The Chevrolet SS is one of the best cars no one’s buying. It’s a Bowtie-badged version of the Australian Holden Commodore with a 6.2-liter LS3 V8 under the hood. It’s got a six-speed manual transmission, General Motors’ sophisticated Magnetic Ride Control suspension, and rear-wheel drive. It’s a fullsize sedan that comes with every possible amenity you could want. And it’s less than $50,000.
Chevrolet sold 2,479 SS sedans in 2014. That means it was outsold by every other vehicle the automaker offers, even the police fleet-only Caprice. (I’m only talking about cars that were on sale for the full 2014 calendar year, of course.) The aforementioned manual transmission and MRC suspension were added for 2015, but it’s not clear if that’s helping. The SS is down 7.7 percent through June of this year, compared to 2014’s numbers. But hey, at least it’s finally outselling the Caprice.
What a damn shame. Granted, GM only planned to sell a few thousand of these each year, but as enthusiasts, this a car we should be gobbling up. It’s the closest we’ll get to a four-door Corvette, and with the 2015 model year updates, that statement is more true than ever.
Aside from the manual gearbox and magnetorheological suspension, the SS is largely unchanged through its year and a half of sales. But that’s no bad thing – we were thoroughly impressed with the SS when we first tested it at the end of 2013.
Outside, the SS looks the same, which is a bummer. It is not an attractive car, and the chrome brightwork on the side vents and wheels doesn’t help. That said, the sedate styling puts it under the radar – more so than competitors like a Dodge Charger 392, anyway. But maybe it’s too under the radar. Even in the new, “Some Like It Hot Red” color (yes, really), photographer Drew Phillips reports that people often mistook the SS for a Malibu. “Is that a rental car?” Yikes.
Exterior styling is our only gripe with the SS. Moving inside, there’s a lot to like. This is easily one of Chevy’s nicest, well thought-out interiors (thanks, Holden), with premium materials and tons of equipment. The Chevy MyLink infotainment system carries over, and now features 4G LTE and wifi connectivity. The touchscreen is a bit slow to respond, but otherwise, it’s bright, well organized, and packed with functionality.
From the driver’s seat, the SS is easy to enjoy over extended periods of time. The front seats are supportive and comfortable, the cabin is quiet, all of the controls are simple to locate and use. What’s more, there’s a bunch of space for passengers. Rear occupants enjoy more legroom than a Ford Taurus SHO and more headroom than a Dodge Charger.
But all of that pales in comparison to how good the SS is to drive. Let’s review the facts: 6.2-liter V8, 415 horsepower, 415 pound-feet of torque, rear-wheel drive, six-speed manual transmission. If that sounds like a winning combination, it is. The SS is a muscle car, but goes about its business with a newfound sophistication, thanks to the new suspension setup.
In Tour mode, the SS is a comfortable cruiser that gobbles up freeway miles. The sedan doesn’t feel vastly different in Sport and Performance modes, just incrementally more stiff. Regardless of mode, the ride quality is superb, with the suspension soaking up pavement imperfections while still being plenty talkative. The handling isn’t as crisp as a Corvette, of course, but it’s better than any version of the Dodge Charger. Said another way, Chevy lists the BMW 5 Series as one of the competitors to the SS, and based on ride and handling quality alone we have no qualms with putting those two cars in the same class.The electric power steering lacks the fine tuning of the chassis and feels twitchy on center. On the bright side there’s good feedback through the wheel’s entire range of motion, and weight builds progressively. The steering wheel itself is nice and thick, too, with a flat bottom and redundant controls for the audio and infotainment system.
Brembo brakes are now standard at all four corners. Chevy always fitted these up front, with 14-inch vented rotors, but the upgraded 14.2-inch solid discs are new to the rear. The SS rides on a staggered tire setup: 245/40-series tires in front with wider 275/35-series rubber at the back. Nineteen-inch wheels are standard at all four corners, measuring 8.5 inches wide in front and nine inches out back. But again, it’s a shame those rollers are clad in chrome.
The only issue with the performance comes at the fuel pump – the SS is rated at 15 miles per gallon city and 21 mpg highway. We averaged just over 19, and a lot of those miles were on the highway. That’s pretty poor, especially considering the Corvette will happily return economy in the high-20s under the same conditions.It’s easy to overlook the lousy efficiency, though. This car is a ton of fun, and you’ll be hard pressed to go easy on the throttle. The 2015 SS is one of the best-driving Chevy cars ever made. We prefer it to everything in the company’s stable short of the Corvette.
Fully loaded, the SS comes in at $47,640. Dodge will sell you a better-looking, louder Charger R/T Scat Pack for less money, but it comes with less stuff. The more luxurious Charger 392 is a better comparison, but the SS just barely beats it on price. Don’t even bother comparing the SS to the also-ran Ford Taurus SHO.
The SS is a great car. But no one seems to notice. That’s not completely our fault, though – as Jalopnik rightly points out, these Chevys aren’t exactly thick on the ground. There’s also been virtually no marketing push for this model. The addition of MRC and a manual transmission for 2015 is proof that GM at least kind of cares about the SS’ success as an enthusiast car. For the lucky folks who do seek out and find the SS, there’s a great reward to be had. But it’s going to take more than our positive praise to move these machines.