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2014 Chevrolet SS review notes
American muscle from Australia

EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I have no idea if the new 2014 Chevrolet SS is a good car. I can't tell exactly how fast it is, how it handles, or how good the brakes are. Why not? Because Detroit got a couple inches of sloppy snow during my recent drive home, and my focus was on not sliding into anything.

What I can say, though, is the new SS isn't bad in messy conditions. Not bad at all. Consider the SS's rear drive and oodles of horsepower, and last night had all the makings of a complete disaster. I was pleasantly surprised. It was no problem. The car does have Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires on it so much credit to those. They are terrific tires. The car cruised through the slop just fine. The traction control barely flashed.

Then the next morning, ah yes. The roads were just wet, not snow covered, so I could leg it a little. Emphasis on a little -- it's not like I was trying to qualify for the Daytona 500, but I did have a little fun.

The engine sounds wonderful, and the 415 hp feels great. The car jumps off the line and mid range power is impressive. The six-speed transmission is smooth and flicking the paddles is great fun. Just cruising around, the seats feel terrific and one notices the nicely done interior. It's a refined driver. Or should I say it's more refined than I would have guessed.

Also I think the SS looks really nice in an understated way. It doesn't jump up and down yelling “look at me!!” It has a classy look inside and out.

The as-tested price of $45K is not cheap, but for what you get, I think it's fair. Not a bargain exactly, but the SS is stylish, understated performance. For now I'll say it might be worth the money. Need to drive it more and in better conditions.

ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: There's something so right about an American rear-wheel drive sedan. Of course, this SS comes by way of Australia, but it's got a Chevy bowtie on it, so it's American enough. Obviously, it reminds me a lot of the Pontiac G8, but the cleaner Chevrolet front end and the interior give it a visual improvement.

It's an understated looking car overall, though I did have someone in an old Monte Carlo run me down on the expressway and pace me for a couple of miles in the next lane while snapping photos on his cell phone. Car people know what it is, while the rest of the general public probably won't even take a second look at it when it zooms by them on the road.

The highlights start with a thumping 6.2-liter V8 under the hood that provides all the muscle you'll need for running around on public roads, with 415 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque. The SSgets moving in a hurry when you stomp on the gas pedal, with the rumbling V8 providing a pleasing soundtrack. The automatic gearbox does a decent job running up through the gears, and downshifts happen in short order when you need an extra burst of speed. I'll save you from the “I wish it had a manual,” line we so often throw out around these parts and instead say that automatic is fine in this car for street driving and probably the occasional road course visit.

Speaking of road courses, I think this SS would do well on them. There's a solid platform here with a suspension that does a nice job keeping body motions in check. Steering feel is crisp and well weighted, and there's satisfying feedback available through the wheel. Brakes are more than adequate to get things slowed in a hurry.

As already mentioned above, our test car here in Detroit was outfitted with a set of Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires, which were appreciated while we were trudging through all the slush. Ride quality is on the stiffer side, but it's not overly harsh and won't wreck occupants' lower backs or anything. There was a decent amount of tire noise getting into the cabin, but again there were winter tires on our car. I'll be interested to get into an SS later on with the regular summer tires on it.

The simple cabin has some nice little touches, like the dash panels wrapped with a suede-like material, red contrast stitching and a thick, flat-bottom steering wheel that falls nicely into your hands. Front seats offered a just-right amount of side support and are comfortable overall. There are still some hard plastic pieces here and there, but they were on mostly lower portions of the dash and center console, which is fine.

One annoying thing was the collision warning system that went off at least a dozen times over my weekend with the car. It was overly sensitive in some situations, as I was already slowing and approaching cars ahead, while on a number of occasions it would just freak out for no apparent reason as I drove along with no cars ahead of me.

Still, the Chevy SS is a heck of a car. It's a good size, is seriously fun to drive with plenty of power, swift handling reflexes and has simple and sporty looks. I would probably pick it over the more powerful Dodge Charger SRT8 if given the choice. Not saying I don't like the Charger SRT8, but I prefer the Chevy's lighter-on-its-feet handling and more compact dimensions.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: I've been excited about this car since I drove the Police Patrol version a few years ago, and I loved the old Pontiac G8, so anything like that is a great start.

Plopping down into the seats, I thought they were a little too hard for this type of car. I know it's supposed to be stiff and sporty, but a little more lateral and lower back support would have been nice.

The interior is handsome with black leather almost everywhere, the switchgear looks good, but it's in the down-is-downshift format, which irks me to no end. The paddles worked fine, but I think most people will just spend time in S mode, not manual shift.

My drive home was mostly dry, if not a little dusty from all the salt. This car was a hoot to drive. Like Wes said, the sound is great, even on startup. In fact, I'd like a little more grunt, if anyone's asking. The tires will light up on any throttle tip in past 50 percent, and with the traction control in competition mode, it keeps them spinning for a while.

The sedan is big enough and balanced well enough not to go careening out of control during a small tail slide. Just dial in a little angle on the thick steering wheel and you're back on track. I would love to get this out on a track, or at least in a deserted parking lot. The brakes were solid, bringing everything to a halt quickly, even over some ice patches.

The SS is stiff over bumps, even with the softer winter tires. Much of that jounce was transferred to the cabin. With the roads as bad as they are right now, I spent much of my time dodging potholes that have appeared since our first snowfall.

Chevy massaged the shape and sheetmetal of the SS since we last saw it and for me it's an improvement. From the front three-quarter view it almost looks like a Jaguar. I like the Chevy Corvette/Jaguar-like vents in the front quarter panels. The rear end isn't the prettiest; I liked the G8's better.

WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: This is how all American cars should be. Indeed, this is how all cars, period, should be made: powerful, taut, responsive and fast. This is what used to constitute an American sedan, so why can't we have that now?

I love the 2014 ChevroletSS. It's understated on the outside, yet powerful under the hood and quicker than a dingo when you launch it. At speed it tracks straight and true. Come on, America, buy all of these so that GM (and Ford and Dodge) will make more! You shouldn't have to do with the utility compromises of two-door pony cars to get the performance of a sports sedan.

Why did we have to send out to Australia to get it? Why can't we make something like this right here? I mean, sure, we like the Aussies, they're our allies and they make great drinking buddies, but why did we have to go 10,000 miles across the Pacific to find a fun and relatively affordable performance sedan, one that's only going to be around for a limited time? I would get one of these before I got a BMW 5-series and maybe even before I got an AMG E-class. Yes, I said it.

OK, we are making something like this here in America: the Dodge Charger SRT8. I love all the SRT products, too. They represent the best stuff America is capable of producing. Heck, they even make a performance SUV. Would I pick this Chevy SS over a Dodge SRT8? I'd have to rent a large motorsports facility and spend a couple days wailing on both before I made my decision. The Chevy weighs in at 3,975 pounds, almost 400 pounds less than the Charger SRT8. But the Charger has 470 hp to the Chevy's 415. Man that would be a good test. I think I might pick the Chevy SS. I like lighter-weight things.

In impromptu acceleration runs that may or may not be representative of the car's performance, I managed to get a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds. The fastest way I found was to simply lift off the brake and stomp on the gas. Brake torqueing merely spun the rear tires. Published times are slower than that, and Chevysaid the SS would do about five seconds to 60. I was running in 40-degree air on flat concrete close to sea level, so optimum conditions.

In the couple days I had the car ,I didn't get to drive it on a good, twisty road. But I did drive it around city streets while paying attention, where I got the sense the suspension had loads of promise. The long-lost Pontiac GTO was similarly taut, tight and very quick. It, along with this Chevy SS, feels like a muscle car but one that is screwed together a lot tighter. The independent rear suspension felt like it would handle a road course pretty solidly, even a bumpy road course. The limited-slip diff helped put the power down, too.

All 415 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque were eager to get on the road. There was no lag in the six-speed automatic transmission, no sense that the torque converter was eating up all the torque. It is an efficient powertrain with no leaks.

The Chevy SS stickers at $45,770 to start, while the Dodge Charger SRT8 begins at $47,445. Considering that the BMW 5-series V8 starts at $64, 825 and the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG starts at $90,705 and you see that the bang-for-the-buck factor makes this an even easier decision. A lot of people can justify $45K for something, right?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go drive some more.

ASSOCIATE WEST COAST EDITOR BLAKE Z. RONG: What a wonderful car. It stops well, steers well, rides well; the beefy four-piston Brembo brakes have excellent modulation and feel perfect for this veritable limousine. The steering is weighty and elastic: it turns in firmly and bounces to center with a reassuring snap. The six-speed auto shifts quickly but smoothly. This car just wants to cruise over 80 mph all day. Not higher, that would be irresponsible; not lower, because it feels bogged down, as if the post-Carter mandate of 65 mph freeway limits is a pace best reserved for parking lots. 80 mph is its comfort zone, and it feels the least encumbered by physics and effort. Municipal governments should raise their speed limits accordingly.

The 415-hp LS3 V8 engine sounds high strung; weirdly enough, its exhaust is actually a dead ringer for the Chevy Impala and its 3.6-liter V6. It's quiet, too. But the Impala doesn't have a nice burble from the backfiring exhaust when you let off the throttle -- until that car gets an SS trim, anyway.

I was trying to rack my mind to see what it drove most closely to. Especially with its heavy steering, it feels most similarly to Chrysler's big sedans than GM executives would want anyone to acknowledge -- a bit of Ford Mustang too, and basically any heavy American car that hides its weight well.

The exhaust, quiet in the cabin but a riot to hear nonetheless, really symbolizes this car's nature: despite its Chevy upbringing, despite high school thoughts of raucous Nova SS's and burning-out Chevelles, the Chevy SS is far more sophisticated than it lets on. It's a handsome, understated car.

The SS isn't just a novelty for misty-eyed nostalgia freaks imbued with more testosterone as Tim Allen. Is it the perfect family hauler? Sure, just climb inside. There's tons of headroom front and rear. The trunk is huge enough to contain all your cliché “dead body” jokes. The rear bench is wide and flat enough to serve as a dorm room futon, and I've certainly crashed on more uncomfortable ones. A floppy rear armrest is fashioned from a large and formless brick of puffy vinyl--it looks like a standby from 1977, as if Holden designers surveyed Australia's only Pontiac Can Am. Front seats are wide and offer great leg support, but little shiny-painted plastic bits in the seats are supposed to mimic racing harness cutouts. Note to Chevy, however: usually those are actual cutouts.

Up front, there is plenty of room in the center console for phones. The MyLink touchscreen is quick and intuitive, as are the minimalistic controls -- the climate knobs in particular are a welcome feature from the Corvette. But a stalk-mounted trip computer is quite possibly the least ergonomic thing ever invented. And some of the overall materials are disappointing: suede on the dashboard breaks up the monotony but the steering wheel feels like cheap vinyl, and the seat leather is stitched haphazardly and full of wavy impreciseness in our test car in California.

But ultimately, the SS represents this ideal four-door Corvette for years--and now, like the previous Pontiac G8, here is America's chance to make the dream happen. In the Chevrolet worldview the SS's pricing is close to a Corvette's, too, much higher over a loaded Impala than needs to be; with all those interior quirks, this is a car better served with a $39K base price. (Alas, the fickle winds of international currency economics carry sway here.)

Big enough to be intimidating, but subtly styled to be upscale -- maybe GM should've sold this as a Cadillac? The ATS costs less and handles more precisely, the latter a factor owing to its smaller size, but also has nearly 100 less horsepower even in its strongest powertrain, the 3.6-liter V6.

The SS also has one factor over the ATS: it serves as even stronger an ambassador to the American car industry. This is the car foreigners think most of when they think, “American car.” Which also helps that it comes from Australia, a country more like America than both of us care to admit.
Read more: 2014 Chevrolet SS review notes,pricing,specs,photos - Autoweek
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