Review: It’s OK To Nerd Out With The Chevrolet SS

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 A dying breed, kind of a dinosaur superseded by the faux off-roaders that are now the vehicle of choice for an ever increasing number of buyers.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.



Full-size luxury

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.



Takes one to know one

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.

Photo Gallery

  • MultiKdizzle

    Totally forgettable design kills what appeal this car had.

    • concernedcitizen

      For a “look at me ” V8 sedan there is the Charger. This is lighter, more comfortable, not asking for a ticket standing still, and while I am not a big fan of the LS3 is someone wants a car to haul the kids and modify down the road a smallblock Chevy is the place to start.

    • Vassilis

      That’s what makes these cars desirable.

  • Kyle87

    The design is the appeal. Last thing I want is Look At Me styling. If 99% of the people think it’s just another bland sedan, then all the better. Give it another few mpg and an AWD option, and it would be nearly perfect.

    • WhiteSSOwner

      The fact that its not awd is why its so great.

      • Kyle87

        Not saying it has to be standard, but an AWD option would be great for folks like me, or for lots of people north of the 35th parallel. As a primary car, there are many days in my neck of the woods where RWD wouldn’t get me out of my long driveway, and no way I could afford to own it as a play car just to do burn outs.

        • concernedcitizen

          Learn to drive and out some all seasons on. RWD is perfectly capable in snow below the chassis so long as the driver has some skill. Once undercarriage drags then yeah awd/4wd is a lot better.

        • Ebola1900

          A good set of dedicated snow tires makes a huge difference. Irrespective of the number of drive wheels, using W or Z rated summer tires in snow is suicide. I have never gotten stuck in the snow, except when I have failed to have the snows put on in time.

  • Blanka Li

    A man’s car.

  • Socarboy

    I hate to burst your bubble, Zac Estrada, the Cadillac Escalade is a full size SUV akin to the Chevy Suburban

  • TheBelltower

    I like the bones of the car overall. But it seems like a car from two decades ago. Unsophisticated exterior lighting with incandescent bulbs. Very municipal 1995 Malibu exterior styling. A big dopey bowtie that appears on the infotainment screen every time you start the car looks as if it was designed by someone at Microsoft during Y2K. The power ratings, considered phenomenal in the 90s, aren’t impressive today and are certainly not good enough to overshadow the other weaknesses. As good as this car fundamentally is, the details kill the appeal for buyers looking for a sedan in this price range.

    • concernedcitizen

      Headlights are HID, the infotainment system is crap through.

      HP peak ratings don’t tell the whole story broad powerband makes the car quick.

      • Guest

        Exactly.

        Area under the curve.

  • skippy

    you can’t fool us Australians- that’s just a Commodore and it’s s*&^

  • Greg

    Anyone who has ever owned one of these (Holden Commodore) knows that as soon as the odometer hits 100,000 klms (50,000 miles) they go into self destruct mode and all you are left with is a ton and a half of scrap metal.

  • Bryan

    To all the naysayers:

    Drive one once.

    I’ll admit the nav looks outdated and the styling is Malibu-esque. Those thoughts fade the second you hit the start button and are all but forgotten after she’s warmed up and you rip through the gears a few times.

    This is likely your last chance to get a four-door rear-wheel drive V8 with a manual transmission. No whining in ten years when nothing comparable is produced.

  • SgtBeavis

    I came so damn close to buying one in July. There was a huge discount on 2016 models but there was also a stop sale. The dealer wouldn’t let anyone drive it because of a damn seat belt recall.

    I almost regret getting a Porsche Cayenne….

    Almost… Ok, not really but I did like the SS….

  • Ray

    Just got an SS Tuesday. I’ll admit the styling is a little weird… But I love the sleeper aspect of it. It’s one of those deals if you pass it up, you’ll never get another American sedan with a gas v8 and a manual.

  • Poison_Eagle

    GM could have a successor to this car if they do what they did with the G-platform and mount the LT5 or twin-turbo Cadillac V8 transversely in the E2XX platform. This would serve as a great basis for HSV too, and should be possible if the 4.2-litre is a hot-vee layout like AMG et al.
    I have read rumours the Cadillac 3.0TT V6 is going in and maybe the ATS-V’s as well.
    Surely not an impossibility? Or am I dreaming?

    • Guest

      Definitely dreaming.

      Nose-heavy FWD for FTL. No thanks.

  • javier

    gross, if i’m spending 50k on a fastish it better handle

    • Steve26

      It does handle extremely well actually. 0.97g in the slalom from C&D. By far better than the Charger I took on a test drive and better than most performance vehicles that are smaller and weigh less. The driving dynamics and manual are what made buying this a rather easy choice.

  • WhiteChevySS

    I’ve beaten if not been a very close race with 5.0s chargers and challenger in my SS. Where are you going to get a great sized car, but not a boat like a charger, that can do that, and take turns and corners like a champ.

  • The Pontiac G8 that shares most parts with this car, was so much better in design. Sadly, it launched during carpocalypse, and GM refuses to do the prudent thing and revive Pontiac. Especially now that even Kia is launching RWD sport cars.

  • Scott Johnson

    I get nothing but compliments, then I tell them the story behind the car. Then they say they have never one. I have only seen 3 “in the wild” they love it. I have people chasing me down and taking pictures of it, sometimes hanging out of their car to snap them. I have taken it back to the Australian root with Holden Badges, Chrome removal, etc. Nothing but props. I have further the exhaust note with Headers and 3″ exhaust. I would say it is a legend in it’s time. Smoke Em’ if you can…

  • Ebola1900

    If you are one of the few drivers that actually intends to use this car as designed, the anonymous styling especially in dark colors is a huge advantage. If you want a car that makes a style statement, get something else. In the month I have had mine, I have come to like it more than a succession of M cars, and almost as much as my CTS-V, although it is growing on me. A lot of people have complemented me on the car, but none have known what it was. Most amusing is several complete strangers have made observations to the effect, that it was the nicest, best sounding, coolest Impala/ Malibu they have ever seen. I have given up trying to explain, I just thank them and quietly (when in touring mode anyway) rumble off, in what my parking attendant calls a, “Stealth Batmobile.”

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