published Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Test Drive: New Chevy SS, a stealth car

The handsome, but conservative, design of the Chevrolet SS Sedan belies its race-car performance.
The handsome, but conservative, design of the Chevrolet SS Sedan belies its race-car performance.
Photo by Mark Kennedy.

FAST FACTS

* Model: 2014 Chevrolet SS Sedan

* Exterior color: Phantom Black Metallic

* Interior color: Jet Black

* Engine: 6.2-liter, eight-cylinder

* Horsepower: 415

* Transmission: six-speed automatic

* Fuel economy: 14 mpg city, 21 mpg highway

* Dealer: Walter Jackson Chevrolet (Ringgold, Ga.)

* Price (as tested): $47,170

If the new Chevrolet SS Sedan is not a wolf in sheep’s clothing, it’s at least a tiger in a turtleneck.

Think of it as an Impala with a Corvette engine — that’s a bit of a misnomer, but you get the picture.

Beneath the SS’s handsome, but conservative, sheet metal lies a 6.2-liter, V-8 engine that can launch the four-door sedan from zero-to-60 mph in under 5 seconds.

To sum up our impressions in two words: Whoa, baby! If you want to add a dash of Tabasco to your daily commute, this is your ride.

When we discovered that an SS had landed at Walter Jackson Chevrolet in Ringgold, Ga., we immediately contacted sales manager Bob Lollar to arrange a test drive. The SS, a rear-wheel-drive sedan, is a limited-production vehicle made in Australia. So get yours while they’re hot.

DESIGN AND FEATURES

If you envision the SS impersonating a granny sedan and flying under police radar, I feel compelled to inform you that there has been a steady stream of Georgia Highway Patrolmen dropping by Walter Jackson Chevrolet to check out the SS. That’s because the authorities, bless their hearts, have visions of driving a police-spec version of this screamer (called a Caprice PPV) some day. If one of these bad boys ever shows up in your rear-view mirror under a rack of blue lights, I’d suggest you pull over immediately.

The SS is assembled in Australia by the Holden car company, a GM partner. In the Land Down-Under it’s badged as the Holden Commodore. In a previous lifetime the car was also called the Pontiac G8, which was discontinued when GM folded that nameplate. Enthusiasts have been hoping a Commodore clone would make it to the states ever since.

From a distance, the SS looks like a sporty sedan but hardly a fire-breather. Circling the car you realize that it could be an ordinary commuter car if you never woke up the tiger under the hood. It looks a little like a blend of current Impala and Malibu designs. If it looks familiar, this is Chevy’s current NASCAR entry. The wheel-wells flare gently around gleaming, 19-inch wheels shod with low-profile Bridgestone tires.

Inside, the SS sports top-notch materials that would look at home in a Cadillac. Our black test car had a blend of black leather and suede finishes in the cabin. The snug-fitting, perforated leather seats have SS embossed on the seat-backs for a sporty look.

An 8-inch touch screen serves as the infotainment hub of the SS, which encompasses a GPS-based navigation system, Pandora and Bluetooth. A head-up display projects the speedometer reading and turn-by-turn navigation instructions “directly into your field of vision on the windshield,” Chevy says. The SS will also sync with your iPhone to offer voice-activated texting via a “Siri Eyes Free” feature.

Completing the luxury vibe is parallel-parking assist, a Chevy first, which makes wedging your SS into tight spaces a breeze. There is also a full portfolio of safety features including a rear vision camera, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and forward collision alert.

DRIVING EXPERIENCE

Here, as the expression goes, is where the rubber meets the road. The SS’s small-block V-8 engine spins the back wheels with 415-horsepower. With 6.2 liters of displacement, the SS seemingly has a bottomless well of power. Sprinting down an on ramp as the engine roars to life is a near-religious experience.

I glance in the rear-view mirror at my 7-year-old son — my companion on this test drive. At first he looked alarmed as I awakened the beast inside the SS’s engine compartment, but soon his worried expression changed to a smile.

“Whoa!,” he exclaimed, as we merged into I-75 traffic.

Paddle shifters, linked to the SS’s six-speed automatic transmission, give you the option of ticking through the gears for maximum acceleration.

BOTTOM LINE

Chevy notes that the SS “is the only car that has the same rear-wheel-drive, small-block V8 configuration as its NASCAR sibling.” If you’re a race enthusiast, that alone should pique your interest in this five-passenger rocket ship.

There are no stripped-down versions of the SS, and very few options. Our Phantom Black Metallic test car, with optional sunroof, has an MSRP of $47,170 — a bargain for car that will almost certainly become an instant collector’s item.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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