Chevrolet SS Lands With a Dud, Forgoes Manual Transmission
The highly anticipated rear-wheel drive, V8-powered Chevrolet SS fullsize sedan has finally been unveiled, and its disappointed reception is disheartening. The SS is the continuation of an American-branded Holden Commodore, which was first brought to our shores from Australia as the Pontiac G8 GXP. After General Motors shut the division only one year after the GXP bowed, the Commodore returned to the outback to bide its time until it could once again unleash a holy hellstorm of horsepower disguised in a family sedan shell. The Chevy faithful eagerly awaited its return, and now that Chevrolet has pulled the wraps off, it seems like a case of a world-weary police officer shooing away gawkers at a minor fender bender. Nothing to see here, folks…
The idea of a high performance RWD American sedan without the option of a manual transmission leaves a sour taste in many enthusiasts’ mouths. The only other similar sedan is the Dodge Charger, which was initially met with some skepticism due to the resurrection of the moniker of a beloved coupe, as well as the automatic-only transmission. The Challenger coupe that is based on the same platform as the Charger also debuted with only a four- or five-speed auto until enough potential buyers cried foul and Dodge affixed a six-speed stick to the V8 engine choices.
Unlike the Challenger, however, the Chevrolet SS is a rebadged version of an existing car, in this case the Holden Commodore SS V. The top of the line Commodore comes with a manual tranny standard, and enthusiasts looking forward to the Chevy SS (read: the buyers who flock to dealerships on day one) expected the same choices for the Americanized version. After all, the Pontiac G8 GXP came with a manual as standard equipment, so shouldn’t its spiritual successor?
The SS is also cursed with the new Commodore’s rather conservative design language. While the Pontiac G8 didn’t feature any revolutionary exterior features, there were enough cues, such as the front and rear diffusers and quad tailpipes, to differentiate itself from the standards of the market. In fact, it looked downright sporty compared to other midsize offerings at the time. The SS, however, looks very much like everything else on the road. Like the Pontiac, the exterior of the car is a dead ringer for its Aussie cousin except for the badges adorning the grille, trunk, and steering wheel. The front and rear fascias are forgettable and too soft and rounded and so much like every other car on sale today; the entire package looks like General Motors stole a few Camry designers and let them do their work. I suppose the black plastic under the trunk is supposed to suggest some sort of aero work, but it looks too conservative to be functional.
At least the SS looks like a comfortable place to sit and drive. The “SS” badged seats appear to be more suitable for GT work than appropriate for a race track, and the steering wheel is actually flat-bottomed. The speedometer and tachometer flank a small info display in the instrument panel, and although there are plenty of buttons in the center stack, they are not clustered together as on an Acura. The glove box and door inserts look particularly plasticky, and the reflection off the chrome covering the dash will be particularly troublesome for readers in equatorial states and countries. All in all, though, the interior is pretty nice for a car whose price is mostly defined by its engine.
So the Chevrolet SS isn’t the RWD savior for the brand it could have been, but it fits in nicely as a lower-priced version of the Cadillac CTS-V. The styling is bland, and the exclusion of a manual transmission is an incredible oversight by the executives that greenlit this captive import. Whether these factors hinder the marketability and sales of the SS will be seen when the sports sedan goes on sale in the fourth quarter of this year.