The 2014 Chevrolet SS Really Drives Like A Four-Door Corvette, And Here’s Why – Forbes

Posted: Wednesday, January 01, 2014
2014 Chevrolet SS (Credit: Matthew de Paula)

An “SS” badge, short for “Super Sport,” has adorned high-performance versions of Chevys for decades. But with this new rear-wheel-drive sedan, SS is a standalone name. (Credit: Matthew de Paula)

The 2014 Chevrolet SS has been a long time coming—nearly two decades, in fact. It is the first rear-wheel-drive sedan powered by a V8 engine that Chevrolet has offered since it discontinued the Impala in 1996, which was antiquated even back then.

“So what?” You might say. “Aren’t large cars with large engines becoming obsolete?”

Maybe, but there was a time when all Chevrolets were made like the 2014 SS. And although this new sport sedan will be sold only in small numbers—GM execs aren’t saying how many, but it likely won’t be much more than 5,000 a year, based on sales of similar vehicles like the Dodge Charger SRT8—it is poised to have a far greater impact on GM’s corporate image.

That’s because the 2014 Chevy SS delivers luxury-car levels of performance and refinement, unprecedented for this mass-market brand. Thanks to its rear-wheel-drive layout, which is inherently better balanced than the front-wheel-drive architecture GM uses on most of its current cars, the 2014 Chevy SS handles like a four-door Corvette. What’s more, its 6.2-liter LS3 V8 is straight out of the Corvette C6, which just went out of production to make way for the all-new C7 Corvette Stingray.

Many are comparing the 2014 Chevy SS to its predecessor, the Pontiac G8 GXP, which GM briefly sold from 2008 to 2009. But the SS is quite different, says Steve Manson, program engineering manager for Holden, the Australian GM subsidiary that builds the Commodore sedan, on which the Chevy SS is based.

He would know. Manson and a team of engineers spent nearly two years and 600,000 miles fine-tuning the SS, making it lighter, more agile and considerably faster around a race track than its Pontiac predecessor. We were fortunate enough to have Manson ride along with us during our test drive of the 2014 Chevrolet SS and discuss with him exactly what he and his team did to make it feel like a four-door Corvette Stingray.

How does the Chevrolet SS compare to the previous Pontiac G8?
From a dynamics point of view, it’s quite a different feel. We’ve come a long way in steering feel and ride comfort. And the other thing is, from the start of the whole platform overview, we had our sites set on making this car; this was always going to be the most prestigious from a performance point of view. The Pontiac G8 came about as a derivative from a car that already existed. The G8 was a great car, but it never had as much honing and optimization as this one’s had.

What is the biggest difference you feel when driving the Chevrolet SS versus the Pontiac G8?
In terms of the drive experience, I think the things you’ll notice most are the steering feel, the suspension. The powertrain feels a lot more lively. The car is lighter than a G8 GXP. It’s a lot crisper on turn-in.

How much lighter is the Chevy SS than the Pontiac G8?
When we redid the platform, we pulled about 160 pounds out of it. But then with some of the technology we’ve put back in, like the heads-up display for example, some of the mass has been equalized, so it’s probably something like around 80 to 90 pounds lighter than a Pontiac G8 GXP.

Where does the weight savings come from?
The hood is all aluminum, the rear deck lid too. So that’s a very dramatic example of mass savings. But a lot of the panels underneath the floor, some of the rail structure and so on, things that you’d never see use a high-strength steel—every little bit of mass adds up.

2014 Chevrolet SS with the 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray in the background. (Credit: Matthew de Paula)

The Chevy SS is shown here, with the Chevy Corvette Stingray in the background. (Credit: Matthew de Paula)

What does that mean in terms of performance?
Zero to 60 will be slightly quicker. Certainly braking performance will be better. Maximum lateral acceleration will be higher. We ended up with a max lat of 0.93 g, which far exceeded what we thought we were going to get. If you do a comparative lap time in a Pontiac G8 GXP, there’d be a sizable difference in performance.

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