SS puts Chevy back in rwd sedan segment for duel with SRTs
Pitting it against the Charger SRT
DETROIT -- Chevrolet sells more performance cars than any U.S. brand. But until recently, it ceded a lucrative slice of the market -- rear-wheel-drive sports sedans -- almost entirely to Chrysler Group's Charger and 300 SRT models.
General Motors' ride back into that niche is the 2014 Chevy SS, the brand's first rwd performance sedan since it discontinued the Impala SS in 1996.
The sedan, which went on sale in late October, is being imported from GM Holden in Australia. While GM is downplaying volume expectations, the SS should burnish Chevy's performance credentials and offer an option to performance-minded buyers who don't want to sacrifice the space and comfort that come with four doors.
Chevy SS vs. Charger SRT
The just-launched SS will compete with the Charger SRT in the small market for rwd performance sedans.
The basics: Performance-sedan lovers were teased in 2008 with the U.S. debut of the Pontiac G8, which had a cult following before dying quickly in 2009 along with the Pontiac brand. Like the G8, the SS rides on the same underpinnings as Chevy's Camaro and Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle and Holden's VF Commodore.
The SS is offered in one well-equipped model, priced at $44,470, including shipping. A $900 sunroof and $500 full-sized spare tire are the only options. The SS comes with just one interior color choice -- black with red trim -- and five exterior colors.
The car churns out 415 hp and 415 pounds-feet of torque from the 6.2-liter V-8, the base engine from the last-generation Corvette. The engine is teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission, with manual shifters mounted on the steering wheel. Chevy says the sedan will scoot from 0 to 60 mph in about 5 seconds.
The chassis is tuned for performance, with a multilink independent rear suspension that helps deliver a firm but not jarring ride; an electronic power steering system that offers weighty precision; 19-inch forged aluminum wheels wrapped in Bridgestone high-performance tires; and standard Brembo front brakes.
Notable features: The car has a low stance, with a sunken center of gravity to enhance handling. The styling is more conservative than that of a Charger. The body tapers toward the rear in a teardrop shape for better aerodynamics. The aluminum hood features a subtle power dome for a hint of muscle.
The interior approaches the luxury level, with swaths of suedelike microfiber on the leather seats, instrument panel and even the rear doors. The rear-seat compartment is comfortable and cavernous, with legroom equivalent to the 2014 Chevy Impala. The racing-style steering wheel is beefy and squared off at the bottom. The bucket seats have extra bolstering for tight-handling situations.
Safety technologies include forward collision alert and lane departure warning. It's also Chevy's first model to offer automatic parking assist, providing hands-free help with parallel parking.
What Chevy says: "Performance is in Chevrolet's DNA with Camaro and Corvette, but a lot of people would like four doors and a back seat and a trunk," says Russ Clark, marketing director for Chevy performance cars. "This gives them that option. It helps round out our performance portfolio."
Shortcomings and compromises: Enthusiasts who prefer to row their gears will be disappointed in the lack of a manual transmission option. (The G8 had one on the top-end V-8 model.) The MyLink infotainment system is an older, clunkier version, not the slick updated one found in the 2014 Impala, Corvette and Silverado.
The market: The Charger and 300 SRT models pretty much own the market for nonluxury four-door rwd performance sedans. GM figures Chrysler sold around a combined 3,000 units last year. Chrysler won't say. Clark says that for the SS, 3,000 to 5,000 units is in the ballpark, but he says GM can import thousands more if demand warrants it.
Analysts' forecasts vary widely. IHS Automotive projects U.S. sales of around 10,000 units next year, rising to around 12,500 units in 2015. AutoPacific Inc. is less bullish, forecasting 3,900 next year and 4,200 in 2015.
The skinny: Chevy has plenty of sports car momentum with the launch of the 2014 Corvette Stingray and the pending rollout of the Camaro Z/28. The SS should add to the showroom buzz while making its performance lineup accessible to a wider range of prospective buyers.
You can reach Mike Colias at firstname.lastname@example.org.