2014 Chevrolet SS review
By Matthew de Paula of MSN Autos
There was a time when every General Motors car was built like the 2014 Chevrolet SS: big and powerful with rear-wheel drive. It's been nearly two decades since Chevy last used that recipe on the Impala, and thank goodness it has started to do so again. The all-new SS is wonderfully anachronistic, with a burly Corvette V8 engine under the hood and a singular focus on hedonistic motoring.
That's not to say it is outdated; indeed, quite the opposite. The SS heralds a new era of quality, craftsmanship and refinement for Chevrolet, feeling something like the American equivalent of a BMW 550i from behind the wheel. A what? Five years ago, who would have thought a straight-faced comparison between a BMW and a Chevrolet in the same sentence would be possible?
Some will make a fuss over the car's $45,770 base price, which is hefty for a Chevy. The most expensive Chevy sedan by a long shot, the SS costs $6,760 more than the next priciest 4-door in the lineup, the Impala LTZ. (It includes a $995 delivery charge and a $1,300 gas guzzler tax.) But the price is fair for what the SS offers: an LS3 V8 engine straight from the C6 Corvette; a sophisticated, rear-wheel-drive chassis with almost perfect weight distribution; and high-end components such as a brake system from Italian specialist Brembo.
Then there are myriad creature comforts and electronic goodies, which usually cost extra on other Chevys, such as a head-up display, an 8-inch touch screen with navigation, advanced voice recognition (including Siri Eyes Free for Apple iPhone), and high-intensity discharge headlamps with LED daytime running lights. A sunroof for $900 and a full-size spare for $500 are the only two options.
Color choices are limited to the basics: black, red, silver, white and a greenish-gray called Mystic Green. The Chevrolet SS looks particularly attractive in this last color; its rich, muted tint complements the car's understated lines in a way other colors do not.
Under the hood
Where it lags is in shift times. Flicking the paddles behind the steering wheel to shift up and down manually does give the driver more control, but conventional automatic transmissions such as the one in the SS simply can't match the speed and precision of so-called automated manual gearboxes. On the other hand, a conventional automatic operates smoother in normal driving than automated manuals do. And for the type of driver who will buy the SS, that's important.
Nice details include satin metallic finishes on some plastic trim pieces, red stitching in the leather upholstery, and faux-suede inserts on the seats, dashboard and doors. Maserati and Porsche charge big bucks for upgrading to faux suede, so kudos to GM for making it standard on the SS.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel is beefy and contoured like that of a sports car, such as the new Corvette C7. The leather is perforated on the sides of the wheel where your hands tend to grip the most. This kind of subtle, premium touch helps elevate the character of the Chevy SS beyond that of a regular family sedan.
Chevy includes plenty of useful buttons and knobs on the center console for climate control and infotainment functions, which makes it easy to adjust things like fan speed or stereo volume. And the console does not appear cluttered.
Another plus is the large touch screen, with its high resolution and slick graphics. It allows you to customize the home screen and certain other buttons. However, the menu system can be slow to respond, and some basic functions require jumping through several menus. The main navigation layout is not as intuitive as other systems, including Ford's Sync with MyFord Touch.
The Chevy SS got the 10-way power-adjustable front seats right. They remain comfortable after hours of driving by striking a good balance between hugging the body and providing freedom of movement, unlike some sport sedans.
The only issue is with the shoulder bolsters. They can poke you if you're not sitting perfectly centered in the seat. The little winglets appear to be purely cosmetic; they provided no discernible support during cornering.
The rear seat is one of the largest of any vehicle on the market. Legroom is absolutely expansive. Even the center seat, which is often cramped and uncomfortable in rear-drive sedans due to the transmission tunnel beneath it, is amazingly accommodating. It's the most comfortable rear center seat of any sedan we've tested in the last year. The vast majority of 4-doors that claim to seat five really only carry four comfortably. Not so with the SS.
There's also plenty of headroom in both front and rear seats. Trunk space is good, although the SS has two cubic feet less than the BMW 550i. There's that comparison again.
On the road
The interior is so quiet that it's hard to hear the luscious exhaust blast on startup with the windows up. Thankfully, the engine's sultry sound permeates the cabin under acceleration.
Although the 6.2-liter powerhouse gives the SS impressive acceleration — zero to 60 mph in less than five seconds — it won't snap your head back. The SS is a heavy car, so 415 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque are enough to make it feel quick, but not supercar fast. We averaged 17.5 miles per gallon after an all-out run up and down a twisty mountain road and back through the city of Palm Springs, Calif. Not bad for such a performance beast, but certainly not the best among full-size sedans.
Where the Chevy SS really shines is in its balance and poise. This car flows through turns with much more finesse than the brutish Dodge Charger SRT8.
There is a sense of polish and sophistication in the car's every move, yet it's a hoot for hooligans, too. The chassis setup lets you play with the car in corners. Dive halfway into a long turn, mash the gas pedal a little harder and the tail hangs out, but only just a bit. Approaching the car's limits feels safe and secure, owing partly to that long wheelbase and wide track, which keep it planted.
GM engineers spent a lot of time tuning the electrically assisted power steering, and you can tell in how it responds to input. The weight is just about perfect — not too light, not too heavy. Chevy opted not to offer an adjustable suspension on the SS to save cost and complexity. While this definitely bucks the current trend that even GM is following with vehicles such as the Buick Regal GS, there is something to be said for not having to fiddle with chassis settings.
Right for you?
Anyone considering a Dodge Charger SRT8 and Chrysler 300C SRT8 — which are this car's most direct competitors — would do well to look at the SS, especially those who value exclusivity. The SS, like its two rivals, will be sold in limited numbers. GM isn't saying exactly how limited, but first-year sales in the U.S. aren't likely to go much over 5,000 units, according to one GM rep.
Does the Chevy SS match a BMW 550i in terms of luxury and refinement? No. But it certainly offers near-luxury levels of fit, finish and features. And its performance and handling capabilities are certainly in league with European sport sedans costing much more.
(As part of a sponsored press event, Chevrolet provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitate thisreport.)
Matthew de Paula wanted to be an automotive journalist ever since reading his first car magazine in grade school.After a brief stint writing about finance, he helped launch ForbesAutos.com and became the site's editor in 2006.Matthew now freelances for various outlets.