This is the story of one of GM’s great cars that came and went seemingly unnoticed. It was built in another land, but has all the credentials of a supreme American performance car. It wore an iconic moniker first seen on Bow Ties in the early ‘60s, and holds the distinction of being the last factory-fitted LS production car. We are of course referring to the 2014-‘17 Chevy SS performance sedan.
The last of the V8s: Origins
When most people think of Australia, a handful of things usually come to mind. Its nickname as the land down under, koalas, kangaroos, great white sharks, and the Sydney Opera House top the list. But,for that proud cadre of car enthusiasts, especially the LS crowd, mention of the great island continent conjures a very significant automotive reference—Holden.
If you’ve seen the film Mad Max (and I know you have) you understand the subtitle. The movie portrays, among other things, Australia as a muscle car-heavy land, where in a not so distant future-the motorcycle-riding scum of the earth does battle with a small highway patrol contingent, whose greatest weapon is a hopped-up, V8-powered Ford Falcon XB GT, with a blower as tall as I am (six-foot, two-inches).
But in the movies’ opening sequence, an escaped psycho cop-killer “Night Rider”, evades the police, driving a stolen V8 “Pursuit Special”, an early-’70s Holden Monaro HQ coupe. This may have been the first time Americans had seen or heard of Holden, but it wouldn’t be the last.
Holden’s long history dates back to 1856, when it was a saddlery company (horses). In 1908, they changed with the times to automotive and in 1931, were bought by the General, becoming GM’s Australian subsidiary. Over the decades, most Holden’s were GM-based, including heavy involvement with Chevrolet and Opel. But as the new millennium dawned, two homegrown Holden designs would take center stage in the American market.
Super Sleeper: 2014 Chevy SS
One might think the Chevy SS would be more widely known, having been revealed to the world at the 2013 Daytona 500. Here, the new sedan handled pace car duties and made its NASCAR debut as Chevy’s new racing stock car.
The SS was Chevy’s first rear-drive V8-powered sedan since the hot-rodded cop car, the ‘96 Impala SS. It was a big deal. According to the president of GM North America, Mark Reuss, “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. 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.”
As Mark Reuss exclaimed, the Chevy SS is a total performance package. Channeling the G8 GXP, the powertrain includes the 6.2-liter LS3 V8, with 10.7:1 compression, making an SAE-certified 415 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. The only tranny for ’14 was the Hydra-Matic (6L80) six-speed automatic with paddle-shift control. The rearend was an (LSD) with 3.27 gears.
Much like other GM performance machines of this era, the transmission features Sport modes, where the shifting can be manual-like via the shifter, paddles, or left to the computer’s performance algorithm tuning. You can also engage Competition mode, which limits the StabiliTrak traction control system’s level of input.
The SS’s suspension (FE3) features a sport-tuned MacPherson strut front multi-link set up, with a direct-acting stabilizer bar. A forward-mounted steering rack with sport-optimized electronic power steering and dual lower-end links with individual ball joints, enables point-and-shoot response.
The rear is a multi-link independent system (IRS), with three lateral ball joints per side, mounted to a rubber-isolated cradle. This separates the body from road imperfections and drivetrain vibration. Lightweight aluminum components are throughout, including the front steering knuckle and tension arms.
Balancing and halting the SS is standard StabiliTrak electronic chassis control, anti-locking brake system (ABS), and big Brembo four-piston calipers with ventilated 14-inch two-piece rotors in front and 12.7-inch solid rotors/dual-piston calipers out back.
It all rolls on staggered-size, five-lug, forged aluminum, polished 10-spoke wheels, 19×8.5 front and 19×9 rears, wrapped in Bridgestone ultra-high-performance rubber. The tire sizes are 245/40ZR19 for the front and 275/35ZR19 rear.
In true sleeper fashion, exterior styling is understated aggression. With a low front fascia, angry headlights, and large black upper and lower grilles, a rearview glance of the SS definitely signals, move over. The slightly bulged hood, flared fenders, aero-styled rockers, pinched rear end, decklid spoiler, and cannon-like tailpipes aimed through a black diffuser, are a feast for the enthusiast’s eyes.
In the smart, cut-and-sewn cockpit, are heated/ventilated, eight-way power-adjustable leather/suede “SS”-embroidered sport seats, high- and low-gloss chrome trim, alloy pedals, and just about every piece of GM driver-assistance of safety and convenience technology available at the time.
Standard features include a flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, Bose premium sound system, push-button start, color touchscreen, and heads-up display. Safety features include forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind zone alert, and rear camera. The first Chevy-application of automatic parking assist came standard as well. A power sunroof and full-size spare were the only options.
Accentuating the all-black interior were five exterior colors for 2014,Silver Ice Metallic, Red Hot, Phantom Black Metallic, Heron White, and Mystic Green.
The Chevy SS isn’t exactly svelte, weighing in at just under two tons (3,975-pounds). But with a near 50/50 weight distribution and an aluminum hood and deck lid, it handles like a lighter car. GM has the SS sprinting to 60-mph in 5-seconds, but Car and Driver’s first test on December 1, 2013, ripped a 4.5-second 0-60-mph launch on the way to 12.9-seconds in the quarter-mile at 111 mph. These stats branded the SS as a four-door Camaro.
Although the performance comparison with its Bow Tie cousin is well-deserved, the Chevy SS is much more in league with high-performance sedans than with muscle or pony cars. Its development on Germany’s vaunted Nürburgring netted world-class handling.
Executive Chief Engineer GM Global Programs, Dave Leone, commented, “Our goal was to create a car that delivers incredible grip and handling balance when cornering, while still being comfortable to drive on the road. The perfect weight balance and low center of gravity were a big part of that goal, because it enabled the team to tune for a more comfortable highway ride without sacrificing handling or driver confidence while cornering at the limits.” Mission accomplished…
Sweetening the Pot: 2015 Chevy SS
For 2015, Chevrolet made the already impressive Chevy SS even better. New standard equipment included the much-desired Magnetic Ride Control 3.0, dampers (F55). GM’s famous, Ferrari-shared shocks are driver-adjustable, via the console-mounted dial, offering Tour, Sport, and Performance modes, along with steering effort, pedal feel, and shift firmness. With two quick pushes of the StabiliTrak button, a somewhat clandestine “Track” mode is available. This engages all “Competitive” settings and Launch Control on six-speed manual cars. Rear Brembo four-piston calipers, with massive 14.2-inch ventilated rotors, now joined forces with the fronts (JL9), and on the enthusiast’s wish list was the no-cost optional TREMEC TR6060 six-speed manual transmission (MN6), paired with 3.70 final drive ratio gears.
Also new for ’15, was OnStar 4G LTE connectivity and Wi-Fi hotspot tech.
On the exterior palette were five new, colorfully-named metallic hues. Perfect Blue, Some Like It Hot Red, Alchemy Purple, Jungle Green, and Regal Peacock Green.
Special Sauce: 2016 Chevy SS
In its day, the Chevy SS was compared to two previous models of BMW M cars—the E90 M3 and E39 M5. Both German machines had always been described as having a “special sauce”.
With that said, the 2016 Chevy SS added some seasoning to its gravy, in the way of visual, audible, and aerodynamic enhancements. They included a revised front fascia with vertical aero-slots at each side, new LED lower lighting elements, brightwork, and an “SS” badge. On the hood are functional vents that not only extract heat but up the SS’s high-performance optics.
Upping the cool factor is a new dual-mode exhaust with a slash-cut quad-tipped dual-mode exhaust. With the 2014/’15 SS already a burbling joy to the ears, the new system has an electronically-operated flap in one of the tailpipes that opens-wider in Sport, Performance/Track modes, emitting a more menacing lope at idle and an angrier bark at wide-open throttle.
Most noticeable, was a more aggressive, “throwing star” design, cast aluminum 19-inch wheels with an ultra-bright machined face, and painted pockets (RO3). Adding to that aggression for ’16,were red Brembo calipers front/rear, replacing the silver units.
Inside is a new 8-inch-diagonal radio with standard Navi/MyLink and a new exterior hue-Slipstream Blue.
Swan Song: 2017 Chevy SS
Except for the color additions of Orange Blast and Nightfall Gray Metallic, the 2017 Chevy SS was unchanged and stood as the final model.
According to the GM Heritage Center, production and sales data for the 2014-’17 Chevy SS, show 3,530 units for ’14, 3,163 for ’15, 2,220 for ’16, and 4,008 in 2017, totaling 12,921.
Simple Summation: Conclusion
Alliteration aside, the Chevy SS was a lot of car for the money. It was loaded with high-performance and chock full of features for under $50,000 (’17-$47,750) for all four years. Post-production, the SS has been adored as a spiritual successor to the G8 GXP, for its LS tuning potential, its Holden connection, build quality, and overall rarity. Clean, low-mile, pre-owned examples sell for like-new prices any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
The Chevy SS was named for the Super Sport designation and is often called a four-door muscle car. In all reality and more befitting, its true prowess, the “SS” should stand for Super Sedan.