Not too long ago, the New York Daily News Autos borrowed, tested, and fell head over heels for the 2013 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon, quickly proclaiming it the “four-door Corvette of fantasies.” With the 6.2-liter V-8 borrowed from one of the most powerful production ‘Vettes, that wild wagon could smoke most performance cars and still have the cargo room for daily errands.
Like the CTS-V powering its way from zero to 60 mph, time moves awfully fast in the automotive world.
Only a few months later, another performance-biased sedan from General Motors showed up at our doorstep. This one had none of the outward swagger of the CTS-V, but it had a very special party trick under the hood.
The 2014 Chevrolet SS bears a passing resemblance to the Malibu sedan, but that’s where any comparisons end to a mainstream Chevy family car. For all intents and purposes, this docile beast is a four-door Camaro.
The SS is a captivating proposition from Chevrolet: a muscle car with a nondescript wrapper, intended to seduce enthusiast moms and dads away from the practicality of a traditional family hauler or look-at-me luxury sedan.
Built in Australia, the SS carries on the legacy of the late Pontiac G8, which went away with the passing of the Pontiac brand itself. The SS is a rear-wheel-drive burnout machine, due in large part to the car’s crowd-pleasing 6.2-liter V-8 engine, which produces 415-horsepower.
This motor is cribbed from the GM skunk-works that usually boost the performance of sport coupes and convertibles, not big, four-door sedans. A 6-speed automatic transmission is the sole gearbox, for the moment; rumors abound, regarding the availability of a manual transmission in the SS for the next model year. We’ll believe it when we see it.
But one thing’s for certain, we love how this car sounds with or without a stick shift. Prod the accelerator and the SS growls, burbles and hums with a menacing cackle absent from the current crop of luxury/performance sedans from Germany and Japan.
If you have an indoor parking spot, impress your garage attendant, neighbors, and passersby using the remote start feature, which lights up the engine with a hearty roar. When was the last time your car got an entire crowd giggling with two pushes of a key fob button?
As you’d imagine, this beastly engine has a thirst to match its grunt. An EPA rating of 14 city mpg, and 21 highway mpg, means that the SS qualifies for a gas guzzler surcharge. An 18.8-gallon tank does its part to limit the need to constantly stop for gas.
For a heavy-footed, track-oriented machine, fitted with wide-diameter tires 19-inch wheels, the SS has a surprisingly balanced and composed ride. On my breakneck vehicle dynamics test, set up along the roughest surfaces in the Five Boroughs, there were no truly rough, harsh, or unsettling moments for the suspension and the large wheels.
The strong brakes engage smoothly, as does the potent power delivery. This is not to say the SS is a Rolls-Royce Wraith, although the big Chevy — which shares a chassis that also underpins the Caprice police cruiser — absorbs bumps pretty effortlessly. General Motors’ superb Magnetic Ride Control is also rumored to be coming to the SS in an upcoming model year.
Beyond its performance credentials, the SS also impresses as a daily driver. The fit and finish inside, including superb leather bucket seats, is at the top of its class. Amenities like Chevrolet’s MyLink entertainment/navigation system ensure that the SS is up-to-date in terms of technology offerings. The rear seat is spacious and comfortable for long trips.
Over a week of driving the SS around Manhattan and Brooklyn, there was never a negative word from any passenger. The drawbacks to SS ownership are slight, and if you can afford the hefty fuel bills, it’s a compelling alternative to established luxury and sport sedans. It’s a redefined “sleeper” car for the modern family, providing a worthwhile, and unexpected, shot of adrenaline.
The fantasy of a four-door Camaro is now a reality – it’s called the Chevrolet SS.
Vital stats: 2014 Chevrolet SS
Base price: $45,770 (includes $995 destination and $1300 gas guzzler charges)
Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive, 6.2-liter, 415-horsepower V-8 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission
EPA fuel economy: 14 city/21 highway mpg
Top competitors: BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS-V, Lexus IS-F