- Corvette’s engine in a rear-drive sedan
- Great steering and brakes
- Clean, simple interface
- A look more anonymous than Impala
- Ride too firm for some
- Brakes good enough for track time?
The 2014 Chevrolet SS is a true 'sleeper' sedan -- packing the Corvette's glorious 6.2-liter V-8 into a sedan bodystyle that's relatively anonymous, yet well tuned and up to the task.
The 2014 Chevrolet SS marks the arrival of a rear-wheel-drive V-8 performance sedan to Chevy dealerships—for the first time this century.
For the SS, which packs a 415-horsepower version of the outgoing Corvette C6's big LS3 V-8 under the hood, the timing might seem a little odd. As the automaker and others turn to smaller, turbocharged engines and worry about mileage numbers, the SS is a 14-mpg (city) lush that's indeed subject to the federal gas guzzler tax. And after the introduction of the curvaceous 2014 Impala, the SS and its conservative profile look like a carry-over from another time at Chevrolet.
But the truth is that the new 2014 Chevy SS is going to be 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.
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 version made it Stateside as the Pontiac G8. And it's essentially a refined, more aggressively styled iteration of the Chevrolet Caprice PPV that's been sold for 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 is hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission (no manual) helping deliver power to the rear wheels. Acceleration times to 60 mph takes less than five seconds, while strong Brembo front brakes are standard, there's a near-perfect 52/48 weight distribution, and a true multi-link independent rear suspension. Forged aluminum wheels with Z-rated tires also call out 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 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.
Otherwise, in trade, you get what you might expect--a rather firm, performance-car ride that's just compliant enough provided the pavement isn't too rough. Hydraulically damped bushings for the suspension, and rubber isolation in back, should help keep the cabin relatively quiet from road noise, however. 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.
Feature-wise, the SS is the first Chevrolet to feature Automatic Parking Assist, which will help steer you into a parking spot. Leather upholstery, dual-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.
At $44,470, the SS includes HID headlamps and LED daytime running lamps, automatic park assist, and the Chevrolet MyLink system. Additionally, the car is also outfitted with a premium Bose sound system, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats. Only individualists might complain at the lack of build variations; and for them we're told there's a pretty significant list of dealer-installed options on the way.
2014 Chevrolet SS
Among sport sedans, the 2014 Chevrolet SS has one of the blandest (albeit nicely proportioned) exterior designs on the market; but to some people that'll be a good thing.
There's definitely a good and a bad in the SS's styling, and it depends on your expectations for this high-performance sedan. If you want to flaunt your performance potential, the 2014 Chevrolet SS probably isn't a great pick; but if you like the idea of a 'sleeper' sedan--one that doesn't give you away to the highway patrol from a mile away--then the SS could be the right kind of "under the radar."
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 'VE' generation version made it Stateside as the Pontiac G8. And it's essentially a refined, more aggressively styled (and shorter-wheelbase) cousin of the Chevrolet Caprice PPV that's been sold for police fleets.
The fundamentals of a great sedan design are all here, though, and we appreciate how the SS feels tasteful, not overwrought (we'll leave that to the Camaro, right?).
The upside is that with staggered wheels, a low, wedgy shape, and a tapered, teardrop-like greenhouse, the new SS looks both muscle-car-like and sleek, while the big bow-tie grille calls it out as a Chevrolet.The classic three-box sport-sedan proportions and low hoodline also keep this sedan in fine form. The down side is simply that the SS is bland. It's mired in anonymity; and to pound one more nail in, it's really not as eye-catching, inside or out, as the all-new Impala that reached dealerships this year. And that factor might really limit the SS's appeal.
Inside, the SS has more of a cockpit-like layout than other current models from the Chevy stable (with ice-blue lighting). Thick, supportive sport seats, an upright, no-nonsense gauge cluster, and a very thick steering-wheel all add to the serious performance look.
2014 Chevrolet SS
The 2014 Chevy SS factors in more as a finely tuned sport sedan than a muscle car, with excellent handling and a powertrain that (mostly) lives up to its billing.
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.
2014 Chevrolet SS
Comfort & Quality
The SS wows with great, spacious seating and a reasonably quiet cabin; but the lack of suspension techno-wizardry means you pay the price with a choppier ride.
The 2014 Chevrolet SS might be an especially overt performance sedan, but the rather boxy, straightforward design has its benefits—in reasonably good back-seat space, and better outward visibility than many modern sedan designs.
SS really measures up at the long end of the mid-size scale (195.5 inches long, with nearly a 115-inch wheelbase), but at 74.7 inches wide, it feels somewhat narrow for its length—more like a smaller mid-size car in that respect. It's virtually the same size as the Cadillac CTS--a car that's built on a different GM architecture--yet the SS manages to feel a bit roomier.
Aggressively bolstered leather sport seats are included in front, while the back seat feels roomy enough for adults--and entry and exit are quite easy for taller passengers, thanks to the conservative roofline.
This is the first Chevrolet sedan to ride on standard summer performance tires--Z-rated at that--but all considering, the SS rides rather quietly, with good insulation from road and wind noise. You hear the engine when you're accelerating--anything from a thrummy bellow at low rates to a crackling exotic sound when accelerating hard--but it's not always present.
The SS does without a magnetic suspension or adjustable dampers, or any other special active systems, so it's no surprise that this is a firm-riding sedan. Snow Belt potholes and heaves tend to show as choppy, if not jarring, from inside.
2014 Chevrolet SS
Crash tests haven't been conducted for the SS, and they probably won't be; but GM has a good record with its latest global cars and they've piled on the active-safety features here.
The 2014 Chevrolet SS doesn't have any U.S. crash tests to back up its occupant safety, but GM provides plenty of reason to believe that this is one of the safer sport sedans you could choose.
Chevrolet includes a rear vision camera system as standard on the SS, along with eight standard airbags (knee bags for driver and front passenger). But that's only the start; the SS has a very impressive list of active-safety features, including forward collision alert, lane departure warning, side blind zone alert, and rear cross traffic alert are all standard.
This is also the first Chevrolet with an available Automatic Parking Assist (auto-steering) system, which will turn the wheel (after it identifies a spot) as you control the throttle, transmission, and brake.
Separately, GM redesigned many of the the SS's underpinnings versus the previous platform (that the Pontiac G8 GXP had been built on), including stronger, lighter-weight materials and a bolstered front structure.
2014 Chevrolet SS
The 2014 SS is offered as a single model, loaded with features and at a very competitive price.
The 2014 Chevrolet SS is a niche performance sedan, and smartly, Chevy has decided not to offer it in with a long list of trims, options, and packages.
At $44,470, not including the $1,300 gas guzzler tax with which it will be hit, the SS includes HID headlamps and LED daytime running lamps, automatic park assist, and the Chevrolet MyLink system. Additionally, the car is also outfitted with a premium Bose sound system, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats.
That price and presentation is only missing two options, which are the only two available: a $900 power sunroof and a $500 full-size spare. Everything else is included.
Only individualists might complain at the lack of build variations; and for them we're told there's a pretty significant list of dealer-installed options on the way.
2014 Chevrolet SS
With mileage in the teens, the 2014 Chevy SS is very thirsty (and expensive) as a daily driver.
The 2014 Chevrolet SS isn't vying for family sedan duty (that's the Malibu or Impala), and despite its huge 6.2-liter V-8 it omits fuel-saving technology like GM's Active Fuel Management, or engine stop-start. It's blissfully, it seems, a guzzler.
The bright side, as we've noticed from a number of other vehicles with very large-displacement engines, is that you likely won't see much lower than the EPA ratings--even when you drive the SS hard. On the other hand, it would require quite the magical tailwind to approach 30 mpg.
In a first drive opportunity, our car was averaging more than 16 mpg on a 65-mile, mostly uphill loop, then barely 20 on a 75-mile, mostly downhill loop that included some more reserved expressway-and-boulevard driving.