- Corvette engine in a rear-drive sedan
- Great steering and brakes
- Clean, simple interface
- Available manual transmission
- A look more anonymous than Impala
- Notable highway road noise
- Automatic transmission not to be rushed
Think of the 2016 Chevrolet SS as a four-door Camaro, with the power, handling, and interior space to live up to that promise.
The SS is a full-size, four-door "sleeper" performance sedan that won't scream for attention. It's Chevrolet's first rear-drive V-8 sedan since Chevrolet discontinued the Impala SS in '90s.
If you've ever visited Australia, the SS may look familiar to you. Chevrolet sources its newest sports sedan from its Australian division, Holden, and its nothing more than a slightly modified Commodore with a bowtie. That's not a bad thing, though, as the Commodore has been the unofficial car of Australia for good reason. It also provided the basis of the short-lived Pontiac G8 before GM shuttered that brand during its bankruptcy. Another Australian expat finds its way to American in the form of the Chevrolet Caprice PPV, but that's sold solely to government agencies and law enforcement.
Compared to the more curvaceous Impala, however, the SS cuts a conservative profile that looks like a carry-over from Chevrolet of yore. For 2016, the look is updated with a revised front fascia with vertical ducts at its outer edges, LED front signature lights, functional hood vents, and 19-inch alloy wheels with painted pockets. These tweaks do little to change the restrained look, however.
The 2016 Chevrolet SS packs some muscle under the hood in the form of a 415-horsepower 6.2-liter LS3 V-8 from the last-generation Corvette. It's an odd choice given the industry-wide turn to smaller-displacement turbocharged engines to improve fuel economy. In fact, when ordered with the 6-speed automatic transmission, the SS is saddled with a federal gas-guzzler tax. Thankfully, the car gets good enough fuel economy with the available 6-speed manual transmission that it avoids that tax.
The Chevy SS is meant as a limited-volume offering—more of a sedan mate to Chevy's two-door Camaro, and a spicier alternative to the Impala full-size sedan. It should appeal to enthusiasts due to its performance creds.
The mammoth V-8 was initially hooked up only to a 6-speed automatic transmission, while a 6-speed manual was added to the options list for 2015. Acceleration to 60 mph takes a claimed 4.7 seconds, and a new dual-mode exhaust gives the engine a nice burble at idle and a bark under heavy throttle. Strong Brembo brakes and performance Z-rated tires wrapped around forged aluminum wheels are standard, there's a near-perfect weight distribution of 52 front/48 rear, and a true multi-link independent rear suspension keeps its powered wheels planted. Also last year, Chevrolet made Magnetic Ride Control dampers standard. These dampers use a magnetic fluid to adjust damping force on the fly through three modes: Tour, Sport and Performance.
With all this performance kit, the SS shows its intention to thrill---and it delivers. The well-calibrated chassis has the grit to take on those winding roads you crave, yet it's plush enough for those who live in areas without the best roads. The Magnetic Ride Control suspension does a fairly good job of filtering out bumps in the base Tour mode, though the default setting is still a bit firm. The Sport and Performance modes stiffen up the ride further, but also make the car react quicker to steering inputs. That only enhances this car's great steering response.
The best performers typically match top-notch engines with transmissions to match. Unfortunately, this is where the SS stumbles. Its automatic transmission is muted and unresponsive—lazy in Drive, but still not sharp enough in its Sport mode. Thankfully, Chevrolet made a manual option available for enthusiasts. However, it takes some time to get used to. Gear engagement is high in the clutch travel, making it hard to be smooth and easy to stall. After that, though, the throws are smooth and fairly short.
Inside, the SS definitely isn't as quiet as we would have liked during our highway testing, The aggressively bolstered sport seats are comfortable and supportive, though, and they're built to hug you in place. Even its back seat provides ample space for adults.
Chevrolet has loaded the SS with active safety features, including standard forward collision alert, lane departure warning, side blind-zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, and a rearview camera. Eight standard airbag protect you in the event of a crash. However, due to its low sales volume, the SS hasn't been and likely won't be tested by either national safety group.
Few options are available on the SS. It's the first Chevrolet to feature Automatic Parking Assist, which will help steer you into a parking spot; it's even included with the manual transmission. As standard are leather upholstery, HID headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition, heated/ventilated front seats, head-up display, remote start, and a 220-watt Bose audio system. Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system is displayed on an 8-inch touchscreen and features advanced connectivity for select smartphone apps. For 2016, a navigation system becomes standard.
The 2016 SS is priced around $48,000, including the $1,300 gas-guzzler tax, and the price is the same regardless of transmission choice. The optional sunroof adds another $900 to the final price, while a full-size spare will set you back another $500. Those features and choice of paint color are the only options aside from dress-up items available through Chevy dealers.
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 14 mpg city, 22 highway, 17 combined while the automatic continues with its 14/20/16 mpg ratings. That distinction is important, though, as the manual avoids the gas guzzler tax.