Florence, South Carolina, United States
Not including the women and men who built it, the 2014 Chevrolet SS has only been seen in person by a piddling number of people - fewer humans than would fill the gymnasium at a high school volleyball game. Not including the men and women who built it, no one has driven it. Even so, it is already saddled with two controversies: the way it looks and the way it shifts.
First to that shifting. Did we love the last Americanized Holden, the awesomely sportsome Pontiac G8 GXP, and its six-speed manual? Of course. Do we wish the SS came with a six-speed manual? Of course. But we'd like a toboggan to come with a manual transmission. We'd put a manual transmission on a weasel if we could because we're just wired that way; if it moves, it should come with a stick and a clutch. Or at least the option.
Let's climb down off the ledge, though. We haven't driven the SS and we have no idea how good (or not) the automatic is. And the Hobson's Choice in transmissions when it comes to sport sedans like the BMW M5, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG and Jaguar XFR-S and, oh yeah, cars-that-really-should-have-manuals like the Audi R8 and Nissan GT-R and Porsche 918 and every single Lamborghini and Ferrari, for instance, hasn't stopped us from enjoying what is clearly the gruesome, dual-clutched demise of Western automotive civilization. Because in spite of our ululations at the dying of the six-speed light, we understand.
A couple weeks ago, we watched a Chevrolet Silverado get dominated by a Dodge Ram Heavy Duty in a fullsize pickup tug-of-war, but in that truck's defense, Chevy's Vortec gas engine was no match for the torquey Cummins turbo diesel. For our next round of vehicular tug-of-war, a Duramax-powered Silverado HD takes on Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI.
Now, on paper, putting the Duramax V8's 365 horsepower and 660 pound-feet of torque up against the V10's 310 hp and 553 lb-ft looks like an easy win for the Bowtie, but unfortunately, this battle has a similar result as the Dodge versus Chevy video, with the Silverado smoking its tires trying to move forward as it gets pulled backwards. Put another way: YouTube 2, Chevy Silverado 0.
It just goes to show, though, that big tires, bolt-on fender flares and goofy smoke stacks don't improve your towing abilities. Besides, what did the Silverado driver expect when the Touareg V10 TDI has towed a Boeing 747 in the past?
Can A Fleet Queen Become a Fullsize King?
On paper, the Chevrolet Impala is a pretty strong seller, posting annual sales that have hovered right around 170,000 units for the last two years, but it only takes one trip to practically any rental car agency to discover where the majority of those sales have come from. In fact, General Motors told Autoblog that a full 70 percent of Impala sales last year went to fleet companies for things like rental cars and government vehicles. Logic tells us that this is neither good for resale values nor name equity, so Chevrolet is getting ready to roll out an all-new Impala with improved comfort, styling and technology, hoping to turn the tables on its retail-to-fleet ratio.
Chevrolet's sedans have come on quite strong in the last few months with the introduction of the Cruze diesel and the SS sedan, but while these will likely be low-volume sellers, there's more pressure for the new Impala to perform well as GM looks to slash fleet sales and compete with the wide variety of full-size sub-luxury sedans. Riding on a platform shared with the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XTS, the 2014 Impala will compete against the Hyundai Azera, Ford Taurus and Toyota Avalon on the more traditional side, while also looking to take a bite out of somewhat sportier models like the Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger twins and the Nissan Maxima. We headed to sunny San Diego to see if this totally new Impala can stand on its own without the assistance of fleet companies and rental agencies. [w/video