Never has a performance badge been so thoroughly misused than “SS” has by Chevrolet. Even when first introduced in 1961, while it stood for “Super Sport” it was merely an appearance package for the Impala. It took five years, until the ’66 Impala, before the SS package actually lived up to its name and offered performance. Joining the Impala there were other trim level upgrades and specially-tuned models with the SS moniker including the Chevelle, El Camino, Monte Carlo, Nova and Camaro, of course, the latter recently revised as the top performance model for the new sports coupe.
Now, trying to associate SS with the Camaro and other hot Chevys, such as the Cobalt SS, HHR SS, Impala SS (current one), Silverado SS and Trailblazer SS, instead of those cars that caused bowtie aficionados to cringe in embarrassment, like the previous generation Malibu SS, Chevrolet has promised SS will only be a performance option from now on.
According to a report in AutoWeek, the Chevy SS badge will be treated with more respect moving forward. Mark Reuss, vice president of global engineering at GM, recently told AutoWeek that the SS badge is alive and well. But instead of slapping it on anything and everything with elevated horsepower, the General told the magazine that Chevy will be more careful when adding the revered appliqué to the grille, fenders and trunk lid in the future.
Reuss is credited to having worked on the Australian-built RWD Zeta architecture which now underpins the Camaro, the same platform that gave life to the now defunct Pontiac G8 (R.I.P.) and will soon give us new respect for our men (and women) in blue (or black, brown, tan… etc), when the Chevy Caprice police interceptor starts hitting the road and replacing the police-spec Impala.
So what can we expect? The Camaro SS will continue, of course, and other rear-drive models make sense too, like the Silverado SS, while an SS version of its compact Cobalt replacement, the Cruze, would be a welcome addition and keep Chevy competitive in the sport compact arena. Yet some vehicles, like the upcoming Orlando, current Equinox and Traverse, should probably remain the people carriers they are and not try to transform into performance nameplates, resulting in the SS badge being dragged through the mud in the process.
Another possibility is a Caprice for the masses, not just a fleet-sold police and taxi cab special that will no doubt stir up excitement at auction. Seemingly a mistake, although many factors could have come into play that only Chevrolet is privy to, Chevrolet didn’t transform the much-loved and lauded Pontiac G8 into a Chevrolet, a car that the brand sells in the Middle East in luxury and sport versions. The opportunity to do this, and even more so to introduce the Pontiac G8 ST (Sport Truck) as an El Camino SS, will be seen as downright criminal by Chevy enthusiasts and unfathomably inane by everyone else, outside of the brand’s inner circle.
Either way, the SS badge appears to be alive and well at GM, although Mr. Reuss, we’ve all heard this enticing tune played before. Maybe you and Chevy should consider bringing back RS (Rally Sport), only for suspension upgrades, and something like ST for “Sport Trim,” as well as SS. An overall brand strategy would help to clarify the buying and selling process.