Modified: February 18, 2013 8:18 AM
Chevy shoots for rwd glory with 415-hp, V-8 SS performance sedan
Photo credit: GM
Chevrolet is returning to its roots with the upcoming SS, the brand's first rear-wheel-drive performance sedan since the mid-1990s and a challenger to Chrysler Group's Charger and 300 SRT models.
General Motors says the SS will produce 415 horsepower and cover 0 to 60 mph in about 5 seconds.
The four-door SS was introduced today at Daytona International Speedway, where the race car version will make its debut during the Daytona 500 on Feb. 24.
It is slated to go on sale in the fourth quarter.
GM wants to burnish Chevy's performance cred by adding the SS to a lineup that already includes the Camaro and Corvette.
It should please rear-wheel drive enthusiasts who lamented the loss of the Pontiac G8, a sedan on the same platform that garnered solid sales and critical praise before Pontiac's demise in early 2010.
GM isn't counting on big sales volumes from the SS, which will be imported from GM Holden in Australia.
Consumer demand for big cars -- luxury or mainstream -- has been declining for years.
GM expects the vast majority of Chevy customers who want a large sedan to choose the front-wheel-drive Impala, which has been redesigned for the 2014 model year and will hit showrooms this spring.
GM North America President Mark Reuss noted that the Chevy brand was "built on" rwd performance sedans, but such a car has been absent from the lineup for 17 years, when Chevy sold an Impala SS.
"The all-new Chevrolet SS fills that void and fills it better than any other vehicle in the brand's rich history," Reuss said in a statement.
The SS moniker comes from the label that designated many high-performance Chevys over the years, starting with a 1957 Corvette prototype race car.
Chevy will take on the Charger SRT8 and 300 SRT in the small market for nonluxury rwd performance sedans. The Charger and 300 both use a 6.4-liter V-8 to produce 470 hp and 470 pounds-feet of torque.
The SS shares a platform with the Camaro, Holden's VF Commodore and the Chevy Caprice, which GM imports for sale to U.S. law-enforcement fleets.
Next year, U.S. sales of the SS should total 8,000 to 10,000 units, according to forecasts from AutoPacific Inc. and LMC Automotive.
LMC analyst Jeff Schuster noted that GM sold more than 23,000 G8s in 2009 and said SS sales could eclipse 10,000 next year.
13 models in '13
This year, GM wants Chevrolet to claw back some of the market share it lost in 2012, when sales rose 4 percent, to 1,851,646 units, vs. a 13-percent gain for the industry.
Chevy is scheduled to launch 13 new models this year, including the SS, 2014 Corvette Stingray, the battery-electric Spark, three Silverado truck models and more.
The 1996 Impala SS -- Chevy's last rear-wheel drive and V-8 powered sedan sold in the U.S. market.
At the National Automobile Dealers Association convention this week, Chevy executives told dealers that they expect the brand's U.S. sales to rise 7 percent this year. Most forecasts peg industry-wide sales growth in 2013 at around 5 percent.
The SS will be priced higher than the G8 was, Schuster said. GM says pricing will be announced closer to the launch date.
The SS will be powered by the same 6.2-liter small-block V-8 engine used in the 2013 Corvette. It will deliver 415 pounds-feet of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission, with manual shifters mounted on the steering wheel.
Elements of the sedan's sport-tuned chassis include a MacPherson strut front and multilink independent rear suspension; standard Brembo brakes; electronic power steering and 19-inch forged aluminum wheels.
The car has a low stance, sinking its center of gravity to enhance handling. The styling tapers toward the rear in a teardrop shape for better aerodynamics.
GM North America chief Mark Reuss, left, and Jim Campbell, GM's head of performance vehicles and motorsports, unveil the Chevrolet SS Daytona 500 pace car and 2014 Chevrolet SS sedan Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.
Photo credit: GM
The front end features a version of the signature Chevy split grille that GM has been moving away from in favor of the wider, deeper and flared-back headlamps featured on the upcoming Impala and recently launched Chevy Traverse. Changes to the Chevy Malibu due late this year also will eschew the split grille for the updated look.
Inside, bucket front seats will come in standard leather and have extra bolstering to "hug the driver and front passenger in tight-handling situations," GM says.
Safety technologies include forward collision alert and lane departure warning.
GM said the SS will also be the first Chevrolet offered with automatic parking assist, which uses ultrasonic sensors to provide hands-free parking help.