Reader Ride Review: 2014 Chevrolet SS
t’s easy to forget that the vast majority of TTAC readers have never commented on and never will comment on any article. While there are many usernames that are familiar to me, there are thousands upon thousands more anonymous readers who come here each day to peruse our virtual pages. Some may be one-time visitors who come here as a result of a Google search for a review. Others might stop in every and and then to see what crazy things we are up to.
Finally, there are those who stop in every single day. To those readers, this site and this community are just as much a part of their lives as their morning cups of coffee. But we’ll never know them. They’re simply content to read and enjoy.
It was from one of these everyday anonymous readers that we recently received this email:
I just bought a 2014 Chevy SS. It has ~ 300 miles on the odo.
I live in Alexandria VA. If any TTAC’er would like to review the car, can get here to do it, and ‘promises’ not to abuse the dear thing, then… You’d be welcome to do so for a day.
As luck would have it, I had plans to be in the Baltimore/Washington area not too long after that, and I made arrangements to meet Gene at BWI Airport to drive his newly purchased big Bowtie.
Although I have no idea what GM was thinking with the packaging and marketing of the SS (as I’ve made plain here on this site before), I feel certain that Gene was not representative of their target audience. He’s an adjunct professor at a large Washington, D.C., university and a consultant at a high-powered firm. His other two cars? A pair of Lexuses (Lexi?)—an SC 430 that belonged to his wife and a CT200h. He’s also approaching retirement but is in better shape than I am.
Gene pulled into the Arrivals area of BWI in his grayish-green Q ship, and I flagged him down. I realized that it was the first one that I had ever seen on the street. Those who complain that it looks like a Malibu…well, I won’t say you’re wrong, but you’re not exactly right either. It has a presence about it in person that surpasses that of its GM relatives, including the ones sporting big, tacky Cadillac badges.
After a friendly handshake and warm greeting, I threw my trusty Tumi luggage into the cavernous trunk and prepared to walk to the passenger side of the car. Gene smiled and redirected me to the driver’s side. Amazingly cool.
I hopped into the driver’s seat and took note of my surroundings. As a former G8 GT owner, I immediately noticed some similarities and some differences. GM definitely did a complete overhaul of the interior. While the underlying architecture may have been similar, the end result was very different. The G8 had no navigation option due to the placement of the stereo head unit—it was lower than US regulations would have allowed a nav unit to be placed. The SS has a big, full color screen right in the top center of the dash. The heads-up display was a nice addition, as well. The seats felt a little smaller and less supportive than I remembered the G8’s being.
Gene’s complaints from a few weeks of ownership were few but significant. “I hate the suede interior accents, and I don’t know why they bothered with such a tiny sunroof.” Indeed. GM appears to really be struggling with the right way to tastefully design the interior of this car. The “SS” logos in red suede that adorned the dash and the seating are not what one would expect in a $50K car. Suede. I just had to type that one more time. It’s really an Alcantara-like material, but still.
“Also, the paddles really are as flimsy everybody says they are. How much more could it have cost to put metal paddles there instead of those plastic ones? Fifty bucks?” He was right. They literally flexed when I used them to shift as we exited BWI and headed out onto the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
The plan was for me to go to the Hotel Monaco in downtown Baltimore, drop off my stuff, and then head back out to Find New Roads on which I could Drive Really Fast. The nav system was providing limited functionality at speed, so I opted to speak my destination to Siri on my phone. The parkway was a little congested, and besides, I didn’t want to scare Gene too much before I got to know him, so we kept it at or near the speed limit as we drove toward Charm City.
During our quick 11 mile jaunt, I discovered that Gene had cross shopped the SS with the predictable competitors—the 300C 5.7 and the Genesis R-Spec. He had owned both BMWs and Mercedes before, and “I will never buy one of those again. After my third ECU on my E Class, I decided I’d had enough.”
But why did he choose the SS over the competition? The answer surprised me.
“The dealership experience was fantastic.” Which made me think—$50K for a Chevy isn’t so uncommon to a Chevy store. They’re just used to seeing that price tag associated with names like “Tahoe” or “Suburban.” So maybe they do know how to treat that type of customer, after all.
The always-under-construction nature of the roads of Baltimore’s downtown provided an interesting challenge for the SS’ suspension. I found it to be a bit too soft for any serious sporting intent, but just right for daily driving around the Beltway. In day-to-day driving, or from stoplight-to-stoplight downtown, the SS never gives you any hint of what’s under the hood. It’s more Impala than Corvette in those circumstances.
However, that was about to change. After a quick check-in at the Monaco…oh hell, I can’t just give a quick description of the Hotel Monaco. It’s in the original headquarters building of the B&O Railroad, which a magnificent marble staircase and a chandelier that makes it worthy of its registration on the National Registry of Historic Places. Perhaps due to “Bodymore’s” less than stellar reputation as a tourist destination, it is easily the best hotel for the dollar on the eastern seaboard—rooms are often available for less than $200 a night. And yes, I paid for my corner suite…no sponsored content here.
Now, where was I? Oh, yes. We were heading back out onto the highway. I punched in a favorite Baltimore destination into the nav—the Arundel Mills Casino. Unfortunately, the nav wasn’t as familiar with the location as I was. It took us to a cul-de-sac on its first attempt. It then made us do two consecutive u-turns and had us headed for a third when I declared it unusable and reverted back to Siri.
But that, and every other niggling concern I had about the car, was coming close to disappearing as I re-entered the highway. The automatic transmission is full of hesitation, so rather than mess with it again, I decided to make full use of the paddles.
Holy. Mother. Of. God. This thing moved. Not in the visceral way that a Vette or a Shelby does, but not in the matter-of-fact way that a BMW 550i does, either. It sheds its pedestrian exterior like Clark Kent ripping the buttons of his polyester shirts to reveal the S on his chest. The 0-60 launch was impressive, for sure, but the car really comes to life in third and fourth gears. Feel free to look up official data and times elsewhere—what I’ll tell you is that 60-100 in this car as as good as it gets. The 6.2 liter V8 exhaust note that is nowhere to be found in first gear roared to life as I redlined the car in third gear at nearly eighty miles per hour, slicing and dicing through traffic, then shifted to fourth and continued to climb at equal pace as the omnipresent German sedans of the corridor became black and silver blurs around us.
The SS simply didn’t run out of Go. No gap was unshootable. As long as I kept the shifting decisions out of the hands of the six-speed automatic, we had no problem finding endless torque and power at the ready whenever I wanted it.
The Potenza RE050s, however, didn’t always like my decisions, especially when it came to on-ramps. The suspension that had dealt so effortlessly with the potholes of Baltimore now gave too much body roll and allowed the heavy Chevy to push its nose well past apexes. The Brembo rotors, while impressive looking, required significant heat in the brake pads to apply any serious stopping force.
Calling it a “four-door Corvette,” as other outlets have done, is pure laziness. Either that, or those journos simply don’t know what the true limits of a Vette are. The SS is much better than a Corvette as a daily driver, and much worse as a performer—which, considering its weight, is just fine.
The SS is badly in need of two things—a manual transmission and a better suspension. So guess what GM has on the drawing board for 2015? You betcha. When I asked Gene about the upcoming changes for the SS, he simply stated, “I bought it a year too soon.”
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the drive wasn’t driving at all, but the opportunity to sit down at Longhorn Steakhouse and just talk with a loyal TTAC reader over dinner. Seeing Gene’s obvious enthusiasm for his car, and his excitement about having just doubled the highway speed limit as a passenger in it, was beyond refreshing. It transcended the somewhat academic and hypothetical conversations that we as enthusiasts often find ourselves mired in.
Gene had to give a final that evening, and I had a baseball game at Camden Yards to catch, so we had to cut the evening short. As we drove back toward my hotel, something quite amusing occurred—we found ourselves behind a black CLA 250.
“Look,” I said. “A $30K Benz sharing the road with a $50K Chevrolet.” Two cars, neither what they seem to be. Maybe some would prefer the idea of the black Mercedes, as immortalized by DJ Quik. I prefer the direction taken by another Nineties rap group—the SS is, without question, a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. If you’d prefer to fly by unnoticed, the SS is the car for you. I am not sure if I can wholeheartedly recommend it over the Charger SRT-8, but it’s a contender.
Thank you, Gene, for letting us take a crack at your baby. I hope it brings you many years of enjoyment. If you, the reader, would like to have a TTAC editor review your car, contact us. We’ll find a way to get there.
Achevroletman on May 22, 2014
Thank you for the review, it was fun to read. First laid eyes on the SS at Spring Mountain Ranch during some schooling and I really loved the demure non agro looks and style. The first time I heard the exhaust growl to life, it was exciting, nothing sounds quite like American V8 muscle. The SS fits a niche market and with the addition of some suspension improvement and a manual offering, sales will be in line with expectations. I thought the comments about being done with the German offerings after his 3rd ECU were very revealing and quite on point, based on what I hear from former German car owners about their experiences. American exceptionalism is alive and well, if you build it, they will come.
Ibleedburgundy on Jun 16, 2014
I actually bought the SS in part because I thought it would be low key - a sleeper. Maybe red wasn't a good choice because people comment on it everywhere I go. In person it is still a touch understated for a car that packs a 6.2, but still has an aggressive stance and that sound! I can see how someone would think it looked lame based on some internet pictures. In real life you might change your mind - as I did. I am also surprised to read that the author didn't think the car handled well. This makes me wonder if the owner didn't pump the tires properly or something. Other car magazines have this thing doing .95 g's of lateral grip. I've driven a 300 SRT and a Challenger SRT extensively (my brother's last two cars). I traded in my Magnum RT for the SS. I love the Chrysler full size RWD cars. I drove one for 10 years. When it comes to cornering though, there is no contest. The SS is on another level.
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