Coffee table book, available now

Related Stories

The Chevrolet SS is why you’re a poseur

The Chevrolet SS has it all - a free-revving V-8, six-speed manual and perfectly tuned chassis. So why didn't it sell?

soul-score-banner.-chevy-ss

Never miss a new car review!

In just a few short months, I’ll be turning 40. That’s good. It means that if the end is near for ICE-powered cars, I’ll probably be at the pearly gates by the time the last drop of gasoline flows. Cars like this Chevrolet SS will be a distant memory, which is a shame, because it’s one of the best I’ve driven.

And you know why it’s dead? You.

Yes. You.

Chevrolet SS
2016 Chevrolet SS Quick Take
Get one:

LS3 power and sound. Excellent chassis. One of GM’s better interiors. Embarrassing E39 M5 owners.

Don’t get one:

Born with the wrong badge. Slightly soft brakes and steering. Outdated infotainment considering the age. I’m grasping.

Soul Score: 9

Baby Blackwing.

The 2016 Chevrolet SS Overview

Chevrolet SS

What do we want in a sports sedan? An agile but comfortable chassis. A manual transmission. Subdued good looks? Ah, and power.

Lots of power.

The Chevrolet SS has all of that (and more). But you never bought one. In fact, just 12,000 were sold during its five-year production run. It was pretty cheap, with an MSRP around $44,000 when new. Imported from Australia (it’s really a Holden), the SS was Chevrolet’s first V-8-powered rear-wheel drive sedan in 15 years. 

“Oh please Big Car Company, make us a cheap performance sedan like the E39 M5 and we’ll buy it.” Liars.

Chevrolet SS

Why does Dodge sell all those Chargers? – this is so much better.

And now, it’s too late. Oh, the secret is out – they are selling used for what they originally went for ten years ago, though if you ask me it’s still a bargain.

Can I convince you by the end of this article why you should be in one instead of a BMW M car? Let’s see.

Performance Score: 9. Dreams do come true

Chevrolet SS

All the big magazines rushed to grab an E39 M5 and drive it next to this thing. So insulting.

“Get that Chevy away from the Bimmer”, we yelled from the perches of our Merino-covered chairs.

But they were right to compare it. Forget “small-block” or “pushrod” – The Chevrolet SS is much more than the sum of its rather pedestrian parts. It’s as close to four-door Vette as it gets.

Engine

Chevrolet SS
A glorious engine with no artificial sound.

415 horsepower. 415 lb-ft of torque. This LS3 is a perfect example of what was wrong with the S65 (and dare I say, even the S62).

Here you have an engine that sounds glorious right from the factory, louder than any M car. Check the torque spec that matches the horsepower without the need for forced induction (or crazy redlines).

Don’t let that fool you, because peak power comes on just 100 RPMs before the 6,000 line of red. Perfect throttle tip-in response means no sudden surprises to upset this chassis off the line, and it’s so much fun to use the entire range of power.

Chevrolet SS
The exhaust has a wonderful throaty roar.

If you feel the SS might not be fast enough, think of this engine experience like you might a wine tasting event, meant to sip and savor. In a Hellcat, you’re at the horizon before you know it, and you can’t use that car’s big trick because after 4 seconds of heaven, you’re done.

Still not convinced? Supercharger kits start under $8,000.

Transmission

Chevrolet SS
A stubby shifter is so satisfying to row.

Yea, it’s really really good. This particular example had an aftermarket clutch that was a bit heavier than usual, but it’s an overall wonderful experience. You want to hear the engine, and you want to shift as much as you can because it’s impossible to miss. This was the stand-in car Vin Diesel drove in the first Fast and Furious whenever they showed a close-up of shifting.

Snick. Snick. Ahhh.

Chevrolet did offer an automatic transmission in this car, but if yours has one, I’m charging you a subscription fee to this site. Might as well go sit inside an A4 and become the traffic you really want to be buddy.

Steering and chassis

Chevrolet SS
A pedestrian wheel can’t hide the excellent feedback it offers.

If GM put this much effort into their regular cars, then I guess we’d be reviewing a 2024 Malibu. Alas, it took a foreign country to make a good sedan.

Hop in and turn the wheel. There’s just an ever so slight dead spot right off-center in this car, but as you progress through a turn, feedback builds naturally and you’re just amazed the Australians haven’t invaded us by now. If I had a gripe, it might be about the steering wheel itself. It’s not a sporty shape (or sporty touch) and it really needs to be in a car that’s this capable.

Chevrolet SS
Even the ride height is just about perfect.

GM’s magic magnetic ride control was added to the spec sheet for 2015, and it includes Tour, Sport and Performance modes. I drove the car in Sport, but due to a monsoon I didn’t explore the other dial labels. Sport seemed perfect to me, offering the typically excellent ride and control tradeoff that these magnetological dampers provide. It’s a baby Blackwing in this regard, or maybe just a plain Blackwing – they are about the same size.

Chevrolet SS
Adjustable drive modes alter the engine and suspension feel.

Despite the wet conditions, the car exhibited no butt-puckering behavior. Turn in is excellent, belaying the 4,000-pound curb weight, and there’s almost no squat or dive. Bumps are absorbed with aplomb – it has a better ride than a G80 M3.

Maybe the car sits a bit high, as is typical of a modern sedan. Beyond that, it’s perfect.

Brakes

Chevrolet SS
Four-piston Brembo brakes are stopping by har har.

If the Chevrolet SS has one chink in the armor, it would be a softer brake pedal than I prefer. It’s certainly not hardware-related, with four-piston Brembo calipers in front that grip slotted and vented discs. Tom, the owner, also added a set of track brake pads that perhaps didn’t like the cool wet weather as much. The brakes work well though, so with a bit of driving time, you won’t find them holding you back from achieving motoring nirvana.

Chevrolet SS

Because of those wet conditions, I did not push the SS to the limit like I normally would. But there’s something to be said for being comfortable in the wet right away – only the best cars can do it. The SS offers a chassis that’s unmatched in cars nearly a decade newer, and it breaks my heart that a modern equivalent isn’t offered unless you spend $100,000 on a Cadillac.

Utility Score: 7. Big boy

Chevrolet SS
The back seats offer plenty of room.

The Chevrolet SS is a big car. At 195 inches long, it matches a BMW 5 Series. I wouldn’t call the SS nimble, but the size comes in handy inside the cabin, where there’s plenty of room for four full-sized adults.

Trunk space is a bit down on that 530i, but it’s still a useful shape. Ho-hum here – nothing to prevent you from using it as a daily. Moving on.

Fuel Economy: 4. Thirst trap

Chevrolet SS
Do fake vents help?

Well, not great. The EPA says you’ll get 14 MPG combined with the stick. I think if you drive the SS the way Zeus intended, it’ll probably be a little worse.

There are more powerful V-8s that offer better fuel economy, usually of the turbocharged variety. But we can look at it another way – the Lexus IS-F (with an automatic) achieves only 16 MPG combined, and I can tell you which sedan is more fun. Given that they are both around the same price range used, it’s an easy decision.

Features and Comfort: 7. Chevy chase (lounge)

This might be a bit back-handed, but the Chevrolet SS has the nicest interior of any American car I’ve been in, save a Cadillac (way above the SS’s pay grade). It actually could be sold today, with its Alcantara trim pieces, infotainment system, even heads-up display.

Outside, it’s subtle. I may have called it a Malibu at some point. The overall effect is the Hulk wearing a Hawaiian shirt.

Darth couch

The details are there, from gloss black trim to red stitching.
Chevrolet SS
It’s small, but a HUD is a nice modern touch.

Sit inside the very dark, all-black interior and feel…comforted? The seats are great, so supportive and hugging in all the right spots (though I do wish the bottom cushion was a bit longer). One thing that always gals me is the leather they put into these things. It’s so tough, the upholstery equivalent of chewing on an over-cooked steak. Just put some Merino on the seats (that goes for you too, Cadillac).

Chevrolet SS
Real dials look the part.

A somewhat dated infotainment system with a small screen still works well, and dual climate controls allow the passenger princess complaint department to have some off hours. Real dials greet you in a nice enough layout – it’s nowhere near as cheap as in a Dodge. Gloss black trim on the doors looks higher end; you even get drilled pedals (not floor mounted, sadly).

Chevy also really wants you to know you’re in an SS, because there are badges everywhere reminding you.

Chevrolet SS
Never forget what car you’re in.
Chevrolet SS
Seats are extremely comfortable, but that leather…

People complaining that the SS didn’t “look” like a nearly $50k car inside must have never sat inside an F30 3 Series.

Golden Holden

Chevrolet SS
You get a small lip, black trim, and unique tail lights in the back.

GM owned Holden until 2020, when they shuttered the 164-year-old division. That’s actually why they stopped selling this SS – it wasn’t due to poor sales, but because the Holden Commodore wouldn’t be around to import anymore.

I mention this because the SS is on GM’s rear-drive Zeta platform, and the Chevrolet Malibu (a front-wheel drive car) is on the Epsilon chassis. They share nothing, and yet look very much alike. That’s a bit like making an M3 look like a 2 Series Gran Coupe.

The front is particularly aggressive.

The result is by no means terrible – I think the looks are subtly aggressive. Getting a louder color like this Perfect Blue (their name, not mine, but accurate), will help you stand out from normal traffic. Quad tailpipes are an M-ish touch. You can also swap the Chevrolet badges for Holden and make it a real imported exotic, because things like that make car people smile.

There are enough vents and slats to make passers-by take notice up close, but this will probably go unnoticed at the local car show. That’s ok – only true fans need know how good this thing is.

The Chevrolet SS is proof that the car community doesn’t know what it wants

Chevrolet SS

I tried a Kia Stinger after the SS was discontinued. Drove great. Owning it was another story, and it was gone after just three weeks. Never again.

While Chevrolet doesn’t always have the best reputation for quality, they’ve gotten better. This is a pretty uncomplicated car as modern ones go. Nothing major to report.

So why didn’t you want one? The badge, right? It’s fine, I understand. Maybe growing up is realizing the badge doesn’t matter, or matters less. Owning a BMW certainly isn’t as prestigious as it used to be. Though the SS is gone, the Blackwing is still here – I don’t see anyone knocking down the door for those either. It’ll be gone soon.

Let the record show that the Chevrolet SS is one of the best modern performance sedans ever made, and before you click “BID” on that E39 M5, you should take a hard look at one of these.

We’re not at the automotive pearly gates yet.

Thanks to Tom for sharing his amazing Chevrolet SS!

Chevrolet SS

2016 Chevrolet SS Specifications

Vehicle Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, four-door, five-passenger sedan.

PRICE

Base: $48,920

POWERTRAIN

6.2 liter naturally aspirated V-8
415 @ 5,900 rpm
415 @ 4,600 rpm
Six-speed manual

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 114.8 in
Length: 195.5 in
Width: 74.7 in
Height: 57.9 in
Curb Weight: 3,997 lbs

EPA FUEL ECONOMY

Combined/city/highway: 16 / 14 / 22 MPG

Want your car reviewed?

If you live in the tri-state area and want me to check it out, send me an email! 

Support the cause

Commissions may be received for product links on this site. Help out if you can.

I use Nikon camera bodies and lenses, a Westcott Ice Light 2, Manfrotto tripod, B + W filters and an iMac Pro to make the art you see here.

Follow along on Instagram @machineswithsouls

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *