Just as baseball’s boys of summer are gathering in Florida for spring training camps, Chevy recently used qualifying weekend for Nascar’s Daytona 500 race in Florida to introduce its new Australian American sedan, the 2014 SS.
Such large, rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered sedans were once mainstays of American highways, but incredibly, Chevrolet has not sold such a car since 1996, when it discontinued the Caprice-based Impala SS in order to convert its Texas manufacturing plant to build Tahoes – a decision precipitated by the SUV boom.
Australia is the other spacious country that has long embraced big rear-drive sedans, known as saloons in those parts. And just as its isolation has supported the survival of exotic animal species and curious sandwich spreads, so it has preserved full-size sedan know-how.
It is where Holden, the Australia-only General Motors (GM) subsidiary, has long sold the Commodore, a rear-drive V8 sedan that Chevrolet borrowed to create its SS, scheduled to go on sale in the US late in 2013. GM has previously employed such Australian underpinnings for the two-door GTO and four-door G8 models in the now-defunct Pontiac brand, as well as for the foundation of the current-generation Chevrolet Camaro. The SS is closely related to the Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle, which is sold to police departments but not to retail customers.
The car employs the classic Detroit formula of a small-block pushrod V8 mated to an automatic transmission driving the rear wheels. Today’s small block is all-aluminium, and the transmission is a 6-speed with paddle shift, but the recipe remains familiar even if the ingredients are fresher.
Rated at 415 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque, the engine is related to the 6.2-litre version of the LS3 V8 shown in the new Corvette at the 2013 Detroit auto show. Underneath we see a change from muscle cars of yore, where MacPherson struts replace the old front controlarm suspension setup, and the solid rear axle is replaced with a multi-link independent rear suspension for better ride and handling.
An aluminium hood and trunk lid, forged wheels and Brembo brakes speak to Chevy’s desire to make the SS a performer.
“Our goal was to create a car that delivers incredible grip and handling balance while cornering, while still being comfortable to drive on the road,” said David Leone, executive chief engineer for GM global programs, in a media statement. “The perfect weight balance and lower center of gravity were a big part of that goal because it enabled the team to tune for a more comfortable highway ride without sacrificing handling or driver confidence while cornering at the limits,” he added.
Chevy appropriated a longstanding suffix, SS, for “Super Sport”, to create a standalone nameplate. Ford tried something similar a decade ago with the Five Hundred name, borrowed from the 500 suffix of Fairlanes and Galaxies dating from the 1960s, but the experiment found no resonance in the modern era.
Chevrolet has not revealed pricing for the SS, but we will not be surprised to see this audacious Aussie undercut the $29,995 starting price of its prime target, the 370hp Dodge Charger R/T. We smell a fight coming on.