2014 Chevrolet SS first drive review

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If your exposure to Chevrolet performance cars has included recent versions of the Camaro and the Corvette, be forewarned: The new 2014 Chevy SS might have familiar firepower under the hood, but it's a distinctly different, more understated car in nearly every other respect.

Here's a rear-wheel-drive, mid-size sport sedan that packs a huge 415-horsepower, 6.2-liter 'LS3' V-8—the base engine from last year's Corvette—and all the right hardware upgrades to make the most of it.

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By that gauge, it has some true sport-sedan credentials. To call it a four-door Camaro would be an insult to this car's expert chassis tuning; just don't expect it to feel too much like a Cadillac ATS or CTS with a few frills removed.

As we found out this past week, from the driver's seat, the SS convinced us that while it's not that, it's definitely more than a four-door pony car. It's a lot more in fact, and it deserves to be on the same stage not just with the likes of the Dodge Charger SRT8 and Chrysler 300 SRT8 but also perhaps with the Jaguar XFR, BMW 550i, and Infiniti M56 (now Q70).

As mainstream as the bow tie on the grille is, the SS is a fringe product. In the U.S., Chevy sells more than 400,000 Silverados, around 200,000 Malibus, and more than 80,000 Camaros annually—and in the ballpark of 15,000 Corvettes a year. Yet it's only anticipating selling a few thousand Chevrolet SS models per year.

Before we get too far into what makes the SS such a great sport sedan, we have to address the gorilla in the room: The SS is bland; it's mired in anonymity; and to pound one more nail in, it's really not as eye-catching, inside or out, as the all-new Impala that reached dealerships this year. And that factor will really limit the SS's appeal, we think.

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It's what's inside that counts

Which is too bad, as the SS is quite a beautifully executed car—if you can see beyond the plain face. The SS might as well stand for Sleeper Sedan, as it's one of the best smokin'-fast under-the-radar four-doors ever…of the sort that, if you can keep your right foot light on the accelerator when you're cruising past patrol cars or through small towns, you'll likely roll through unnoticed—as what to the uninitiated might just as well be some kind of rental car or fleet vehicle.

Back in Australia, where the SS is assembled, that might not be the case. The SS is a thinly veiled, only somewhat restyled and rebadged version of the Holden Commodore SS V, the latest flagship in a long line of cars that are worshipped by Aussies the way we bow to Mustangs and Camaros.

It’s also worth noting, by the way, that the SS is not just a new version of the Pontiac G8 GXP—a car that was based on the previous ‘VE’ iteration of the Holden Commodore. In a separate post, we outline all the differences—and they’re significant.

From the driver's seat, the new SS is just enough of that sleeper sedan it is on the outside, but definitely an extrovert at heart. On a variety of suburban, mountain, and desert roads around Palm Springs, California, the SS would feel at ease on most daily commutes, yet it’s dynamically rewarding in nearly every way you’d expect—and a true performance model.

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