The Chevrolet SS is a rear-wheel-drive, mid-size sport sedan that packs a huge 415-horsepower, 6.2-liter 'LS3' V-8—the base engine from last year's Corvette—and all the right hardware upgrades to make the most of it.
Acceleration times to 60 mph for this rear-wheel-drive sedan take less than five seconds, with a six-speed automatic transmission (no manual is offered). Steering-wheel shift paddles are included, and strong Brembo brakes are standard. And with a near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution, a multi-link rear suspension, and an effort to keep the center of mass low, the SS hints of some serious performance intent.
And for the most part it delivers on that. It's pretty impressive given how the SS doesn't have any tricks up its sleeve in the way of multi-mode steering, an adjustable suspension, or even dual-path/adaptive dampers. It's just 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 big 6.2 [can we call it the SS 376?] has loads of tire-smoking torque on tap from a standstill, with the right bassy bellow to match—and a crackling intensity at higher revs—but thanks to a nice, linear throttle feel you can take off in a careful, controlled manner if you want. It also permits you to roll neatly onto the accelerator out of corners to not upset its balance. And on that subject, we also appreciate how when you manually select gears, the transmission will hold higher gears even if you floor the accelerator (or summon a downshift as soon as it's within the rev range when slowing down).
The six-speed automatic is smooth and isolated during gentle takeoffs and typical commuting conditions, although when you look to tap into the potential of the mammoth, surprisingly rev-happy V-8, the transmission falls short and ends up feeling like the weak link. It simply doesn't have the performance coordination and finesse of the rest of the powertrain and chassis and feels fit for a comfort car, not a performance sedan. Whether a stomp to the floor or a click of the steering-wheel paddle, it's met with a pause that's often too long. Ratios feel very tall for a performance model, as well.
Transmission aside, the SS is presented in a convincing way for enthusiastic—even track—driving, with Brembo front brakes that include four-piston actuation and two-piece rotors and calipers (rear brakes are solid discs). The weight distribution is nearly 50/50 (52/48); and the center of mass is kept low thanks to an aluminum hood and deck lid, among other things. Forged 19-inch aluminum wheels help set a strong stance and are shod in staggered-width Bridgestone summer-performance—245/40ZR19 in front, 275/35ZR19 at the rear.
Curb weight, at 3,975 pounds, is on the hefty side, so it's certainly not overweight relative to the competition; yet one of the first impressions as the road tightens and you push faster is that you're throwing a lot of weight around.
Chevy recommends Blizzak2 winter tires for those in the Snow Belt, by the way, and we think those a little farther south will want to go for that too.
There are a few details that could use more polish in the SS. The steering wheel itself feels almost impractically thick. And the so-called TAPshift paddles for manual control feel more like wobbly buttons on the back of the steering wheel than satisfying paddle-shifters. But we do like the rack-mounted electric power steering here—a new unit from Korean supplier Mando, co-developed by GM. It loads up nicely, with a hefty but settled feel on center as well.
Brakes also felt strong—easy to modulate and with a firmer pedal compared to most other GM products. But one of the test cars we drove already had pulsating brakes from a day of hard on-the-road driving, so we're curious how they hold up out on the track.