2015 Chevrolet SS Review
A solid throwback in an era of looking forward.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: August 20th, 2015
What a strange being we have before us, the 2015 Chevrolet SS. In a time of all-wheel drive performance cars and the nascent electrification of everything (including said performance cars), we find ourselves completely smitten with something basic, something almost heretical in the Information Age. It's a two-and-a-half-ton, rear-wheel-drive, Corvette-engined, manual-transmission middle finger to everyone that doesn't identify as a Luddite.
It's a big, brash, difficult-to-drive quasi-annoyance that has a drinking problem more severe than Ted Striker's. And it's absolutely f@#%ing brilliant.
For a car costing north of $45,000, the interior is somewhat simple. There are a few touches of ultrasuede on the door panels and dashboard, but otherwise, the styling is largely conservative. The steering wheel looks like every other Chevrolet sedan steering wheel. The gauges feature the traditional Chevrolet font, and there isn't too much digital distraction. Black plastic and leather abound, broken up by polished-aluminum strips running up the trans tunnel and across the dash. The seats might be the only hint that you're stepping into something that's a bit more car than your average Malibu or Impala; tight bolsters and aggressive styling let you know there's fun to be had once you start putting feet to pedals.
Not every muscle car needs to look like some neo-futuristic tank. The SS falls, again, on the conservative side of the styling spectrum. The front end is vaguely reminiscent of both the dearly-departed Pontiac G8 GXP and the current Chevrolet Malibu, with some added visual strength coming from strong hood creases and a fake fender vent just behind the front wheels. The rear end continues the vehicle's relatively anonymous nature, with some lights that don't look far off from Chevrolet's more family-friendly offerings. The only hints of anger come from the dual rear tailpipes and the obviously wide stance that's required of a 415-horsepower car.
If you don't like chrome, we suggest you head straight to your local aftermarket garage for some blackout treatment. Bright, shiny metal pollutes the wheels, window trim, door handles, fender vents, upper and lower grilles, and fog lights. Walk towards the car on a sunny day from the wrong angle, and you won't be able to see straight for five minutes.
On the Road
This is where the experience moves from sedate to raucous. Once you slip inside the cabin, depress the clutch, and hit the Start/Stop button, the 6.2-liter V-8 barks to life in no uncertain terms. Sure, like many other cars out there, the SS features pretty decent sound deadening, but there's no deadening the familiar noises spitting forth from the LS3 V-8, which used to be the engine in the C6 Corvette. You can leave it in sixth gear and almost never hear anything, or you can hold onto each gear just a little longer, letting the thrum of the LS3 rise and fall with your throttle inputs; as the revs slowly drop in gear, the exhaust produces a rolling series of pops and burbles that remind you that, no, you didn't accidentally take the Malibu.
Not that you could possess that notion after touching the gas pedal. We'll get this out of the way early - this is not an easy car to drive. The clutch is heavy and a little vague; shifting gears smoothly is out of the question, unless you slip the clutch like there's no tomorrow. The steering is tight by sports-car metrics; by passenger-car standards, it's twitchy. Even in Touring (the softest of the three modes - Touring, Sport, and Performance/Track), the suspension isn't afraid to shimmy the car over bumpier stretches of pavement.
But this is like climbing Kangchenjunga; you need to have a horse in the race. You need to pay attention and make sure your inputs are right where they need to be. Too little, and you won't have anything resembling a smooth ride; too much, and you'll never stop seeing the traction-control light. This is a 400-level course in driving. If you're smart, and you really want to have a good time, the car will reward you. You'll be able to let slip the oversteer dogs of war at every corner, the exhaust barking and howling the whole way 'round. You'll be able to dig that front corner into a turn and find that a near-5,000-pound car can still dance like Cassius Clay. More cars should drive like this, but they don't.
The SS is a pretty simple equation. Take a big sedan, add a big motor and some enthusiast parts like magnetorheological suspension (now standard for 2015) and a tight six-speed manual (now available for 2015), and leave the rest alone. Hell, since it's based off the kinda-old Australian Holden Commodore, the infotainment system is a last-gen version; we think it's a little better that way, to be honest. Sure, you get some 21st-century doodads like lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring, but it's nice and easy to turn everything off and just revel in the strong connection between man and machine.
One thing you can't turn off, though, is the skip-shift suggestion, which, at a certain road speed in first gear, locks out second and slides you automatically into fourth. This happens no matter what mode you're in, and the engine lugs and nobody has a good time. Your author just moved to third each time this happened, and we suspect it's undefeatable because of fuel-economy regulations, but still, it's annoying and should at least be able to be turned off. Nothing a quick trip to the aftermarket can't fix, but still.
Somebody needs to send this car to GA - Gasoholics Anonymous. What sucks about a car that's fun to drive is that, while you're tempted to drive in a spirited manner nearly every second spent behind the wheel, your wallet will be screaming for some sixth-gear cruising. With an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 15 mpg city and 21 mpg with the six-speed manual, you won't be passing too many gas pumps without wondering whether or not you should stop and top 'er off. On the highway, you can very nearly watch the gas gauge plummet in real time. Then again, if you're buying $45,000 muscle sedans and still require a gas budget tighter than a hipster's jeans, you could stand to read a few more Suze Orman books.
There aren't too many cars like this on the market anymore. AWD has taken over because people believe in safety over lurid clouds of mid-corner tire smoke, manual transmissions have become obsolete in terms of setting the best lap time, and some cars have nannies that you can't ever turn off. This car doesn't have that crap. This car doesn't try and make the driving experience easier. This is a car that will chew up bad drivers and spit them out with expensive body-shop bills stapled to their unmentionables. This car's preferred fetish is crushing (you probably shouldn't look that up).
What makes your author the saddest is that this isn't a car that will likely survive beyond 2018, when GM ends its Aussie manufacturing. There's very little chance of this car being built stateside, especially with the Stingray drivetrain that your author so greatly desires; hell, even the idea of a lower-powered, more affordable variant seems like a pipe dream at this point.
This is more of a small experiment on GM's part, to make some extra dough off its Australian wing before shutting the operation down. That makes us sad, naturally, because this car provides such a rare and unique driving experience that many other performance sedans cannot match in terms of its outright brutality. There are cars with more power, and there are cars that provide nearly the same experience for far more money. But the SS strikes a sweet spot between price, equipment, and the pure bliss that comes from getting behind the wheel and smoking the tires until the cords fly off and injure your neighbor's children.
This is not a numbers car. This is a fun car.
The four-door Corvette will not be around for long, folks. Get in on the fun while you still can. We should be happy it exists at all.
Specs & Price
Engine: 6.2-liter naturally-aspirated V-8
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Power Output: 415 horsepower / 415 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg): 15 city / 21 highway
Base Price: $45,745
As Tested: $47,640 (incl. $995 destination)
Available Features: Sunroof, full-size spare tire
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2015 Chevrolet SS, click here: 2015 Chevrolet SS.