- Corvette engine in a rear-drive sedan
- Great dynamics: handling, steering, and braking
- Clean, simple interface
- Available manual transmission
- Anonymous design considering its performance intentions
- A too-firm ride for some roads and passengers
- 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 Chevrolet SS arrives at dealers striking a stark contrast to other sedans on the lot. For starters, the V-8 sedan's 14-mpg--low enough to be subjected to a federal gas guzzler tax--flies in the face of smaller, turbocharged mills powering GM's other cars. It also looks like it comes from the GM of yore, with a conservative profile overshadowed by more expressive design used on Chevrolet's newest model.
But the SS isn't meant to be a volume seller in America. Instead, it's a hi-po alternative to its Impala and Malibu stablemates, more related to the Camaro than any of Chevy's four-doors. 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.
Finding its origins in Australia, the SS is nearly a carbon copy of the Holden Commodore that makes its way to America with just its V-8. Another Commodore derivative, the Chevrolet Caprice PPV, is sold solely to law enforcement. The previous generation of the Holden sedan made it to America as the Pontiac G8, shortly before that brand was put out to pasture during GM's bankruptcy.
Even with its four doors, the SS cuts a muscle-car profile that's decidedly Chevrolet with its wedge shape, tapered greenhouse, and staggered wheels. Drivers are welcomed by a more cockpit-style interior that's unlike nearly everything else in the Chevy lineup.
Chevrolet initially paired the SS's mammoth V-8 to a six-speed automatic as the sole transmission, but added a six-speed manual option for 2015. The SS sprints to 60 mph in a claimed 4.7 seconds. Performance-focused Brembo brakes (front and rear now, instead of just on the front for 2014) bring everything to a stop. Corners are made all that much sweeter thanks to the SS's near-perfect 52/48 weight distribution and Z-rated tires wrapped around forged wheels, while 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.
A well-calibrated chassis finds a balance between seriously enthusiastic driving and ride quality. However, the automatic transmission is a sore point, delivering a driving experience that's dynmically muted due to delayed responses in both Drive and Sport modes. Thankfully, the manual option is now available for true enthusiasts, allowing them to shift as quickly or as slowly as they please.
Keeping everything quiet on the inside when cruising are damped bushings and some rubber isolation in the rear. Aggressively bolstered seats hold drivers and passengers in place. Meanwhile, its rear seat is surprisingly roomy.
Forward collision alert, lane departure warning, side blind-zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, and a rearview camera all contribute to keeping your paintwork shiny and free of dents---or worse. In the event it all goes wrong, eight airbags---knee bags for driver and front passenger included---work in concert to keep you safe. 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. Automatic Parking Assist will steer the SS (even manual models) into a parking spot---and it's the first Chevrolet to feature the trick system Leather upholstery, dual-HID headlights, 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. Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system is displayed on an 8-inch touchscreen and features advanced connectivity for select smartphone apps.
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.Â 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.