2014 Chevrolet SS Review

Paul Barshon

A ghost is haunting Woodward Avenue late on a Saturday night, disturbing the silence that stretches all the way from downtown Detroit through the economic wasteland near Hamtramck to the slumbering suburbs above 8 Mile. Few cars are on the road. A Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution heading northwest around Pontiac is clearly just going home, and yet its driver can't resist the challenge when an unfamiliar-looking large sedan rolls up next to him in a low gear. He takes off hard at the next stoplight and probably thinks he's escaped when it comes up behind him, roaring and pulling hard past his front fender at 80 mph. This happens three or four times until he finally lowers his window, astonished, and asks, "What is that thing?" It's the 2014 Chevrolet SS -- a big, rear-wheel-drive Chevrolet sedan with a 415-hp V-8. It's a ghost.

In its heyday, the V-8 Chevy dominated straight, wide boulevards like these. Chevrolet introduced the small-block V-8 for 1955 and immediately stuffed it into its bread-and-butter full-size cars. The cherry red Bel Air that Mike Helfrich drove to our photo shoot in Detroit's Eastern Market would have cost about $2000 when new, roughly $17,500 in today's money. No wonder Chevy sold some 740,000 V-8-powered vehicles that first year. It's worth noting that the 265-cubic-inch engine put out only 162 to 180 hp, just as it's worth remembering that radial tires, airbags, and stability control are nice things to have. But that's beside the point. In 1955, a Chevrolet was one of the most powerful and stylish cars on the market, and almost anyone could afford one.

Not everyone will be able to afford a 2014 Chevrolet SS. Chevrolet is importing it from Australia, where a strong currency and high labor costs drive up the price. Unlike the Pontiac G8, the SS's direct predecessor, the Chevy will not offer a base V-6. The only specification is roughly equivalent to a loaded G8 GXP. The spacious, well-equipped interior will seat five real people, and the 16.4-cubic-foot trunk will happily swallow enough luggage for a long road trip. Of course, the key measure here is horsepower per dollar. The 6.2-liter LS3 V-8, virtually the same engine the G8 GXP used, connects to the rear wheels via a 3.27:1 axle. Chevy says the big sedan will hit 60 mph in five seconds. At any speed, it has that eager, straining-at-the-leash feel unique to cars with a powerful normally aspirated engine. The price for such preparedness is putrid fuel economy -- 14 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. However, what you get is a $45,000 Chevy sedan that'll go toe-to-toe with a $65,000 BMW 550i or, for that matter, with a two-door sports car like the Camaro SS.

Chevrolet drivers could go toe-to-toe with just about anything in the early 1960s. By then, the Corvette (nearly canceled in '55) was coming into its own as a world-class sports car. And yet it still seemed natural and proper that the baddest Chevrolet be based on the one that most people bought. And so, for an extra $376.65 -- a hefty chunk of change back then -- an Impala Super Sport buyer could opt for the 409-hp, 409-cubic-inch big-block V-8 that was winning on NASCAR ovals and NHRA drag strips. Today, John Schraufnagel's 1962 Impala SS, suffering from a failing starter, rode to Detroit on a trailer. The 409 coughs to life as it pulls into position for photos, settling into a rat-a-tat race idle that translates to, "I wasn't built to sit for photos."

But it does look good in them. The design has the understated elegance of the early Bill Mitchell era. Like the '55, it seems to tell the world that a Chevrolet owner deserves the best. The new SS, in contrast, makes do with a pastiche of five-year-old design clichés -- bubbly headlamps, fender gills, and a pinched Bangle butt. That said, people seem to like it. Helfrich, the owner of the '55, finds it "aggressive," calling out the nineteen-inch wheels and the piano-black-accented front fascia. A butcher at the end of a night shift walks over for a closer look and gives us his number in case we ever want a ride in his Pontiac GTO Judge.

The 409 was the apogee of full-size Chevrolet muscle. The performance war of the 1960s soon shifted toward smaller vehicles like the Chevelle and the Camaro. The fuel-economy wars of the 1970s and '80s only hastened the downsizing trend. By the 1990s, Chevrolet and car buyers had mostly moved on from large, body-on-frame sedans, let alone high-performance variants. And yet, old ideas are tough to kill. A revived Impala SS debuted as a concept at the 1992 Detroit auto show and drew such a reception that General Motors decided to build it. Essentially a police-package Caprice with a slightly lowered suspension, the 1994–96 Impala SS sold reasonably well -- more than 40,000 in the final year, including the 5900-mile example owned since new by Ford (yes, Ford) employee Jim Ledingham. But by then GM, like the rest of the American auto industry, had gotten into the crack cocaine that was the SUV craze. It canned the big Chevy, along with its Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac relatives, to free up production capacity.

As the SS's nearest contemporary in this group, the '90s Impala provides clear evidence of how far the company has advanced. The Impala rides on a frame dating back to 1977 and sends 260 hp through a live rear axle. "Nothing rides like a body-on-frame car," Ledingham asserts. The SS uses the latest version of the Zeta rear-wheel-drive unibody platform -- the Holden Commodore on which it's based underwent a significant refresh for 2013 -- and wears an aluminum hood and trunk lid. Beyond the leap forward in hardware, the 2014 Chevrolet SS benefits from the wholesale improvements in GM products over the last decade -- everything from the interior materials to the weighting of the electric power steering speak to a certain level of competence and know-how. The Impala handled well for a big car. The SS handles well, period -- tons of grip, surprising balance, excellent body control. It actually feels nimbler and easier to place in a corner than the smaller Camaro (the fact that it has real windows helps). Still, the '96 Impala was one of the best GM cars of a depressing era -- and is fast becoming a modern classic -- because it stayed true to Chevrolet's core ideals.

The decades blur as the four cars start up for a short cruise through downtown Detroit. The owners, who hadn't previously known each other but all insure their vehicles through Hagerty, bond over their shared automotive culture. Cars they owned. Cars they always wanted. A long, straight highway entrance ramp in metro Detroit that once served as an illicit drag strip. All express interest in the 2014 Chevrolet SS, although Schraufnagel worries that its fuel economy won't suffice for a daily driver. The rumbling exhaust notes play off each other, and, for a moment, it's easy to imagine how shiny new American cars once burbled up and down Detroit's wide boulevards on clear autumn evenings such as this. Of course, that was a long time ago. Shortly after dinner, the 409 goes back on the trailer (hauled by a late-model Silverado), and the rest of the cars disappear back toward the suburbs.

Don't be deluded into viewing the SS as any kind of return to the golden days. Chevrolet doesn't plan to import more than 4000 of them annually from Australia. For 2013, the SS became Chevy's NASCAR model. Officially, Chevrolet hasn't decided what will follow. "Stay tuned," says Dave Leone, GM's executive chief engineer for global product platforms. Unofficially, it's hard to imagine this car becoming any more of a commercial success than the last two Holden-sourced imports, the Pontiac GTO and G8. To sell more, GM would have to consider relocating production to North America. It would also have to improve fuel economy -- think cylinder deactivation and a transmission with more than six speeds -- so as not to adversely impact the company's CAFE standing. Those things cost money that Chevy would probably rather use to, say, improve its all-important compact and mid-size cars. We get all that. And yet the 2014 Chevrolet SS still haunts us as a reminder of a time when Chevry built powerful, charismatic sedans for the masses.

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air two-door sedan
4.3L (265 cu in) OHV V-8, 162-180 hp, 257-260 lb-ft (gross)
Transmissions: 2-speed automatic, 3-speed manual
Original price: $1987
Value today: $15,000-$30,000
1955 Bel Air production: 770,955

1962 Chevrolet Impala SS 409
6.7L (409 cu in) OHV V-8, 380-409 hp, 420 lb-ft (gross)
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Original price: $3153
Value today: $40,000-$75,000
1962 Chevy 409 production: 15,019

1996 Chevrolet Impala SS
5.7L (350 cu in) OHV V-8, 260 hp, 330 lb-ft (net)
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Original price: $24,405
Value today: $8000-$15,000
1996 Impala SS production: 41,941

2014 Chevrolet SS

Base Price: $44,470
Engine: 16-valve OHV V-8
Displacement: 6.2 liters (376 cu in)
Power: 415 hp @ 5900 rpm
Torque: 415 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: Rear-wheel
Steering: Electrically assisted
Front Suspension: Strut-type, coil springs
Rear Suspension: Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R: Vented discs/discs
Tires: Bridgestone Potenza REO50A
Tire Sizes F, R: 245/40R-19 98Y, 275/35R-19 96Y
L x W x H: 195.5 x 74.7 x 57.9 in
Wheelbase: 114.8 in
Weight: 3975 lb
Cargo Capacity: 16.4 cu ft
EPA Mileage: 14/21 mpg
0-60 MPH: 5.0 seconds
Top Speed: 161 mph
The Captain
speedzzter: Enjoy your Mustang. (It's still a two door, isn't it?) Either you are single, a widower, or still running off at the gonads. The Charger can't provide a "sports car" drive as does the SS.(BTW, I see a Charger at least three times in a single block. This must be because it's unique, right?)
Outsider II
It'll be fun thumping the "Mature" (READ: old) geezers in them with my lighter and more powerful Mustang . . . .   Hopefully Mary Barra's crew checked the Aussie's work on the ignition switches . . . .As for evading the attention of "Five-O" . . . a Charger would provide a lot more bang . . . and "immunity" for the buck.
The Captain
Roadrunner: You are the typical "little boy in men's clothing". IF this dies, the boaty ride of the Chrysler 300 SRT8 will remain the only game in town. IF you believe that looks are the only reason that ADULTS will buy this car, you are missing the mark."Driveablility" is the issue here. Smoking tires and loud noise appeals to people such as yourself, but the mature crowd wants a driver's car. When Chevrolet/Holden produces one that performs as admirably as does the SS, you nit-pick about the styling. The "sleeper" aspect of the SS will be appreciated by ADULT drivers that wish to drive a performance car without having every member of local Law Enforcement breathing down his/her neck.Think about it.    
The Captain
This is a car for a MATURE adult using it as an everyday driver. If you are looking for a Camaro, buy one. This is a "sleeper" designed to outperform Mercedes/BMW and fly under the radar of the local constabulary while doing it. Will the "boy racers" please park their tricycles at the rear of the dealership. Thank you!
Fonzo Ro Ma
The '55 on the right
The G8 GT was sexy and expensive looking and cost $30K.  The SS costs $45K and looks like a boring Malibu.  Not a recipe for success.
Chevy isnt trying hard enough.  My G8GT cost me less than $30K with discounts.  A $300 Superchips tune and $40 K&N air filter produces a car that hits 0-60 in five seconds.  With this setup I get about 20 mpg on average, up to 24 on the highway.  This SS car delivers the same performance, but sucks fuel, looks boring and costs $45K.  I bet it will be rare, due to lack of sales.
Rod Munch
The front end is terrible, I mean god awful. The G8 looked good and this Holden in it's natural skin looks even better, why would Chevy screw this up so badly. It's truly awful looking up front. The rest of the car is acceptable but it does feel dated - but I could live with it if the front didn't look terrible. Ugh.
Chad Gibbish
Gotta have something to compete with the Charger(Which opted out of NASCAR competition btw)
Walter Hartman
Why doesn't GM/Chevy understand, they can put all the muscle they want into a "new car" but when it looks like a Donkey's behind (no wait, the Donkey may actually look better), no one gonna want it!Why do people like the Camaro you say - well yeah that looks the part, but the  late and defunct G8 and the GTO that recently went by by definitely did not - this follows that same treatment...SILLINESS
John Shea
So Mr. Zenlea no longer bewares the bargain BMW. Big change from last month.
Not built in America Not american muscle. Saw the Z/28 at LA auto show and drooled over it. When asked by Chevrolet rep if I was interested in purchasing a Z I said, when they build them in America I will. Woodward Ave will have to wait for the return of Chevrolet muscle until GM decides to build its American muscle in this country.
BMW guy from SMF
Something about this car just isn't right ... maybe it is trying TOO hard with all these parts that seem to come from other cars?  Too tarted up for my like.HOW come NO INTERIOR shots?  IF this car interior is ANYTHING LIKE THE POLICE VERSION - it will be horrible inside.  The police cruiser dash is a mess, the gear shifter is offset and rubs on your thigh and not sure if they moved the e-brake to the center console or now ... also the interior is very narrow ... the knobs are old school GM (think gray rubbery switch gear from a Pontiac) ... it's is bad (the awful version of bad).
Usually I hate it when a manufacturer dips into its parts bin to make another model. However, GM should have done just that with this car, especially since it's a limited production vehicle.  First GM should use the LT1 V8 which now has VVT, DI, and cylinder deactivation, which probably would have helped the SS get away from the gas guzzler tax. 2nd, again since this is a limited production car, use the Vette's 7 spd manual as an option and the new Aisin sourced 8 spd transmission. There was also the option of using the new TT V6 which puts out more HP and torque then this NA  LS3.  This Holden/ Chevy SS are good, but it could have been great.
Vinod Kumar Kudmetha
nice automobile
Jeannot Rioux
Hey il est chaussé sur mes mags d'hiver!!He bien!!!
Brad Gibson
GM fans in the US check out holden.com.au and hsv.com.auHere in Australia we get LSA powered versions, cylinder deactivation, bigger wider wheels and tyres, manual or auto and even automatic parking for the ute version.
Isias Campos
Not a fan of the styling :P
Brian Michael
How is it an American muscle car if it's made in Australia? Or the next production will be in Canada? Sorry but it's the TRUTH!! Deal with it.
Tim Lucas
No, we're mostly just sick of cynical, negative comments Brian, from self-rightous know-it-alls like yourself.
Scott Brennan
The style is boring. Looks 90% like 90% of the other cars on the road. And no coupe? Who wants a 4 door 'muscle car'? What a joke at $45k. There are so many better options at that price point. Big time fail.
Paul Collins
When it has 500 hp at the crank, I'll be interested.... Oh, and a manual it had better be.
Robert May
Very nice Holden Commodore
Brian Michael
WOW!!! I'm so hurt. Guess the truth hurts!!
Marco Spaccavento
It is a great car. Sadly my fellow Australians are embracing flaccid SUVs as family cars so this will probably be the last RWD Australian muscle car. Hang your heads in shame, Australians.
Kevin J. Niemi
great review and seems to be a great car
Christian Schmidt
What a joke, it is still american POS from shitbox chevy.
Walter Losey
They next generation of this car will also have a cadillac and a Buick model using the same rwd platform. As well as a new caprice police model. They should all be out in 2016 as 2017 models. Production of all 4 vehicles will be in north america. Most likely oshawa ontario or spring hill tn.
Roger Perry
open till 8pm
Robby Robinson
Love the V8...the styling not so much!
Michael Scott
I would buy holden tags and put on it. The SS-V with the LSA looks way more agressive
Fonzo Ro Ma
44k for a chevy? Notice at the front outboard positions where there should be protection there are vulnerable-to- minor-bumps signal lights (a new trend) that will help raise your insurance premiums.
Richard Macintyre
lol full size American bruiser... from Australia. Oh well, *somebody* had to do it right, we couldn't seem to manage it.
Sean Morgan-Bell
Not perfect but I am very glad we have an option like this on the market.
Terence Stawski
If they wanted they could redesign the outside & make it a STS again.
Brian Michael
That's funny!! An American muscle car from another country. LOL More GM :poop:
Bob Sennick
The GXP failed to sell at $40k, so... let's raise the price and hope people buy it out of sheer nostalgia!
Walter Losey
Looks like it will be made in Oshawa Ontario. Or possibly Spring Hill TN.
@the_roadrunner I own a G8 GT as well. This SS is more in line with the G8 GXP  which cost over 40k. My biggest complaint is the G8 looks way better than the SS. I can't get over its looks, especially the rear. 
@Walter Hartman G8 was sexy and looked like a BMW.  This car looks like a  Malibu.
@John Shea I smacked some sense into him with my posts on that article
Jeda Knight
The PPV Caprice built in Australia is a minimally equipped variant of the long wheelbase WM Caprice, offered as a luxury car in Australia. The WM is just a LWB version of the VE Commodore.
The SS is based on the Holden VF Commodore SS-V Redline, but features the LS3 instead of the L98 6.0 in the Aussie version. Here's a link for you to see the interior of the VF SS-V with a stick shift. It's also Right Hand Drive.
http://www.holden.com.au/cars/commodore/gallery#/image-1372064139793So the interior is completely different as the VF is now the current model, whereas the Caprice was VE/WM based.Here's a link for the new WN Caprice's interiorhttp://www.sensethecar.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/2014-Holden-Caprice-V-Widescreen-Interior-Dashboard.jpg

@Whatnow Agree, the car you describe would have been worth $45K,unlike this one which is no better than a hemo Charger costing far less.
Jeda Knight
Oh no, How will I ever deal with it? The truth really hurts, Brian...
I don't know any  RWD full size sports sedan hitting 60 in 4.5 secs and 12.9 1/4 mile for  45K. Even the Charger SRT is more.  
Brad Gibson
How's 576hp sound? Check out the HSV GTS
eric in oregon
@Christian Schmidt  And you're still a piece of Schmidt.
and make sure there is no $30K G8GT that could be bumped up to GXP performance with a $300 Superchips tune and K&N filter, while providing 20MPG overall and 24 on the highway.
John Shea
True enough, Roadrunner. Unlike many commenters, I must say I like the look of this Chevrolet SS, and all the various Pontiac and Vauxhall Holdens-in-thin-disguise. Brad Gibson's comment suggests this Chevy could be further updated even before making them in the USA.
@the_roadrunner @Whatnow I agree, and the Charger has cylinder deactivation for better fuel economy. Just wish Chrysler/Fiat would make the 8 spd ZF available with the Hemi 5.7 and 6.4 liter V8.

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