2016 Chevrolet SS Quick Take
You might have a little trouble finding the 2016 Chevrolet SS on the Chevrolet website, because it's not under "Cars" with the rest of the sedans. Instead it's listed under "Performance," alongside the Camaro and Corvette. And where else should it be? The Chevy SS offers 0-60 performance well under 5 seconds, a top speed in excess of 150 mph, a suspension that adjusts between freeway comfortable and performance taut with the flick of a switch, and even a 6-speed manual transmission to route the 415 horsepower from the 6.2-liter V8 engine to the rear wheels. The Chevrolet SS is a satisfying driver's car, and as such deserves a place alongside Chevy's performance two-doors.
At a little less than $50,000 fully loaded, you'd think there'd be a line out the door for a car like this, especially considering how much enthusiasts complain about the lack of affordable rear-drive V8 muscle cars. Except the SS is as rare as a non-judgmental vegan. Suggested reasons include the near-$50,000 price tag -- especially when the cheaper Dodge Charger is just as quick -- and the poor fuel economy. Whatever the reason, Chevy sells about twice as many Corvettes a month as it does SS sedans all year.
But who cares? Just get behind the wheel, press the start button, and hear that big V8 roar to life before settling into its growly idle. The manual transmission feels just right here, the gear spacing is spot-on for this engine, and about the only downside is the abrupt engagement on the heavily sprung clutch. It's a little too easy and cliché to say that the addition of the manual transmission "makes" the car, but compared to the standard 6-speed automatic...yeah, it totally does.
Manual transmission added
Despite the low volume, Chevy is clearly committed to the SS, and the 6-speed manual joins last year's addition of Magnetic Ride Control in the list of improvements. The Drive Mode knob cycles between Tour, Sport and Performance, with the mode indicated in comically tiny print in the info display between the gauges. "Tour" mode tells the MRC to relax the shocks, letting the SS sail over bumps and ridges. "Sport" and "Performance" modes progressively stiffen the suspension, give the stability control a more casual attitude, and open up the exhaust to the point that when in Performance it pops and snaps on overruns in a way we associate with Corvettes and Camaros. A 4,000 pound sport sedan needs good brakes, and this has 'em: big Brembos with bright red calipers that haul it to a stop quickly and easily.
This is by any measure an excellent sport sedan. The steering feels good, the suspension lets you toss it around with abandon, it's seriously quick and makes all the right sounds doing it, it does excellent burnouts, and yet it looks like something your grandmother might drive to bingo night. It's just about the perfect sleeper. Inside it's comfortable, with an excellent seating position, high-quality controls, and good use of materials, especially the faux-suede trim on the dash.
Downsides? Well, the fuel economy is pretty terrible -- we saw low-teens -- and the cheap center console lid felt like it was about to break off. The SS is also a generation behind when it comes to GM's high-tech gadgets. There's blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning and collision warning, but active cruise control isn't available. The infotainment system is also a couple generations behind. Finally, there was a wind whistle coming from somewhere in our test car.