Devotees of grand, powerful, rear-wheel-drive sedans from domestic manufacturers will be thrilled with this weekend's announcement of the 2014 Chevrolet SS, a four-door of bruising potency and presumably enough interior roominess for the Baltimore Ravens offensive line.
The SS is being revealed to the press in a look-but-don't-drive event at Daytona International Speedway. The location is significant because Chevy will henceforth slap the SS name on its NASCAR entries, which had carried the Impala label.
Plugging a gaping hole in Chevy's lineup, the new car further amplifies the brand's sporting appeal just a month after the 2014 Corvette's debut. The SS is based on General Motors' global Zeta platform that is only a couple of years away from phase-out, so questions arise about the long-term course for this new program. Serious intent is expressed, though.
"The Chevrolet brand was largely built on the strength of rear-drive performance sedans, yet it's been seventeen years since we've offered one," said GM president Mark Reuss, a sheepish note evident even in this prepared statement.
"The all-new Chevrolet SS fills that void and fills it better than any other vehicle in the brand's rich history," the statement continued. "The comfort, convenience, spaciousness and V-8 power make the SS a total performance package unlike any other on the road today."
From Australia to the driveways of America
The SS is built in Australia alongside the bigger Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol and well-regarded Holden VF Commodore. Obviously, this portends somewhat limited availability after the SS reaches U.S. showrooms late this year. Nevertheless, it joins a niche that Chrysler has single-handedly expanded with its rear-wheel-drive Chrysler 300 as well as the Dodge Charger and Challenger. When all-wheel-drive variants are factored in, these nameplates combine to pull within sniffing distance of 200,000 units annually -- not bad for a type of car whose death was long ago foretold. With the departure of the Lincoln Town Car, Ford is now in the unusual position of odd man out, with no contemporary entry in this segment.
Chevy loyalists who have waited a generation for the new offering will be rewarded with a car that's as contemporary as stencil tattoos and stretched earlobes. (And no one is apologizing to those cranky old farts who have continually fomented for the return of archaic body-on-frame architecture.) The au courant aspect begins with appearance. Park the '14 SS beside the 1996 Impala SS, and you won't even know they come from the same planet. Early release photos depict the SS as trim and impeccable, whereas the old Impala SS was flabby and ungainly.
Related styling chops have been seen within the past decade, when GM offered Holden-derived, Aussie-built cars badged as the 2004 Pontiac GTO and the 2008 Pontiac G8. The lines of the SS are conventionally conservative, even somewhat mute. Whether this says "Chevy" to anyone is questionable, yet it's easy to foresee demand based solely on the application of today's Chevy grille along with the car's dimensions and standard equipment.
Pure American muscle with international-standard mechanicals
Chiefly notable here is the 6.2-liter V-8 engine. Familiar from the outgoing 2013 Vette, the LS3 powerplant is expected to deliver 415 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque, according to Chevy. Standard paddle shifters manually control the six-speed automatic transmission. A final drive ratio of 3.27:1 enables a 0-to-60 mph time of around five seconds, according to the company's estimate.
The aluminum engine helps the SS achieve weight distribution that's "near" 50/50. A low center of gravity and suspension by MacPherson struts up front and multiple links in the rear, with coil springs and stabilizer bars at both ends, add to the promise of greater agility in comparison to the Paleolithic Impala SS.
Large, ventilated Brembo brakes are gripped by four-piston calipers in front and floating single-piston ones in rear. The SS rides on 19-inch forged-alloy wheels that carry low-profile, sticky Bridgestone tires.
The wheelbase is 114.7 inches, and the SS is 74.7 inches wide and 195.5 inches long. Yet it's not particularly tall, measuring 57.9 inches high. The net result of these dimensions is a five-passenger interior providing front and rear legroom of 42 inches and 39 inches, which you expect from a big Chevy sedan.
Cushy trim is augmented by driving wizards
Standard amenities include leather upholstery, eight-way power seat adjustments, and a display screen for navigation and MyLink infotainment. A nine-speaker Bose stereo ought to overcome the rumbling V-8.
Yes, it's a driver's car, but the SS comes with a full complement of driver-assistance features, including Chevy's first parking assistant, potentially saving much embarrassment when you and a carload of passengers pull up at a tight spot.
The price will be announced close to the SS's on-sale date. Somewhere in the mid-thirties would be extraordinarily judicious.
On May 1, 1964, Chevy boss Bunkie Knudsen drove one of the first '65 Impala coupes equipped with the new 396-c.i. (6.5-liter) V-8 and an automatic transmission. "It sure is a nice combination," he wrote in his diary. How easy to anticipate even greater satisfaction from the new SS.
Engine: 6.2-liter OHV V-8
Power: 415 hp (est.) @ 5900 rpm
Torque: 415 lb-ft (est.) @ 4600 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Steering: Electrically assisted
Front suspension: MacPherson strut, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Rear suspension: Four-link independent, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Brakes: Four-wheel disc, ABS
Tires: P245/40R-19 front, P275/35R-19 rear Bridgestone
L x W x H: 195.5 x 74.7 x 57.9 in
Wheelbase: 114.8 in
Track (F/R): 62.6/62.4 in
Cargo volume: N/A
0-60 mph: 5.0 seconds (est.)
Top Speed: N/A
EPA Mileage: N/A