Enthusiasts may lament cars like the Nissan Altima or Honda Accord, but there’s a reason why these models are so popular. Family sedans of this ilk are about as servile as automobiles come, unflinchingly loyal and always up for a menial trip or routine errand.
Engine: 6.2-liter V8, 415 hp, 415 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel Economy: 15 MPG City, 21 Highway, 17 Combined
As-Tested Price: $47,640
With spacious interiors, efficient powertrains and the convenience of four doors, it’s no wonder these models sell by the bushel basket. But why drive the same thing as everyone else on your block? You’re not Dave Johnson, Kathy Smith or even Chuck Jones over on the adjacent cul-de-sac. You’re you, someone that deserves a special ride, like the Chevrolet SS, an antipodean antidote to commodity cars.
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One reason why this bow-tie brawler is so special is that it’s rear-wheel drive, something that makes it a rival to models like the Dodge Charger and BMW 5 Series, if not exactly the Toyota Camry, but who’s counting? It’s also equipped with a V8 engine and one other standout feature that we’ll get to in a moment.
Giving it a bit of international flair, the SS is built in Australia of all places, which makes sense because it’s basically a rebranded Holden. If you remember, this car line also spawned the dearly departed Pontiac G8, among several other models.
Riding on a wheelbase that spans nearly 115 inches and possessing a body that’s more than 195 inches long, the SS is a sizable car. Accordingly, it’s got a roomy interior with ample back-seat space and a trunk that can accommodate up to 16.4 cubic feet of kangaroo paraphernalia, meat pies and Foster’s Lager.
A Class of its Own
This car may have unique provenance and outsized dimensions, but one thing that sets it apart from just about every other sedan on the market today is nestled amidship. Like spotting a litter of baby yetis riding bareback on the Loch Ness monster, this Chevy is available with a MANUAL TRANSMISSION. Let that sink in …
You can’t row your own gears in a BMW 5 Series; three-pedal driving is a no-go in the Audi A6 lineup as well. The Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus SHO and Mercedes-Benz E-Class – AMG or otherwise – are all automatic-only. About the only large sedan available in America that offers a stick is the M5 and it costs TWICE as much as the SS.
Out the door, our tester stickered for a still-pricey $47,640, including $995 in destination fees. And those shipping charges are quite a steal; remember, it’s got to be loaded on a boat 185,000 miles away in Australia then floated all the way over here like a piece of gasoline-powered driftwood. Can you even send a post card to the Land Down Under for that price?
Luckily, if you plan on shelling out all those greenbacks, you get a car that’s pretty much loaded, coming with Brembo brakes, Magnetic Ride Control, forward collision alert, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry, navigation and much more. In fact, the only option our test model featured was a $900 hole in the top, something you may call a sunroof, but to me it’s an unnecessary waste that shines unwanted glare in my sensitive green eyes. Thanks, but no thanks.
The rest of the SS’s cabin is surprisingly luxurious. There’s suede trim on the dashboard and doors that looks rich and feels even better. Contrast stitching livens things up, the steering wheel is meaty and easy to grab, plus the seats are unexpectedly comfortable. But perhaps best of all, this car’s controls are a cinch to use, whether you’re adjusting the head-up display or lowering the fan speed; there’s no learning curve here and that’s refreshing.
Eight Days a Week
Despite its suitably premium cabin, the SS is dressed in bodywork that looks more Amish than Armani – the car’s exterior insipidness is borderline oppressive. Is this a rear-wheel-drive performance sedan of a rented Malibu? But providing more smiles than the happiest place on earth, which, depending on who you ask is either Disneyland or Denmark, the SS is powered by a giant slab of American red meat, a 6.2-liter pushrod V8 that delivers equal measures of horsepower and torque – 415 of each.
This big-block muscle endows it with rapid acceleration and a zero-to-60 time of less than five seconds. But perhaps the best part of this car’s powertrain – aside from the manual – is that it rumbles like Mauna Loa during an eruption, barking when you fire it up or stab the accelerator. It even shivers at idle like an over-cammed rat motor from the 1960s!
Curiously, it feels entirely different from Ford’s “Coyote” 5.0-liter V8 that’s used in the Mustang. Chevy’s engine isn’t particularly eager to build revs, but it pulls like a freight train, emitting a husky rumble as it works. In comparison, the blue-oval two-by-four is explosively quick to redline, high-strung antics that are accompanied by a reedy-sounding snarl. These two powerplants are strikingly similar yet feel entirely different on the road, though I love ‘em both because you can’t choose a favorite child.
Of course, the SS is rear-wheel drive, so you can get a little sideways if you want to; just let some of the horses run free; of course you can also serve a roast if you feel like burning off some of its pricey Bridgestone Potenza tires, which, by the way, are mounted on shiny 19-inch wheels.
In normal situations, this car quiet and confidence inspiring, refined and comfortable. The magnetic ride control provides the superb body control while hustling through corners and a refined demeanor when commuting home after a 16-hour day at the office. From a structural standpoint the SS feels about as solid as a bridge abutment.
Increasing the driving pleasure to near-euphoric levels is the standard six-speed manual transmission. It’s hard to believe this car is essentially the last of its breed, one of the ONLY big sedans still available with three pedals.
If more people would just give modern standard gearboxes a try, I’m convinced they’d love them and sales would increase. This car is just so rewarding and so easy to drive, thanks to an easily modulated clutch and abundant torque. But, if you must, a six-speed automatic is also available, but please don’t … just don’t.
However, if there is one knock against this drivetrain arrangement, it’s that the transmission is a little heavy through the gears; you may want to pump some iron with your right arm before nabbing an SS. You see, it features a Tremec TR-6060, a gearbox that’s pretty much indestructible, serving duty in cars like the Dodge Viper, Cadillac CTS-V and Shelby GT-500.
And when the road turns circuitous, even this Chevy’s steering is praiseworthy. The ratio is quick, its weighting firm, an arrangement that helps the car feel substantial, yet agile at the same time.
With a manual, the SS weighs 40 pounds less than two tons, so it’s a pretty heavy beast, but thanks to all that torque and sharp responses, it doesn’t seem that massive, until it’s time to stop for fuel, at which point your credit card catches on fire as you swipe it through the gas pump’s reader.
Along with bland styling, that’s another knock against the Chevy SS. It stickers at 15 miles per gallon city and 21 highway; combined, she averages just 17 mpg, which is a far cry from the 31 combined that a four-cylinder Altima will give you. Of course, what the Nissan can’t do is fill your ears with V8 rumble or your lungs with tire smoke.
The Verdict: 2015 Chevrolet SS Review
And to me the SS is almost like an joke; enthusiasts will recognize it immediately and get the punch line, but everyone else will just think it’s a Malibu until you stomp them at the stop light. The Chevrolet SS isn’t just a great car, a spacious sedan or an enthusiast’s dream, it’s a future classic.
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