Chevrolet launches rear-drive SS at Daytona

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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By the time the 2014 Chevrolet SS hits the road it will have been 18 years since Chevrolet sold a rear-wheel drive sedan on North American soil, despite what "race on Sunday, sell on Monday" NASCAR promoters would like you to think. That car was the Caprice-based Impala SS that was discontinued after the 1996 model year, and the one to spiritually replace it is Chevy's 2014 SS.

It arrives around the same time as the entirely new 2014 Impala, but it has nothing to do with the front-wheel drive Buick LaCrosse-based luxury model other than parentage, and even that relationship is murky at best. Where the LaCrosse originally hails from GM's German brand, Opel, before being massaged by both of the automaker's U.S. and Chinese divisions, the SS comes to us by way of GM's Australian brand, Holden, just like the G8 from the GM's now defunct Pontiac brand did previously. That model has since been sold as a Chevy, incidentally, wearing the Caprice badge in the Middle East and is now the basis for GM's dedicated Police Interceptor offered here in North America, so in a way we're back to square one. The new SS is in effect a Caprice-based rear-wheel drive sport sedan. Got that?

"The Chevrolet brand was largely built on the strength of rear-drive performance sedans, yet it's been 17 years since we've offered one," said Mark Reuss, president of General Motors North America, during the vehicle's introduction program next to the Daytona International Speedway. "The all-new Chevrolet SS fills that void and fills it better than any other vehicle in the brand's rich history. The comfort, convenience, spaciousness and V8 power make the SS a total performance package unlike any other on the road today."

Chevy couldn't have chosen a better location to introduce a performance model that harkens back to the days of stock car racing. Now dubbed NASCAR, the plastic-bodied racecars that act as high-speed billboards today used to be actual race-prepared production cars. With Chevy driver Danica Patrick having taken pole at last weekend's annual Daytona 500 qualifying in her Chevrolet, she becomes the first woman to ever accomplish the feat and simultaneously created a bowtie branding event made in heaven.

Now that Chevrolet has been going global it's been taking better care of its image, with performance cars that are worthy of its legendary past here in North American and capable of luring in new buyers abroad. Most recently the brand debuted its seventh-generation Corvette, known internally as C7, a sports coupe arguably worthy of supercar status that should bring the bowtie brand much-needed street cred and extend its Championship-winning ways in sports car racing at such events as the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France and the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida. The Camaro, which was reintroduced in 2009 as a 2010 model, has since taken the muscle car sales title away from Ford's Mustang and likewise returned profitability to a sports GT segment that GM hadn't done well in since the '80s. Could a rear-drive sports sedan build on Chevy's recent performance car sales success and simultaneously prove a worthy opponent to competitors like the Chrysler/Dodge 300/Charger SRT8 and Hyundai's Genesis 5.0 R-Spec sedan?

If Holden's VF SS-V model is anything to go by, we're in for a treat. Just like the Australian super-sedan, the 2014 Chevrolet SS will be powered by GM's LS3 V8 with output numbers expected to reach 415-horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. That should produce zero to 100 km/h sprints of just over five seconds, says Chevrolet. Initially, at least, SS buyers won't be able to opt for manual gearbox, with just a six-speed automatic making the grade, albeit with TAPshift manual mode.

Handling should be good thanks to a fully-independent MacPherson strut front suspension and multilink rear design, while Chevy says the car's electric power steering system has been set up for performance driving. Stock rims will be a set of forged aluminum 19s wrapped in ZR-rated Bridgestone performance rubber, slightly wider at the rear. Brembo disc brakes take care of stopping duties.

As for styling, anyone who liked the old Pontiac G8 should find the new Chevy SS appealing. It's understated, with a neat and tidy trapezoidal grille up front, bookended by premium-looking HID headlights that are enhanced with LED DRLs (Daytime Running Lights). The big engine will make its presence known by a noticeable "power bulge" atop the hood, while four exhaust tips should make the appropriate rumble at idle and aggressive V8 roar at full throttle. A discreet rear spoiler has been added to the trunk lid for styling points as well as to help keep its rear wheels glued to the road at high speed.

While some might want to get their SS without any luxury features in order to reduce weight and therefore increase performance, it looks like Chevy will only allow you to make a paint colour choice and opt for a sunroof in the U.S. at least; Canadian standard and optional features have yet to be announced. Leather sport seats with eight-way powered adjustment will be standard south of the 49th, as will a head-up display unit and Chevy's first application of automated parking. Yah, go figure. Other standard U.S.-market features will include a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel connecting through to Chevy's MyLink infotainment system along with a nine-speaker Bose audio system. MyLink will also include a backup camera, while standard safety features are to include blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and forward collision alert.

Pricing will reportedly begin slightly under $40,000 in the U.S., which should put it under $50k here in Canada.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sport Sedan, Chevrolet, 2014, SS, $40,000 - $49,999, $50,000 - $74,999,

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