One thing you don’t expect a four-door sedan made by General Motors to be is polarizing, but there are those who get the Chevrolet SS and others who don’t.
On one hand it’s a full-sized, rear-drive sedan living among full-size crossovers. A dying breed, kind of a dinosaur superseded by the faux off-roaders that are now the vehicle of choice for an ever increasing number of buyers.
Yet, it’s also a pretty sharp modernization of the sleeper muscle car. And if you manage to get into one, it’s very likely to put a smile on your face.
Oldies radio in surround sound
A 415-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 and a six-speed manual. Those technical bits have already formed your opinions if you’ve longed for a Corvette that fits a pair of car seats and a stroller.
From the first push of the start button, the rumbling of ’60s muscle cars roars into 2016. Everyone can hear you coming from down the block. Switch between the three driving modes doesn’t change the driving experience too much other than perhaps altering the ride a little thanks to the Magnetic Ride Control.
But between Tour, Sport and Performance, there is marked difference in how the engine barks back at you, even under mild throttle. The new dual-mode exhaust apparently made things a little quieter and a lot louder at the same time. Young children will either be thrilled or slightly terrified.
It would be wrong to say the SS isn’t into corners, but its heft is certainly felt on smaller roads. Suddenly the oversized wheel and heavy shifter conspire to make it feel like you’re driving a very wide car, even though it’s not much wider or longer than a 5-series/E-Class/etc. Dare I say it’s slightly more athletic-feeling than a Dodge Charger? Maybe, but then a Charger SRT 392 does pack another 55 horses.
Cornering, however, is not the point of the Chevy SS. And long stretches of highway reveal this car was made for this country (or Australia, too), but with little of the float and wallow of an old American full-size sedan. Chevrolet might have a good facsimile of a BMW M5 from 2000 or so. You know, when BMW cracked the M5 code itself.
Rear passengers may get all the perks of the SS. In addition to being closer to the always amusing exhaust note, they get an enormous pen to roam around. For someone who thinks a Volkswagen Golf is the perfect size of car, the back of the Chevy is ridiculously accommodating, giving a good idea of what people used to call, “full-size luxury.”
It’s inside where your remember who colonized Australia. Modesty gets the best of the styling, with controls feel pulled out of the Opel/Vauxhall parts bin from the last decade or so. Nothing feels particularly cheap, though nothing feels particularly impressive considering the nearly $50,000 sticker. But apart from SS badges on the passenger’s airbag cover and on the racy front seats, the only nods to nostalgia is the bigness.
And that story continues outside, too. Apart from some hood scoops and red brake calipers, this is a sleepy looking car. One person I showed it to said it looked like a Bentley, and not in a good way. Others said it looked like a rental. The fact all Chevy sedans now look the same didn’t help that matter. But they just don’t get it.
Who spends nearly $50,000 on a Chevy sedan that looks reminiscent of a full-size upgrade at Avis? This guy. OK well, I still worship at the altar of turbocharging, but the Chevy SS warmed a place in my heart I didn’t know existed. And it will do the same if you’ve ever been infatuated by an old muscle car.
It’s a seductive brute with manners, like many subtly handsome Australians. I’ll take its timeless looks and manners over an ultra-modern German performance sedan or the throwback Dodges.
A shame, then, that time is running out on the SS, with its Australian plant due to close. Then the closest thing to a full-size American sedan from GM will be the Cadillac Escalade, which is nice, but not the same thing. Cadillac can build refined luxury sedans, but Chevrolet always deserves something that’s mainstream-looking and hiding a secret revealed when it starts up – like this SS.
It’s the car you knew America could build. Sort of.