- Emphasizes hardware and performance over cosmetic add-ons.
- SS-Supercharged equipment offered as accessories for regular SS.
- Supercharged engine delivers good low-speed power numbers.
- Stylish, roomy interior.
- No more tired old Cavalier design.
- May not have enough visual flash for some buyers.
- Torsion-beam rear suspension-rivals have fully-independent setup.
- Five-speed manual transmission-some competitors offer a six-speed.
- May take a while for aftermarket to offer a lot for it.
- Those who can't drive a stick can't get an SS Supercharged.
Press Coverage :
Chevrolet has long been a master of traditional American-style performance cars-- machines of relatively husky dimensions powered by big, burly V8s. Even the division's sports car, Corvette, hews to this basic formula. But where Chevrolet didn't seem to catch on very quickly was in the burgeoning sport-compact market. While other automakers--import brands in particular--embraced and courted this demand for hotted-up subcompact coupes, Chevrolet practically hid from it, continuing to trot out the dated, lackluster Cavalier.
Why has it taken so long for Chevrolet to offer a decent sport-compact model? For one thing, it's likely that the division simply had too many other things to concentrate on, such as introducing several all-new sport-utility models that are more profitable than low-priced entry-level cars.
But if so, that wasn't the only issue delaying entry into the sport compact market. According to Chevrolet, all involved didn't want to rush the process and end up with a product that disappointed enthusiasts. "It was really just about making sure we get it right," says Jim Campbell, director of Chevrolet car marketing. "We wanted it to be credible."
Chevrolet will use its storied "Super Sport" performance marque to spearhead the division's first significant effort into the sport-compact market, a pair of models in its new Cobalt line. Although using the SS nameplate on a new performance car may seem like an obvious move, it was a decision the Cobalt team didn't take lightly. "We're going to be very judicious about what we put 'SS' on," says Campbell. "For SS, the mantra inside the division is 'more go than show.'"
Chevrolet first used the Super Sport name for 1957, on an experimental, hand-built racing car called the Corvette SS. The car showed plenty of potential, but a racing ban self-imposed by American auto manufacturers shut the project down after just one unsuccessful outing. It would be another five years before the Super Sport moniker would return. This time it would be on a production car, the 1961 Impala SS.
Setting an important precedent for the "more go than show" Super Sport ideal Campbell spoke of, that first Impala SS looked externally little different from regular Impalas but had exceptional performance. In the years that followed, Chevrolet would offer similarly understated-looking Super Sport versions of everything from diminutive Chevy II compacts to hulking full-size pickups.
The Cobalt, on which this new generation of Super Sports is based, will debut in late 2004 as a 2005 model. Journalists were recently allowed a close-up look at some of the various Cobalt models. The examples shown were prototypes, but they're said to be practically indistinguishable from what the final production versions will be. There were no opportunities to drive them, but all present were allowed to look them over closely inside and out, giving a good opportunity to see this significant new performance car firsthand.
Cobalt SS is available as a four-door sedan or two-door coupe. It has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower, 30 more than the 2.2-liter of base, LS, and LT models. Available transmissions in the SS are standard 5-speed manual or optional 4-speed automatic. Also included in the SS are sport-tuned suspension; disc instead of drum rear brakes; 17-inch alloy wheels; and unique trim.
The Cobalt SS Supercharged is available in coupe only. Central to this model is its 2.0-liter four-cylinder that has an intercooled Eaton helical roots-type supercharger, which boosts horsepower to a hearty 205. Unlike the regular SS, a 5-speed manual is the only transmission offered on the SS Supercharged. (This was the only suitable transmission thus far validated for that much power, according to Campbell.)
Also part of the SS Supercharged are 18-inch alloy wheels and a suspension tuned for even sportier handling, with a ride height that's lowered by 10mm. Exterior details exclusive to the SS Supercharged include revised rocker panels; tall front fascia; and a high, deck-mounted spoiler.
And what about the performance? According to Chevrolet Cobalt marketing manager Jeff Haag, the SS Supercharged does 0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds and runs the quarter mile in an impressive 14.9 seconds. What's more, Haag says the SS Supercharged isn't required to have a speed limiter because the car comes equipped with Z-rated tires, allowing a top speed of 143 mph.
With that kind of performance, it's obvious that Chevrolet is serious about making sport-compact buyers forget about the Cavalier. But it wasn't just the mechanicals that people knocked that perennial subcompact for; Cavalier's interior was a harsh environment of taxi-cab-plain design, toy-grade plastic finishes, and miniscule dimensions.
Fortunately, Cobalt seems to rectify those shortcomings as well, with an interior that appears to be of a much higher quality than that of Cavalier in terms of design as well as materials--more like a decent midsize instead of a moderately priced subcompact. A standard A-pillar mounted Autometer boost gauge heightens the sporty ambiance of the Cobalt SS Supercharged, as do optional door- and seat-panel inserts that are color keyed (with certain limitations) to the exterior hue.
In addition to its stylish look, the cabin of the Cobalt coupe feels considerably more spacious than that of Cavalier, reflecting Cobalt's larger exterior dimensions. Up front, there's plenty of room for six-footers. That height is about the limit for comfortable riding in Cobalt's backseat, but that's typical of most such sporty coupes.
Prices haven't been announced for any of the Cobalt models yet, but the SS supercharged is likely to start in the relatively affordable high-teen, low-twenty-thousand dollar range.
When you add it all up, these new Cobalt SS models could be some of the better performance values going, a fact that's sure to earn points with the choosy sport-compact set. Chevrolet's entry into that market has been a long time coming. But, if this early preview is any indication, it's been worth the wait.
David Bellm for ModernRacer.com
The Chevrolet Cobalt's interior design should go a long way toward justifying price tags north of $15,000. Designers have crafted a simple, uncluttered cabin environment dressed up on some models with simulated wood trim or metallic-look accents. Chrome-ringed gauges and door release handles lend an upscale appearance. Heated leather upholstery is available, as well as niceties such as a power sunroof, OnStar telematics, and XM satellite radio.
Our initial impressions, based on the information provided and cursory examination from outside of the Chevrolet Cobalt: styling is spot on; interior design and ergonomics are well executed; the SS Supercharged model sounds promising; refinement and competence of mechanical package remains to be proven; occupant comfort levels are unknown.
The Cobalt SS Supercharged Coupe features a race-inspired Ecotec 2.0-liter supercharged four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. Cobalt benefited from GM Racing's successful Ecotec-powered cars competing in the NHRA Summit Sport Compact Racing Series with significant learnings transferred during the development of the Cobalt.
The Ecotec 2.0L SC four-cylinder engine delivers 205 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 200 lb.-ft. of torque at 4400 rpm. Compared to the Ecotec 2.2-liter I-4, the cam timing was altered significantly to raise the mid-range torque and to match it with the top-end power.
The engine includes an Eaton M62 helical roots-type supercharger and features an air-to-water intercooler to reduce the temperature of air entering the engine. The supercharger produces a maximum boost pressure of 12 pounds per square inch (psi).
The Ecotec 2.0L SC is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. The 240-millimeter clutch assembly is larger on the 2.0-liter supercharged I-4 than the other naturally aspirated Ecotecs. The five-speed has close-ratio gearing that is tailored to the power band of the 2.0-liter engine. To improve acceleration the final drive ratio is also shorter at 4.05:1. A short-throw shifter quickens the shifts and provides a more positive feel as well. The shifter's travel is approximately 1 inch shorter than the shifter found in standard Cobalt models. Equal length transmission half shafts are also utilized to address torque steer in this front-drive car.
2003-2004 Chevrolet Cavalier LS Sport Coupe
2,189 cc / 140 hp / 150 lb-ft / 2749 lbs / 0-60 mph 8.0 sec.