May
18

The camouflaged Chevrolet SS racecar is tested at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in preparation for the 2013 NASCAR season.

After dropping strong hints for close to a year, Chevrolet has confirmed that a rear-drive, V8-powered large sedan will join its North American lineup in late 2013. Slated for the hallowed SS (Super Sport) moniker, the new 2014 model is essentially the showroom counterpart of the brand’s 2013-season NASCAR racer. It also appears to be a civilian version of the new-for-2012 Caprice PPV (Police  Patrol Vehicle) that’s sold strictly to law enforcement and other government agencies.

No less interesting for enthusiasts, the 2014 Chevy SS also amounts to a revival of the well-liked Pontiac G8 sports sedan, which arrived for 2008 and was then killed off in General Motors’ 2009 bankruptcy. Like the G8, the SS will be sourced from GM’s Holden division in Australia, uses the same “Zeta I” corporate platform, and should offer the same basic powertrains. The main differences, as far as we can tell, are styling and maybe wheelbase.

Though Chevrolet hasn’t yet released details, it does say the SS “will be a derivative of [GM’s] award-winning global rear-wheel-drive architecture that spawns performance vehicles like Chevrolet Camaro and Holden’s upcoming VF Commodore [sedan]. The much anticipated Australian-built car will benefit from significant technology advances which enhance overall performance.” That statement tells us two things. First, the SS is, in fact, another Zeta I variant, as the Camaro uses that architecture in short-wheelbase form. Second, the SS will get various technical upgrades over the G8 that are likely aimed at improving both performance and fuel efficiency.

About the wheelbase issue: The G8 rode a 114.8-inch span, while the Caprice PPV uses a stretched architecture with 118.5 inches between wheel centers. Based on a Chevy-supplied photo of a camouflaged SS NASCAR racer, it appears that the showroom version would reprise the G8’s wheelbase and, indeed, most other dimensions.

The same should apply to powertrains, which means another iteration of GM’s familiar 6.2-liter small-block V8. Horsepower is being rumored at 415, the same claimed by the 2009-only G8 GXP, but there could be a bit more. Sources also say a 3.6-liter V6 SS will be added soon after the V8 model’s launch. Power there could be as much as 318, as in the current 3.6-liter Cadillac CTS, and will almost certainly exceed the V6 Pontiac’s 256. Both engines should again team with a mandatory 6-speed automatic transmission. The odds of offering Camaro’s 6-speed manual are slim to none, mainly due to planned limited production and rising federal mpg standards.

Not surprisingly, the rest of the 2014 Chevrolet SS package will be a near G8 photocopy. Among many things, that means a 4-wheel independent suspension with front struts, rear multilink geometry and hefty antiroll bars at each end, plus good-size all-around disc brakes with ABS and integrated stability system with traction control. Possible changes start with standard or available driver-adjustable “magnetic ride” shock absorbers a la CTS, Camaro and Chevy’s Corvette, and a redesigned instrument panel with a touchscreen for navigation, infotainment, and rearview-camera features—niceties denied to the G8. Appearance alterations will likely focus on the front end, where we’d look for a broad “new face of Chevrolet” smile like that of the redesigned 2014 Impala sedan.

Price is still far from decided, but all considered, we’d look for around $35,000 base and maybe upwards of $42,000 loaded. As noted—and as Chevrolet states—the SS will be a limited-production item. Just how limited remains to be seen. Though the SS probably won’t qualify for the gas-guzzler tax, it will be rather thirstier than, say, Chevy’s small Sonic. That means the SS will count against compliance with tightening mpg targets, which in turn means that GM literally can’t afford to sell too many. Besides, restricted availability tends to boost transaction prices, and you can be sure GM wouldn’t be doing the SS if it expected the car to lose money.

There’s another reason why the SS should be an uncommon sight. According to Car and Driver, both the SS and Caprice PPV will be redesigned on an updated “Zeta II” platform for introduction as “2015.5” models. Moreover, they will be built in North America, rather than sources from Australia. At that point, C/D reports, the SS may gain sportwagon and pickup-like “ute” running mates, the same scenario that had been planned for G8.

C/D also notes that although the Camaro migrates to GM’s new rear-drive Alpha platform for 2015, Zeta II “will be used for two Chinese-market Buicks starting in late 2014,” and one or both of those cars could also be sold and/or built in North America. As it happens, GM recently renewed its trademark rights for the Riviera name, and that’s prompted speculation about the imminent return of Buick’s “personal-luxury” coupe, last offered for 1999 (on a front-drive chassis). If a modern Riv is in the works, it would probably bear little or no resemblance to the stylish front-drive concept presented at the 2007 Shanghai Auto Show.

Meantime, the 2014 Chevrolet SS should be good news for fans of traditional large, rear-drive American cars, where the choices have lately thinned to just the Chrysler 300 and stablemate Dodge Charger. Will GM’s move prompt Ford to get back in the big-car game on and/or off the NASCAR track? Stay tuned.

That’s all we have now, but keep checking back with The Daily Drive for more information as it becomes available. Also check Consumer Guide Auto’s main site for in-depth Future Car reports on the 2014 Chevrolet SS and other upcoming new cars and trucks.

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