- The Chevy SS is the last of a breed of rough-and-ready rear-wheel-drive sedans.
- The car is being discontinued.
- But we got to check it out before its demise.
Technology is changing the way we drive.
This is a story we’re told seemingly every day. The main characters are Tesla, Uber, Lyft, and lately, even the major automakers, who are pushing the envelope on electric cars and autonomous vehicles. The plot goes like this: In a few decades, driving a car will be to the 21st century what riding a horse was to the 20th.
It’s a compelling narrative. But then again, there are still some people who want to ride horses.
And there will probably always be some people who want to drive a car.
For those folks, Chevrolet has produced a smashingly good machine, the Chevy SS. Sadly, because the market for a stonking, ill-mannered rear-wheel-drive sedan is limited — and because GM has ended production at its Holden division in Australia, where the SS originates, Chevy is discontinuing the model. The SS will now join its predecessor, the Pontiac G8 GXP, on that great open road in the sky.
But not right away — you can still buy an SS until dealer stocks run out (there are currently about 1,000 available in the US right now). We got our hands on a 2017 model and piloted it around New York and New Jersey for a few days. To say that we were in automotive Elysium for the whole time would be an understatement.
Here’s why we fell in love with this rude beast:
The beast landed at our suburban New Jersey test complex. Phantom Black Metallic was the exterior, and the interior got Jet Black leather. It's basically impossible to get the SS to cost you $A65,285. All optioned up, ours came in at about $A62,675.
The styling is epically subdued. Yes, the SS has a burly presentation, but any of number of BMW M-Sport cars are far more in-your-face.
To be honest, you could be easily forgiven for calling the SS boring. It looks like a basic GM sedan that's been slightly bulked up, with some added touches here and there to identify is as a member of the SS family, which once included Pontiacs, back before GM killed the brand. 'SS,' by the way, stands for 'Super Sport.'
Chevy calls the SS a sports sedan, but let's not kid ourselves: Sporty isn't what this sucker truly is. Here's what it is: a rebadged Holden Commodore. Holden is GM's Australian division, and Down Under, they like their sedans with big engines and rear-wheel-drive. Regrettably, GM is ending production in Australia, and the Commodore is a casualty.
Sedans are declining in popularity, and offbeat four-doors such as the SS are especially endangered. Back in the day, most American cars had big engines that sent power to the back rubber. Nowadays, consumers want SUVs and all-wheel-drive. You could call them fools, but in truth, the driving dynamics of a RWD car with a juicy V8 motor are challenging to deal with.
We welcomed the challenge, which can also be enjoyed with SS's stablemates: the Chevy Camaro SS and various flavours of Corvette. Those cars, of course, are two-doors.
The SS is a sneaky fast car, for anyone who isn't inside, feeling the power. Fellow motorists will be spending a lot of time taking in this angle.
This is the part of the review where we usually slip inside and have a look around the interior and get to know the infotainment system. But the SS doesn't like that. The SS is angry that it's parked. The SS wants to GO!
And with good reason, too. This is what lurks beneath the hood: a 6.2-litre small-block V8 engine, making 415 horsepower with 415 pound-feet of torque. If those specs sound familiar, that's because this was the motor that propelled the previous-generation Corvette. There is no other option: it's V8 or look elsewhere. No turbocharger, no supercharger, and it has pushrods. Just motor, motor, and more motor. Something for the purists.
You do have a few choices, beyond colours, interiors, and whether to get the sunroof. For example, some weak-willed folk will choose the six-speed automatic transmission over the six-speed manual. They each add nothing to the cost, by the way.
OK, that last comment was mean to people who don't want to spend all their driving time working a clutch. In truth, we've found the automatics on GM's performance cars to be fantastic, and the auto SS is on our test docket.
I didn't find myself at a loss for words when it came to describing the way the six-speed-stick, the V8, and the clutch conjoined to produce driving bliss. Words such as 'magnificent,' 'august,' 'stentorian,' and 'supreme' played across my imagination every time I fired up the SS and took to the road.
... and the back doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles (the back seats, however, are quite roomy).
The steering wheel is leather-wrapped, with a sports grip, but for the most part, from the driver's vantage point, this car is a real throwback.
The infotainment system is more-or-less up-to-date with GM's current state of the art, which is excellent. You get SiriusXM satellite radio, GPS navigation, a Bose audio system that sounds great, Bluetooth connectivity, USB and AUX ports, and ...
Good god, what a car! You can get Corvette performance with four-doors -- it's called the Cadillac CTS-V. But it will set you back $A110,980.
For less than fifty grand, you can have the Chevy SS, which gives up many horsepowers to the Caddy's 640, but who cares? The brutal CTS-V is a monster, whereas the Chevy SS is a car that allows you to at least explore most of its power output, on the highway. The 0-60 mph assault is over in less than five seconds (top speed in limited to 160 mph).
At less pugnacious velocities, the combination of precise steering, grabby Brembo brakes, and magnetic stability control make the beast feel downright tossable in the twists and curves life's roadways throw at you.
Best of all, with the six-speed manual, you are encouraged to do endless fifth-to-third drop downs and fourth-gear holds and just relish the slamming symphony of that brilliant V8. They don't call General Motors, General Motors for nothing. These people now how to engineer an engine. The transfer of power from front to back is exquisite, delivering that rear-wheel lock-down that American muscle cars excel at. The SS also has a limited-slip differential, which yokes the torquey engine and rear-wheel-drive, enabling better control of the power, and hence, the capacity to drive more aggressively.
These are all sports car bona fides, but I think tagging the SS a sports sedan misses the point: this car wants to have the revenuers bearing down on it while it rips a hole in the fabric of space-time, taking you back to a simpler age. It's just wearing a decently cut suit during the effort.
There are three driving modes: Tour for everyday tooling around; Sport for quick hits of fun; and Track when you want to scare the neighbours and test your skills at managing oversteer on demand.
The exhaust note is pure NASCAR, and the fuel economy is awful: 14 city/22 highway, assuming you channel you inner redneck hypermiler on the freeway. Otherwise, we observed something like 18 mpg. BI's Ben Zhang and I successfully drained the gas tank and had to top it off twice before we reluctantly returned the SS to Chevy. Money well spent.
Chevy can't sell any of these marvellous machines and so the 'SS' designation will no longer apply to a sedan in the brand's lineup after the 2017 model year. But we do have, in the SS, a glorious thing made of metal and glass, durable stuff, and so if you want to get your kicks while still having a back seat and big trunk -- in other words, if you aren't budgeted for Caddys and consider Corvettes a bit too Euro these days -- you can get an SS now or pick one up used in a year or two.
It is not a self-driving car. It is not a piece of high-tech mobility. You won't want to share it with anybody. It's retro, it's fast, it's loud, and it's completely insane. It's a dinosaur -- and it deserves to stick around. We should be sad to see it go.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.