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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
packs an impressive 130 horsepower per liter
highway passing and hill climbs can feel labored
suspension and steering just can't keep up with overly aggressive driving
The 2008 Chevrolet HHR is reasonably fast and economical, but reviews examined by TheCarConnection.com note that it's not especially sporty.
In base form, the 2008 Chevrolet HHR gets a 149-horsepower 2.2-liter inline-four engine, with a 2.4-liter version that nets 172 horses available on higher trim levels. Neither inspires confidence in passing or merging—or in stoplight drag races. Most reviewers sampled the larger four-cylinder, which Edmunds calls “a worthwhile upgrade.” ConsumerGuide reports that Chevrolet HHR 2008 "2.4-liter models have decent around-town go, but highway passing and hill climbs can feel labored," adding that the "automatic transmission is responsive [and] quick to downshift." Even with this more powerful engine, the Detroit News observes, “The Chevy's powertrain was unable to inspire much confidence, especially during merging and passing.” Edmunds also refers to the “lack of low-end pull and refinement from the 2.4-liter engine.”
Both engines drive the front wheels via either a standard five-speed manual gearbox or an optional four-speed automatic. “Significantly, the HHR is available only with front-wheel drive,” Edmunds reports, “while several competitors offer all-wheel drive for enhanced foul-weather capability.”
Enthusiasts have been waiting for the arrival of the 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS. This version offers “spirited performance,” Edmunds says; its turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecotec four-cylinder makes 260 horsepower that is channeled to the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission. Autoblog reports the SS has the same engine as “the Solstice GXP and Saturn Sky Redline," and that the "HHR packs an impressive 130 horsepower per liter." Cars.com adds more details: "the foundation of the HHR SS is a 260-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (235 hp with the optional four-speed automatic),” which “pulls the HHR SS with satisfying strength." Autoblog notes that "the automatic loses out on power by a few dozen horses and offers a more sedate driving experience" and recommends that you "stick to the manual so you don't miss out on the awesomeness that is the launch control and no-lift shifting." ConsumerGuide says the manual transmission "has smooth shift and clutch action, unlike other manual HHRs, which suffer from long throws and crude movement."
The Chevrolet HHR 2008 is frugal with fuel. Autoblog recommends that one should "hold off the throttle pedal a bit and you'll be able to get near 30 miles per gallon on the highway, according to the EPA." EPA estimates range from 19/28 mpg to 22/30 mpg. ConsumerGuide reports "Chevrolet recommends premium-grade gas for SS and 2.4-liter models, regular otherwise."
ConsumerGuide says the Chevrolet HHR 2008 is "composed overall, though the ride can get bouncy over sharp bumps." Edmunds advises that "it's best to maintain an easygoing pace, as the suspension and steering just can't keep up with overly aggressive driving... the electric-assisted steering is slow to respond and numb in feel, [and] the HHR exhibits a loss of straight-line stability during maximum braking." Car and Driver proclaims the HHR has “Rubbery steering, bobby suspension, and imprecise control,” though it notes a “smooth ride.”
The SS version is a different beast entirely; it has “stronger braking and buttoned-down handling,” Edmunds says.
TheCarConnection.com advises drivers to have realistic expectations about the 2008 Chevrolet HHR's performance capabilities.