Friday, January 31, 2014

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E Review


It’s like coming home. When you walk up to the 2015 Volvo V60 Sportswagon, the trusty, unbreakable Volvo station wagons of the past come to mind. Those cars were unpretentious, elegantly practical, and utterly dependable, just like the Swedes themselves.

Now the Volvo wagon is back on the American market after a short interval during which only the all-wheel-drive Volvo XC70 represented the beloved box of the brand from Gothenburg, Sweden. I am  happy it’s back, since wagons are cool again and the combination of cargo capacity, good fuel economy, and carlike handling makes the wagon seem ever more appealing than a sport-utility vehicle. And it’s not alone, witness the reappearance in the U.S. of the Audi Allroad and the BMW 3 Series wagon.

Best of all, the 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E is better than any Volvo wagon you remember thanks to a livelier, premium-quality personality and a new Drive-E powertrain that squeezes out more mpg from its engine without squeezing out the fun in the process.

The Volvo V60 wagon doesn’t look much like the beloved box of the past. Based on the platform of the Volvo S60 sedan, it measures 182.5 inches in overall length, 73.4 inches wide, and 58.4 inches high, and it rides on a wheelbase of 109.3 inches. Actually, the 2015 V60 doesn’t even look that much like the Volvo S60 sedan you probably remember, since the 2014 S60 received a very useful styling makeover. The superfluous chrome and black-out trim has been stripped away, the hood has been reshaped, and the revised grille and headlights help the car look more resolutely Volvo.
Once you’re in the cabin, the V60 makes you even more aware of Volvo’s new way of doing business. The architecture is the same, notably the elegant waterfall-style center console that looks like a piece of high-style Swedish furniture when it carries a wood finish, yet the selection of materials and the mix of colors send a new message of premium luxury that seems altogether adventurous for Volvo.

This new, livelier presentation is especially apparent in the models with sport trim, as the bolstered seats, multimode TFT instrument display (Eco, Elegance, and Sport), and leather-wrapped steering wheel put the BMW 3 Series wagon to shame. The new Sensus Connect system of electronic connectivity is very cool and incorporates some neat applications, but the software behind the touchscreen interface is clumsy and difficult to sort out. Volvo hasn’t lost its way, though, because practicality is still the message, thanks to 33.5 inches of rear-seat legroom, a 40/20/40-split folding rear seat, and 43.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

Volvo is in the midst of an $11 billion program to prepare itself for the future, and the first evidence is the company’s new Drive-E powertrain, which is available in the 2015 Volvo V60, 2015 Volvo S60, and 2015 Volvo XC60. Volvo engineers have taken their transverse inline-5/inline-6 engine package (first designed for Volvo by Porsche long ago and then subsequently reengineered by Volvo) and made something entirely new.

This is the eminently Swedish way, and indeed Jan-Erik Larsson, head of the engineering program for the Drive-E engine, made the program’s proposal to the Volvo board of directors on July 25, the day known as Jakob’s Day in Sweden. This also happens to be the day when the very first Volvo car – the Volvo OV 4 – was completed in 1926, immortalizing the car within the company as “Jakob.” (And also the day that Larsson’s grandfather, who designed the car’s engine and founded Volvo AB, helped roll out Jakob from the workshops.)
The new modular engine begins with a transverse, 2.0-liter inline-4 version of the former Volvo engines, now configured for application as either a direct–injection gasoline engine or a common-rail diesel. 

When the gasoline engine carries a turbocharger to enhance high-rpm power, it makes 240 hp at 5600 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque from 1500 to 4800 rpm. When the engine carries both the turbo and a belt-driven Roots-type supercharger to boost low-rpm power, it is rated at 302 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.

There’s far more to the engine than its power rating, as it incorporates lightweight all-aluminum casting, a forged-steel crankshaft, a low-friction valvetrain, and continuously variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust side. Moreover, the powertrain incorporates automatic stop/start and brake regeneration. Finally, the eight-speed Aisin-Warner automatic transmission has a coasting function. The bottom line is an improvement in fuel economy of between 13 to 26 percent for the various configurations. The 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E has an EPA rating of 25/37/29 mpg (city/highway/combined).

The only downside to the new modular engine is its physical dimension, as it can fit only the front-wheel-drive examples of the V60 wagon and S60 sedan. All-wheel-drive versions of these cars will continue to be available with the 250-hp, turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-5 or the 325-hp, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6, both of which have a six-speed automatic transmission.

When you ask the Volvo people about the recent lapse in the U.S. availability of a plain, carlike wagon to complement the on-going availability of the Volvo XC70, they just shake their heads in embarrassment. Nevertheless, they quickly recover and point out that Volvo’s primary markets are the United States, China, and Sweden. Although U.S. sales declined 10 percent to 61,233 vehicles last year (a long way from the 100,000 yearly sales more than a decade ago), Volvo still sold 427,840 vehicles worldwide in 2013, not an insignificant amount.

As Geely, the Chinese car company that now owns Volvo, sees the future for the Swedish company, it must move out of near-luxury limbo and compete directly with Audi and BMW. It will do this by remaining uniquely Swedish. As Volvo chief designer Thomas Ingenlath says, “Outdoor activities are an important part of the Swedish lifestyle. We will continue to refine Volvo’s strong connection to these activities with more emphasis on modernity. It’s about making functionality an emotional experience. Just like an expensive goose down jacket, our cars will have a true feeling of sophistication with an underlying strength and capability.”

At a starting price of $36,225 (including $925 destination), the 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E is knocking right on the door of the BMW 3 Series wagon, and just like the BMW, the Volvo’s price quickly escalates as you select options that are luxurious, sporty, or cleverly functional in that wagon-y way that Volvo has.


On sale:   Now
Base price:  $ 36,225

Engine:  2.0L turbocharged I-4, 240 hp, 258 lb-ft

EPA fuel economy: 25/37/29 mpg (city/highway/combined)

Drive: Front-wheel

Curb weight: 3527 lb

                                 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Drive E Premium

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo


2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo is the duckbill platypus of the BMW line. It’s as if Mother Nature took a 3 Series sedan into her hands, tugged and pulled at it for a while, then set it down and shrugged her shoulders. And yet for all this, we’ve had two people (no, actually it’s three) come right up and tell us that this is exactly the BMW that they’re looking for.
It’s all a matter of passenger space. The 3 Series GT has been stretched over a long, 115.0-inch wheelbase, and now this 3 Series car has the big back seat that even car enthusiasts demand, perhaps because they feel guilty about having too much fun behind the wheel without paying some lip service to people-hauling practicality.
While the BMW 5 Series sedan seems too big (and too expensive), and the BMW 3 Series sedan is too small, the BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo meets the Goldilocks standard.

Not too big and not too small
Things feel just right on the inside of the 3 Series GT, too. You sit about an inch higher than you would in a 3 Series sedan, and the rear passengers get 4.1 inches more legroom. Everyone gets more headroom, too. Plus the large hatchback reveals 18.4 cubic-feet of trunk capacity, which expands to 56.5 cubic feet when the 40/20/40-split rear seat flips down. In comparison, the BMW 3 Series sedan has a trunk that holds 13.0 cubic-feet of stuff.

Hatchback-style sedans like the 2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo have come and gone in Europe over the years without being embraced by Americans. But now the Audi A7 and BMW 5 Series GT have made these platypus-style hatchback sedans kind of appealing, especially in China where extreme styling combined with passenger utility has come to define what a Chinese car is meant to be all about.

Growls like a bear, but still a BMW

This car is rated at 22 mpg City/33 mpg Highway and 26 mpg Combined, so it has that daily practicality. At the same time, we found that 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque were enough to get us really rolling on the weaving two-lane roads between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.

This engine is far from a half-hearted engineering exercise, as the architecture for this long-stroke, 1997-cc inline-4 is derived from the current N55 inline-6. Meanwhile, a twin-scroll turbo ensures that the boost spools up at low rpm and then carries through to peak rpm, variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust cams swells the power curve down low, and direct fuel injection makes possible a relatively high 10.0:1 compression ratio that helps deliver crisp acceleration. All this and an eight-speed automatic transmission make for some serious BMW motoring.

While the wheelbase of 115 inches and curb weight of 3915 pounds suggest platypus-style handling, the all-wheel-drive GT still feels like a BMW. If you want the car to feel even more like a BMW, you just order the M Sport trim package, which includes plenty of distinctive aero bodywork, a slightly more aggressive suspension calibration with a ride height that’s lower by 0.4 inches, 18- or 19-inch wheels with low-profile tires, and a quick-shifting version of the BMW eight-speed transmission.

With the 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo, what we really have is simply a plus-size BMW 3 Series, a small car made slightly bigger. In fact, what we really have is a classic BMW 5 Series, which was also a small car made big, not the big car made small that it has become in recent years. Now, if we can only make the BMW 3 Series GT look more like a classic BMW 5 Series and less like a platypus.

Friday, January 24, 2014

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI Diesel

More refined, efficient, and engaging than ever.

Whether or not it’s true that the left brain dominates rational cogitation while the right hemisphere seeds artistic ideation, we think the entirety of your noggin will be engaged by driving Volkswagen’s 2015 Golf TDI. Because after an all-too-brief session piloting a Euro-market 2014 model that’s similar to what’s coming to the U.S. for 2015, we’re sure the new diesel Golf will appeal to driving enthusiasts and fuel savers alike.

The goodness starts with the body structure and chassis of the all-new seventh-gen Golf, which already is on sale elsewhere around the globe and hits these shores the middle of next year as a 2015 model. Although more generous in cargo space, shoulder room, and rear-seat legroom than the previous-gen Golf, the longer, lower, wider 2015 has less mass to haul around. Added to continual refinements to the strut-front, multilink-rear suspension is a standard, brake-based XDS cross differential lock that enables wheelspin-free launches from rest and pseudo torque vectoring when under way. Once rolling, the Golf TDI’s ride quality is supple, yet wheel control is so outstanding that we kept hunting for more roads on which to exercise the balanced chassis.

Driven by the need to improve fuel economy, VW switches the new Golf from hydraulic to electric power steering, losing a small amount of tire feedback but retaining the precision, off-center linearity, and low friction we’ve come to expect of our repeat 10Best winner. The Euro-market Golf TDI we drove was shod with summer-only 225/45-17 Dunlop Sport Maxx RT rubber, meats unlikely to be fitted on U.S.-bound TDIs (hey, at least we know they fit). Although the Euro tires take some of the credit for the extra stick, the new TDI’s brakes are noteworthy for confidence-building top-of-pedal response, ease of modulation, and overall bite.

2015 Golf was also equipped with an electric parking brake, which frees up a lot of space on the console previously hogged by the hand-brake lever. Speaking of interior space, the Euro-spec Golf adds stash room with a handy coin box to the left of the steering column and a hidden storage nook at the bottom of the center stack. The car’s added width stretched the dash a bit, too, allowing for a slightly bigger infotainment touch screen.

VW’s been at the diesel game longer than many other manufacturers, and this Golf benefits from an all-new four-cylinder oil burner. Although the base Golf TDI doesn’t have the 184 horses and 280 lb-ft of the not-yet-but-almost-definitely-confirmed-for-the-U.S. GTD, the EA288 2.0-liter turbo-diesel is creamy and torque-rich. Windows up, the quiet cabin gives little reason to suspect there’s a diesel under the hood. Torque stays the same as that of the previous Golf TDI’s 236 lb-ft, but peak horsepower gets nudged from 140 to 150 and arrives 500 rpm lower in the rev range. This translates to a right-brain-pleasing well of low-end torque and good accelerator-pedal response. The EA288 diesel family has an integrated exhaust manifold designed to give quick warm-ups, and a urea-based after-treatment system scrubs exhaust gases. Unlike its main compact diesel competitor, the Chevy Cruze, the Golf TDI is available with a manual transmission. Compared with the shifter in the previous-gen Golf, the new, shorter-stir stick has improved feel and is even more buttery and precise than before.

I am betting that the combination of lower weight, six-speed transmissions, and new engine will result in improved EPA fuel-economy estimates versus the outgoing car’s 30/42 splits. Will the 2015 Golf TDI top the 2014 Cruze’s 46-mpg highway rating? Perhaps not, but based on our time behind the wheel, we think the 2015 Golf TDI will tickle the fancy of hypermilers and hot-hatch lovers alike.

VW’s New 2.0-Liter EA288 Four-Cylinder TDI Diesel

The EA288 diesel will be the TDI powerplant in the next-generation Golf, Jetta, and Passat. The inline configuration, iron block and aluminum head, and DOHC configuration will carry over, but horsepower from the 2.0-liter surges to from 140 to 190, while torque is up from 236 lb-ft to 280 lb-ft. Those two figures represent increases of 36 and 19 percent, respectively. Also, as with the EA211 gas engines, a belt that never requires replacement drives the camshafts.

The Canadian market was lucky enough to get an electric secondary cabin heater that kicked in when maximum heat was requested.
To remedy such heating concerns with the EA288, engineers integrated the exhaust manifold into the engine head, as they did with the EA211 gas engine. The EA288 head has its own cooling circuit controlled with valves. When the engine is cold, the head circuit is the most active, which allows the engine coolant to heat up swiftly, making it possible to warm the cabin faster. This also helps the engine get up to operating temperature more quickly, thus improving fuel efficiency.
Currently, VW diesels use a NOx storage catalytic converter in the exhaust to meet emissions requirements. To further clean up the new 2.0-liter EA288’s act—and comply with the stringent EU6 regulations—VW has employed a urea NOx reduction device, otherwise known as a selective catalytic reduction system. The combination of the urea system, two exhaust-gas recirculation devices, a particulate filter, and an oxidation catalytic converter results, says VW, in a 45-percent reduction in total emissions versus the old engine.
A pair of counter-rotating balance shafts help smooth out the power delivery and lower NVH; this feature is absent from smaller-displacement versions.

2014 Cadillac ELR

The Cadillac ELR is a future pod, a show car made real. And it better look like a million bucks, because everybody’s going around calling it the $75,995 Chevy Volt.

And as it turns out, this $80,000 Volt business is a bit of an overstatement anyway. The Cadillac is indeed based on the Chevy but shares very little with it except the 16.5-kWh battery pack and powertrain, and even those have software tweaks.

The floorpan is similar, but the suspension is all-new. It uses GM’s HiPer strut in front for better geometry, a Watt’s linkage for better lateral control at the rear, and variable dampers and power steering from ZF.

It’s longer than the Volt by 8.9 inches, wider by 2.3 inches, and lower by 0.7 inch, and it rides on a slightly longer wheelbase. The base of its windshield sits 6.3 inches forward of the Volt’s for that dramatic front rake, and not a single exterior piece is shared. So saying it’s just an $80,000 Volt is akin to asserting that the Cadillac XTS is a $45,000 Malibu. Which is true and also not true at all.

All you need to know is that there are two main propulsion modes: electric vehicle (EV) and extended range (ER). With a fully charged battery, the larger motor is limited to 157 horses and powers the front wheels through a fixed ratio. The second motor/generator, in conjunction with the planetary gears, can provide a ratio effect allowing the ELR to reach its 107-mph top speed in EV mode.

After draining the majority of its battery, the ELR automatically switches to ER mode and lights the engine. Most of  the time the engine is turning the second motor/generator to provide electric juice, though there are times when the engine also delivers torque to the wheels. The drive motor makes 181 horsepower in ER mode; if  the driver calls for it and there is enough battery, the ELR’s combined system will make up to 217 horsepower, a serious bump from the Volt’s 149.

Running as an EV, the ELR’s acceleration to 60 mph is 9.0 seconds, 0.2 second slower than the last Volt we tested because the 4054-pound ELR is nearly 300 pounds heftier. With its full 217 ponies saddled up, the ELR gets to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds and slips through the quarter-mile mark in 16.5 seconds at 87 mph, putting the ELR in a dead heat with a $16,000 Honda Fit. But the motor’s instantaneous torque will fool you into thinking it’s quicker.

Driven slowly, as the hybrid gods intend, the ELR is as smooth as two fingers of Lagavulin. The only clue that the engine has kicked over is a small change in the gauge cluster. The extra effort invested in the suspension—the shocks, the fancy struts, and the Watt’s linkage—pays off on wrinkled pavement and with increased pace. Even when the tires are close to falling off the grip cliff, at 0.84 g, the car responds to inputs better than any other front-drive hybrid on the road. The electric power steering is appropriately light and has zero slop, on-center and elsewhere.
What the ELR gives up in outright perform­ance, it gets back in efficiency. Unfortunately, EPA figures weren’t available at press time. Caddy says the numbers will be slightly lower than the Volt’s 98 MPGe in combined electric-only driving and 35 mpg city/40 mpg highway. Yes, that seems absurdly low for an often-electric car, but it includes nearly eight gallons of gas burned in ER mode coupled with a test distance of just 440 miles.

The four driving modes are hold, mountain, sport, and tour.  Added to the Volt last year, hold forces the ELR into extended-range driving. This maintains the battery’s charge and allows the driver to choose when and where to use the 30 or so miles of pure electric driving. It’s most useful on the highway, where aerodynamic drag depletes the battery as quickly as the Omega house drains a keg. Think of the ELR’s battery as a computer hard drive with two unequal partitions. The large partition is used for pure electric driving, and the smaller part is used for ER driving, the same way a regular hybrid uses its relatively small battery: constantly discharging and charging in the name of efficiency. In mountain mode, the smaller partition is temporarily increased. For the record, sport mode is mostly a novelty. It firms up the adaptive dampers, adds some heft to the steering, and quickens the accelerator pedal’s action.
The other unavailable EPA test result is EV range. When released, it should be close to 35 miles, or just three miles shy of the Volt’s. If, say, you live 22 miles from work and your commute includes 14 miles of 70-to-80-mph interstate traffic, you could conceivably drive to work, plug the ELR into a 240-volt source, and drive home without consuming a drop of gasoline.
Charging the ELR fully on a 120-volt source takes between 12.5 and 18 hours, depending on ambient temperature and energy flow. We found it charged overnight on a cold evening without a problem on 120. A 240-volt source will recharge a drained battery in five hours, according to Cadillac.

The ELR has what Cadillac calls “Regen on Demand,”  which sort of mimics the way the Tesla Model S initiates regenerative braking every time its driver lifts off the throttle. Squeezing and holding either of the steering-wheel paddles triggers this function. It is either on or off, not progressive like a brake pedal, so there is a bit of a learning curve. Regen on Demand decelerates the car at a maximum of 0.20 g, with the brake lights illuminating at 0.12 g and above. At 0.20 g, an ELR would theoretically stop from 70 mph in about 800 feet, versus 173 feet (0.95 g) in a full-brake situation. But the ELR won’t come to a complete stop using only Regen on Demand.

With practice, you can drive around town with one pedal, using the paddles to engage regen and set up for 90-degree corners or otherwise manage speed. It makes mundane driving partially entertaining; you have to perfectly time it to avoid tapping the brakes. But we’d still rather have maximum regenerative braking when lifting off the accelerator, as in the Tesla.

The styling theme remained fairly static over the ELR’s gestation (the Converj concept that influenced this car made its debut at the 2009 Detroit auto show), and with good reason: The envelope is beautiful and dramatic. It was determined that a low-volume, Volt-based Cadillac was a non-starter without 20-inch wheels, no matter how much their increased rotational inertia and 245-section-width tires hurt efficiency.

Inside, the enormous dash has layers of material that look like stalled lava flows of carbon fiber, wood, suede, and leatherette. The $2450 Kona Brown leather seats come with adjustable thigh support and bolsters. Whether they’re worth the money is debatable, but the color is rich and contributes to an inviting, comfortable forecabin.
The back seat, however, is of little use to anyone eligible for a library card. Even a five-foot-six-inch adult must endure head-on impacts with the rear glass. Cargo capacity can be increased from the trunk’s nine cubic feet if you fold the rear seats, but the extra room isn’t as handy as you might think. The seatback splits 40-20-40, but the 20 part never moves—and not because of any need for body-stiffening structure. Rather, the fixed waterfall design element in the rear seat is strictly cosmetic, reducing the ELR’s practicality even more than its lack of rear headroom.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2014 Chevrolet SS vs. 2013 Dodge Charger SRT8 392

Chevrolet laid its groundwork for the new SS with a profile body for the 2013 NASCAR circuit. The racing Chevy SS and the racing Dodge Charger would have each been that rarest of things: a V-8 rear-drive Sprint Cup competitor modeled after a V-8 rear-drive production car. But the SS arrived just as Dodge quit the series, so fans were cheated.

Instead, the speedway rivalry that never was has simply moved out to the parking lot. The production SS squares off here, on a rainy weekend, against the Dodge Charger SRT8. The latter has strutted alone in Detroit’s arena of civilian rear-wheel-drive muscle sedans since 2009, when GM pulled Pontiac’s plug and with it the SS’s excellent predecessor, the G8. While both the Charger and SS are more sensible than their two-door siblings, the Challenger and the Camaro, these old-school tire smokers cement their relevance by not really giving a damn about it.

Still, Chevrolet wants you to know that its new halo sedan is the brand’s first rear-drive four-door V-8 in nearly 20 years. The SS is as American as can be for a Euro-inspired car built in Elizabeth, South Australia, which is absolutely nowhere near Sydney or any place with a working telephone. Known as the Holden Commodore SS in its home market, the Chevy SS is GM’s third attempt to domesticate one of its Australian ­models—after the ill-fated Pontiac GTO coupe and G8 sedan.

                                            Thus equipped, the Dodge is up 55 horses, 55 pound-feet, and about 10 grand versus the Chevy. But it’s the SS that feels $10,000 dearer.

The Commodore’s current VF chassis (so named for the ­Aussie fashion of giving each new version of a model its own two-letter code) has been updated from the VE structure that we loved in the G8, but it’s still similar to what’s underneath the stubbier Chevrolet Camaro and the stretched  Caprice PPV police cruiser.   Additional aluminum in the suspension, subframes, hood, and trunklid helps the SS shed more than 100 pounds from a comparable G8. GM paid special attention to overall refinement and noise insulation, while a new electrical system ­supports all of the company’s latest safety and entertainment gear, including the feared switch to electric power steering.

A low-volume unicorn for the brand, the handful of SSs to be imported will all be pretty much fully equipped and ready to boogie for $45,770, including a $1300 gas-guzzler fee slapped on the sole engine—a 415-hp, 6.2-liter LS3 V-8. GM’s six-speed 6L80 automatic is sadly the only transmission offered. Although a power sunroof ($900) and a spare tire ($500) are optional, the sporty suspension, Brembo front brakes, and 19-inch wheels with performance tires are all standard.

The Charger SRT8 was last updated in 2012. It’s now a thoroughly modern muscle car, with a sinister mien, a 470-hp 6.4-liter Hemi V-8, driver-adjustable adaptive suspension, and even larger Brembo brakes all around. The Charger also is automatic-only, with just an old five-speed unit until ZF’s ubiquitous eight-speed enters service.

Although budget Super Bee versions of the 2014 SRT start at $45,380 (including $1000 in guzzler tax), the regular SRT is $3000 more and closer to 50 grand when equipped like the Chevrolet. Our test car was a 2013 model mechanically identical to the 2014 SRT; it blossomed from its $47,475 base price to $55,150 with the 2013-only 392 Edition appearance package ($2495), as well as a Harman/Kardon audio system ($1995) and Laguna leather seats ($1495), plus summer performance rubber and a few electronic watchdogs and gizmos that are standard on the SS.

As chest-thumping totems for their respective makes, these cars are here to claim bragging rights. So, after the obligatory burnouts, we headed for the last vestiges of fall color in rain-soaked northern Michigan to see which car best re-imagines the great American performance sedan.


2013 Dodge Charger SRT8 392

With roots in the DaimlerChrysler era, the Charger, like the Chevy, has global genes. (It’s imported, too, from an assembly plant in Ontario, Canada.) But as a proper Mopar, the SRT8 is simply bigger and badder than the Chevy ever will be.
The Charger’s extra-strength Hemi rumbles to life with authority and always feels ready to overwhelm the rear Goodyears with its 470 pound-feet of torque. Our best runs happened without the car’s launch-control software and required a careful throttle foot to optimize wheelspin. Get it right and 60 mph passes in 4.2 seconds, three ticks quicker than in the SS. A similar gap exists at the quarter-mile mark (12.6 seconds to 12.9), with the Charger reaching 114 mph to the Chevy’s 111. The momentum continues to a drag-limited 178 mph, long after the SS’s 160-mph governor kicks in.
While the SRT’s 0.90 g of grip on the skidpad can’t match the Chevrolet’s amazing 0.95-g effort, it did need one less foot to stop from 70 mph (in a short 152 feet). It almost tied the SS’s speed in our slalom test and returned the same 17-mpg average during our 700-mile road trip. Recognizing the importance of such figures to owners, Dodge includes a nifty performance meter in the Charger’s cluster, as well as cup-holder-like recesses in the underhood plastic for lengthy driveway debates about pushrods and engine-block paint.

The big Dodge looks the bruiser, too, particularly with our 392’s black accents and darkened 20-inch wheels.  A numbered badge on the console lends some exclusivity, even though the black roof and rollers are available on all SRT-fettled Chargers. Combined with the beat of a large-displacement V-8, the SRT8 channels the old-timey vibe of  the Pentastar’s Nixon-era classics.
But with 19 points separating it and the SS, along with higher base and as-tested prices, the Charger would need to actually transport us back to Woodward Avenue in its heyday to be considered the winner. At 4371 pounds, the Dodge is 440 pounds heavier than the Chevy and feels every ounce of  it. Its dashboard is as wide as a Ram pickup’s, and the pinched windows and high cowl amplify the sense of corpulence.
An overly stiff suspension carries the bulk. Body roll is tolerable and the adjustable dampers give tight control with auto, sport, and track settings, but all the choices are excessively firm. The stiff legs unsettle the chassis over sections of road that didn’t faze the Chevrolet. Along with hydraulically assisted steering that’s somehow less communicative than the SS’s electric setup, the Charger is a blunt weapon that feels large and detached in rough use.

                                  The Dodge Charger SRT8 offers drivers a plain-spoken layout, easy-to-understand infotainment, and seats of purest butterscotch.


2014 Chevrolet SS

Largely inspired by the 1997–2003 E39 BMW 5-series, the SS’s Holden chassis is a monument to sports-sedan fundamentals. Whereas the Charger bucks about and struggles for grip on rough, twisty pavement, the Chevrolet’s nonadjustable, one-size-fits-all suspension keeps it compliant yet planted on sticky Bridgestones. The accelerator pedal can adjust the car’s cornering attitude as effectively as the precise steering, which progressively builds in feedback and effort despite some numbness on-center. With plenty of confidence, the SS’s lateral grip bests not only that from GM’s last Cadillac CTS-V, but the current Audi S6 and BMW M5 as well.

Much of the SS’s poise is due to good front-rear distribution of its 3931 pounds, barely 100 more than the latest front-drive Impala sedan with a V-6. The firm brakes feel more responsive managing the lower mass, and the car changes direction more assertively than Dodge’s freighter does.

Although the 6.2-liter small-block is down 55 horsepower to the big Hemi, the Chevy’s lighter weight and better traction make it easier to launch at the test track and just as quick as its rival out in the real world. The 12.9-second quarter-mile pass is a solid performance. A superior transmission helps to hurry things, with the six-speed shifting smoothly and never hunting for the proper ratio. The SS still deserves a true manual, but the 6L80’s “sport” setting wakes up the car without being annoying, and the wheel-mounted paddles click off rev-matched downshifts that the Charger’s smaller, slipperier spoke toggles can’t.

The Chevrolet is more pleasant to cruise in, too, with great seats all around and premium-looking details. The SS doesn’t have the supercharged pull or the premium price tag of the burly CTS-V, but it feels like the Caddy’s equal in refinement and overall quality. Chevy’s latest MyLink interface works well in the SS’s sensible layout, which no longer includes the odd, foreign-market quirks found in the old G8 and GTO.

                         The Chevy’s interior is commensurate with its greater chassis and engine refinement. It looks the business, because it is the business.

While the LS3 gently rocks the car at idle and emits a rowdy snarl from its pipes, the SS lacks the Charger’s outright swagger on the street. It’s classier and more reserved in its athleticism, despite its purposeful stance. Having to correct the unacquainted that this is not a fancy Malibu  is one of the SS driver’s few irritants, along with the car’s limited availability. We expect that Chevy will import only a couple thousand examples each year, priced higher than the G8 ever was. After our time in both comparo cars, though, the SS’s 45 grand feels completely justified.

The SS is a rare gem whose name underscores its well-deserved place in Chevy’s heritage. It may not be made in America, but the SS is perfectly at home here.

                                                2014 Chevrolet SS and 2013 Dodge Charger SRT8 392

2014 Chevrolet SS
2013 Dodge Charger SRT8 392

195.5 inches
200.3 inches
74.7 inches
74.2 inches
57.9 inches
58.3 inches
114.8 inches
120.2 inches
62.6 inches
63.4 inches
62.4 inches
63.1 inches
F: 56 cubic feet
F: 51 cubic feet
F: 56 cubic feet
F: 51 cubic feet
16 cubic feet
16 cubic feet


pushrod 16-valve V-8
376 cu in (6162 cc)
pushrod 16-valve V-8
391 cu in (6410 cc)
415 @ 5900
470 @ 6000
415 @ 4600
470 @ 4300
6000 rpm
6250 rpm

6-speed automatic
5-speed automatic


F: struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar
R: multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar
F: multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar
R: multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar
F: 14.0-inch vented disc
R: 12.7-inch disc
F: 14.2-inch vented, grooved disc
R: 13.8-inch vented, grooved disc
fully defeatable, traction off, competition mode
fully defeatable, traction off, launch control
Bridgestone Potenza RE050A
F: 245/40R-19 98Y
R: 275/35R-19 100Y
Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar
F: 245/45ZR-20 99Y
R: 245/45ZR-20 99Y



0–30 MPH
1.8 sec
1.7 sec
0–60 MPH
4.5 sec
4.2 sec
0–100 MPH
10.5 sec
9.9 sec
0–150 MPH
28.6 sec
25.3 sec
12.9 sec @ 111
12.6 sec @ 114
5.1 sec
4.7 sec
2.6 sec
2.6 sec
3.1 sec
2.6 sec
160 mph (gov ltd)
178 mph (drag ltd)

153 feet
152 feet
0.95 g
0.90 g
43.7 mph
43.2 mph

3931 pounds
4371 pounds
21.5 inches
22.0 inches

18.8 gallons
19.1 gallons
91 octane
91 octane
14/21 mpg
14/23 mpg
17 mpg
17 mpg

45 dBA
46 dBA
82 dBA
81 dBA
71 dBA
71 dBA

Final Results

Max Pts. Available
2014 Chevrolet SS
2013 Dodge Charger SRT8 392