear cross traffic alert, and a rear vision camera. There are also eight standard airbags, including knee bags for the driver and front passenger. The SS hasn't been tested by either of the national safety groups, and it likely won't given its low-volume status.
The SS achieves similar fuel economy with the manual and automatic transmissions, with the stick slightly edging out the auto. The manual car is rated at 15 mpg city, 21 highway, while the automatic continues with its 14/21 mpg ratings; both work out to 17 mpg combined.
The SS comes pretty well equipped, with few options. It's the first Chevrolet to feature Automatic Parking Assist, which will help steer you into a parking spot; it's even included on the new manual-transmission version. Leather upholstery, dual-HID headlights, zone automatic climate control, heated-and-ventilated front seats, keyless access, push-button start, remote start, a head-up display, and 220-watt Bose audio are all included. So is Chevrolet MyLink, which has an eight-inch color touch screen and can help manage hands-free conversations, media, and infotainment apps through a connected smartphone.
The 2015 SS starts at $48,040, including the $1,300 gas-guzzler tax. The six-speed manual is a no-cost option; a sunroof is available for $900, and a full-size spare runs $500 and aside from paint color that is the full extent of factory options. Chevy dealers also offer a number of dress-up items as accessories, including stripes, different grilles, and fog lamps.
In addition to the mechanical changes for 2015, the SS adds five new color choices for a total of ten, including a few bright colors to complement the somewhat staid choices already available. The infotainment setup has also been updated with AT&T 4G LTE connectivity that speeds up connections to OnStar and can also be set up to serve a WiFi hotspot in the vehicle for an extra monthly charge.