The first rear-drive Chevrolet sedan since 1996 makes its debut in Daytona this weekend, ready to lead the pack at the upcoming Daytona 500 NASCAR race.
Like the Pontiac G8 before it, the Chevrolet SS is borrowed from General Motors' Australian brand, Holden. Down under, GM is known for creating powerful, great-handling sport sedans and coupes. This foundation promises a character of a well-honed, Euro-influenced sport sedan with a generous dose of American muscle thrown in. Rest assured, the SS will be in stark contrast with the midsized Malibu, just as the G8 was in a different league than the G6. (See our tire-squealing G8 video.)
The SS is a large car, positioned above the upcoming, front-drive Impala. It shares its core underpinnings with the Camaro, Caprice police car, Holden VF Commodore, and the short-lived Pontiac G8. When we tested the G8 in 2008, it proved fun, quick, capable, and roomy. With a thoroughly developed chassis including independent suspension front and rear, and standard Brembo brakes with four-piston calipers, the SS boasts serious credentials and pedigree.
The underhood magic comes from a 6.2-liter LS3 V8--the same basic powerplant used in the current Corvette. Here it produces 415 horsepower, routed through a six-speed automatic transmission. Manual gear selection is enabled through steering-wheel paddles, but no true manual tranny will be offered. Chevrolet claims 0-60 mph times in about five seconds, putting it deep in modern muscle car territory.
If this core formula sounds familiar, it should. The Impala SS from the 1990s was essentially an enhanced rear-drive Caprice with a Corvette-shared LT1 V8. Back then, the Impala was a cool rendition of the decidedly uncool Caprice, with 260 hp and a sinister exterior. Unlike the fundamentally outdated Impala, however, the new SS is truly a contemporary design, and it essentially serves as an evolution of the well-regarded Pontiac G8.
Serving as a Chevrolet flagship, the SS is lavishly equipped with leather upholstery, Chevrolet MyLink infotainment, navigation system, Bose audio, forward collision alert, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitors, back-up camera with cross-traffic alert, and the brand's first automatic parking system.
The Chevrolet SS proves that despite high gasoline prices, this is the golden age of the muscle car. Never has so much performance and refinement been available in a domestic-brand car than is offered today by Chrysler, Ford, and GM.
It will be interesting to see how enthusiasts embrace the SS when it goes on sale in late 2013. Pricing is likely to start in the high $30s.
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