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First drive: 2014 Chevrolet SS proves to be family-scale muscle car

A Corvette in a sedan’s clothing

Published: January 10, 2014 05:15 PM

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Many years ago, the Beach Boys issued a greatest hits album called "Endless Summer." And while we are in the throes of winter, I’d truly love to live in an environment that was like an endless summer. And then I’d buy this SS.

This high-horsepower muscle sedan is a new model derived from the prematurely departed, laudable Pontiac G8. It is built by GM’s Holden division in Australia—a country certainly known for epic summers.

Why all the summer references? Because I long for warm weather, not only to shake this chill, but to more fully experience the SS. Right now, the fun is limited because the SS is rear-wheel-drive and comes standard with summer tires. Consumer Reports' cars deputy content editor, Jeff Bartlett, already had some white-knuckle sled time with the SS. Granted, some people who buy this will probably slap on a set of the unofficially GM-endorsed Bridgetone Blizzaks and charge through the frost heaves. But since we don’t put winter tires on our test cars, the SS is seeing limited action these days. Clearly I should be driving it to Key West right now instead of flying to Detroit for the next auto show.

At a starting price of $43,475—which includes standard MyLink infotainment system, navigation, and Bose stereo—you’ll have a car that can run with esteemed muscle cars from BMW’s M division and Mercedes-Benz AMG tuning house but for significantly less money.

Driving impressions: The SS fires up NASCAR style, with its Corvette-sourced 6.2-liter LS3 V8 startling small children and wildlife for miles around. For those of us in love with Detroit muscle cars, it’s a musical treat. Of course, getting even a hint of the available 415 hp to the rear tires in these cold, snowy, and icy conditions is nearly impossible. In these gentle conditions, we’ve been seeing about 18 mpg.

The assertive six-speed transmission matches the muscle of the sonorous V8; paddle shifters bring man-machine interaction that placates the desire to row through the gears manually. The power supply seems endless.

Help me, Rhonda: This car is entertaining.

What’s abundantly clear so far is that the taut, quick steering and well-controlled suspension lend to sporty and athletic handling that quickly puts a smile on your face.

The ride is firm but compliant enough to make the SS tolerable, especially in the context of its handling capabilities.

Inside, you’ll find a very good driving position, with controls that are mostly easy to see and reach, but some thought the reach to the touch screen was too far.  

Most of our testers have found the front leather/heated/vented seats comfortable and simple to adjust. While the seats are somewhat aggressive in their firm side bolsters, they’re nowhere near as confining as the Recaros we wrote about in our tested Ford Fiesta ST, where even normal-sized drivers felt squeezed by the aggressive bolsters.

Overlooking that the SS is like a stealth Corvette, you can make the argument to your spouse that there actually are "practical" reasons to buy one, such as the fairly spacious rear seat and a good-sized trunk. And standard safety features include a rear-view camera, blind-spot detection, forward collision and rear cross-traffic alerts, and lane departure warning. Although the SS sits atop the Chevrolet sedan lineup, it offers a clear value compared to prestige-brand cars at the price, which undoubtedly are smaller, less equipped, and less powerful.

CR’s take: This is a serious high-performance machine at a bargain price. Keep in mind that there are not many hearty V8-powered rear-wheel drive sedans left in the world—a combination that usually equals tons of fun. So, enjoy it while it’s still available. Perhaps I’ll be sending my boss a postcard from Key West: "SS is great. Wish you were here."

—Mike Quincy

   

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