The General is back at it. For the second time in the past ten years, an Australian rear-wheel drive V8 sedan is immigrating to America. The Holden Commodore will once again receive minor styling tweaks and be re-badged, this time as a Chevrolet and not a Pontiac (for obvious reasons). You can be excused if you were not aware of this because Chevy isn’t making a big deal about the newest member of the family.
|1. An LS3 6.2LV8 makes 415 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque. |
2. The only transmission currently available is a six-speed automatic.
3. Shares its platform with the Camaro and Caprice police sedan.
4. The SS begins at $45,770 after destination charges.
5. Gas mileage rated at 14 mpg city, 21 highway.
The SS is Chevrolet’s official car of the NASCAR sprint series, but as the brand’s first V8, rear-wheel-drive sports sedan since the 1996 Impala SS, we expected more commotion. And after a brief drive in one, we think a bigger deal should be made – just ignore the price sheet.
Commodore Clone, Round Two
As mentioned, the SS is based on the Australian Holden VF Commodore and shares a platform with the Chevrolet Camaro and Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle. That classifies the car as a full-size sedan and due to its performance pretension, it will compete head-to-head with the Ford Taurus SHO, Chrysler 300C SRT8 and Charger SRT8 twins.
Like the G8 before it, the SS’s design isn’t over the top. It doesn’t offend but it is hard to call it overly attractive; it’s just there. Some might even call it boring. The dual tip exhaust pipes, front Brembo brake calipers and large rear tires are the only exterior hints at the cars true performance.
Small Blocks Make Everything Better
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Power comes from the LS3 6.2 liter V8 found in the C6 Corvette and current Camaro. Output is slightly less than those two vehicles, officially rated at 415 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. That is more power than the Taurus SHO, but significantly less than the 470 hp found in the Mopar cousins. However, Chevrolet said that during testing, the SS will lapped a track faster than either of those LX platform cousins thanks to a relatively svelte 3,975-lb curb weight and a more sport focused suspension and tire set-up, but more on that later.
The only transmission available currently is a six-speed automatic transmission, although Chevrolet has hinted that a manual could arrive in America if sales for the SS are strong. Like the six-speed automatic found in the Corvette and Camaro, the SS slushbox includes a sport mode and paddle shifters.
See Also: 2009 Pontiac G8 Review
Chevy claims the SS can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in around five seconds and after a few “acceleration tests” we would say that sounds about right. Hammer down the throttle and the big V8 erupts to life with a hearty growl from the tailpipes. I have been in many LS3 equipped cars but was still shocked at the noise and furry from this engine. Quite a few other full-size sedans packing in excess of 400 hp have left me wondering “where’s the power” and “where’s the sound?” This is not the case with the SS. Barely slower than a Camaro and hardly quieter, the SS thrashes down the road like a proper muscle car.
Not Just A Muscle Car
But it isn’t a one trick pony. With a 480-lb weight advantage over the Taurus SHO and 390-lb advantage over the Charger SRT8, the SS has a lot less mass to negotiate corners with. Add to that a near perfect 50/50 weight distribution and staggered tires, 245 mm up front and 275 mm in the rear, and it’s obvious this Chevy is as serious about cornering as it is about straight line performance.
We were able to exploit the well-tuned Australian chassis through the mountain roads surrounding Palm Springs and found the SS does indeed behave more like a luxury performance sedan through undulating curves than a large sedan with just a big engine. Think Cadillac CTS and BMW 5 series as opposed to Hyundai Genesis R-Spec or Chrysler 300C. When a corner did approach that even the SS could not negotiate at speed, the massive 14-inch standard Brembo front brakes ensured the car stops right now.
See Also: 2014 Chevrolet Impala Review – Video
It isn’t all peaches and rainbows with the performance of the SS. The response from the six-speed automatic is acceptable at best and fuel economy is downright atrocious with official ratings pegged at 14 mpg city and 21 mpg highway.
A Fitting Cabin
Inside, the SS’s interior is attractive and refined. Available exclusively in black, a nice mix of faux suede, leather, textured plastic and chrome plastic are used throughout the cabin. Chevrolet is so serious about plastic chrome that two different types are featured inside the SS. At night, the interior is illuminated by ice-blue ambient lighting strips like found in the Camaro and Impala. The SS is also the first Chevrolet to offer Automatic Parking Assist enabling hands-free parking for either parallel or perpendicular parking.
Being a full-size sedan, there is almost 40 inches of rear legroom and an equally generous amount of headroom. At just over six feet tall, I had no issue spending time in the back seat of the SS. The trunk is correspondingly spacious with 16.4 cubic feet of cargo space.
Not Exactly A Bargain
And now the giant Australian elephant in the room: price. The SS begins at $45,770 after destination charges, which is a lot of money. In isolation, that price may not seem so bad as the SS comes standard with leather seating, a Bose sound system, color head-up display, keyless access, push-button start, remote starter, eight-inch color touchscreen and seats with both heating and cooling.
That is more money than the Taurus SHO, but right on top of the 300C SRT8 and Charger SRT8. The biggest threat the SS is going to have however is from across the showroom floor; the Chevrolet Impala.
Just a year ago, the woeful 2013 Impala wouldn’t be a factor for the SS. But the 2014 Impala is a seriously improved car and begins at a low $27,670. Worse yet, when checking off every option box, the Impala offers most of the luxuries found in the SS, similar size, far better fuel economy and a lower price of just $42,355 after destination charges. Aside from hard-core enthusiasts who must have V8, rear-wheel drive power, Chevrolet salespeople are going to have a tough time convincing consumers to opt for the Aussie import.
It’s not like the SS was ever intended to be a high seller. But little promotion, an attractive in-house rival and forgetful styling have only made the road to success more difficult for this large, sporty sedan. It’s too bad really because the SS truly is a well-crafted vehicle.