That’s not to say it wasn’t awesome when we got it, but America’s newest Aussie-born RWD sedan, the Chevrolet SS, has been missing something. See, in Australia, if you don’t drive a manual, you’d better be disabled or in combat. But predictably, when GM ported the Holden Commodore over (for the second time, after the Pontiac G8), they shackled it with that infernal invention, that coagulation of all that’s wrong with America – the automatic transmission. Now Chevy’s moving to make it up to us.
When it was first announced, I loved the idea of sailing the Holden Commodore to our own shores as the Chevy SS. I’ve always had this theory that the Australian car industry is what the American one would have become had it not been filtered through the Oil Crisis. It’s made up of huge, manual-equipped, RWD sedans, wagons, and Utes, rather than the wheezing, soulless herd of beige-in-every-way crossovers clogging our arteries now. And to be fair, the automatic craze took root in the States long before the Oil Crisis, but the slow, clawing decline of RWD began there.
So to get any American RWD sedan was good news. Aside from some offerings by Cadillac and the Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger, we were devoid. To get one powered by a 415 hp LS3 V8 was even better. But to get one without the Aussie-appropriate stick between the seats was a massive letdown.
There were other problems, as well. It came in every color in the spectrum, as long as it was forgettable, and it was a bit too expensive, starting at $44k; but for that you should have at least been able to row your own.
Now, according to Motor Trend’s Jonny Lieberman, the 2014 Chevy SS is getting a six-speed manual. (I was a little scared they’d try to give it the C7’s seven-speed, which would have seemed out of place in a sedan.) Finally, we can drive like the thunder down under.
Nor is that all. They’re also including their magnetic suspension, so far seen mostly on Cadillacs, Corvettes, and high-end Camaros. This will dramatically improve the handling in the 3,500 lb car. But more than that, it could trigger a wider proliferation of the system, bridging it down into less expensive, more mainstream cars in the future.
Lieberman says the much improved version of the SS will drop at the Woodward Dream Cruise in August, which is a bit ironic, considering the effort it takes to cruise all afternoon at 3 mph with a manual, but it will provide ample opportunity to blare that glorious LS3 in front of the crowd.
This is a great move for the nascent model. The Dodge Challenger, for example, was originally only offered with an automatic. People yelled about it, and the Challenger’s still alive and well. Hopefully the SS will have the same results.
The changes mean a big move for the SS, taking it from a NASCAR excuse to a desirable performance car. Paddle shifters are fine for exotics and high-end sports cars. They even perform better than manuals. But like AWD, they seem to be too sophisticated for the SS. This is supposed to be a bare experience, a reminder of the first cars to bear the SS badge. The manual will make that happen.
In high school broadcasting, I learned about the “balloon story,” a type of public opinion test from whatever party is involved, “leaking,” an idea to the general public to see how they liked it, sending up a balloon to see who watched it. GM hasn’t released anything official about the manual, magnetic SS, letting the press take care of that.
Well, GM, if this is your balloon, here’s your reaction. Car people want that manual. Make it happen. See you at Woodward.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.