Old men don’t want to be embarrassed. But they do want to have fun. The trick is to enjoy yourself discreetly — with modest swagger in your walk and talk, with a certain authority when you rock and roll.
It is not a matter of midlife or senior crisis, nothing like that. It is a deep appreciation of the feel, look and sound of things — the thrust of a well-tuned V8 gasoline engine sending power to the rear wheels of what appears to be an innocent family sedan, the old school rumble-gurgle-pop of the engine and twin tailpipes at ignition, the sheer joy of the launch.
It is knowing what you have in hand and holding it without shame or guilt. This is a car — the 2014 Chevrolet SS full-size sedan, a limited-run automobile offered by the Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors via a unit of GM’s Holden subsidiary in Elizabeth, South Australia.
I first saw it on a floor in the North Hall of New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center at the recently concluded 2014 edition of the New York International Auto Show. It was conspicuously posed there wearing what GM calls “Red Hot # 2” exterior paint, hyper-polished and shined for the occasion. I fell in love with it and vowed not to leave the place until I had gotten a firm commitment from someone at GM/Chevrolet to drive the SS — that particular SS with that exact paint job — after the show ended.
I succeeded in that endeavor and drove the Chevrolet SS for a week — a total of 721 miles! What a week!
The SS is an amalgam of contradictions — thrillingly brash road performance in a car that would look perfectly at home in a parking space attached to a Jesuit rectory. It is equipped with a Corvette engine — a 6.2-liter gasoline V8 delivering 415 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. It has a nearly two-ton factory weight — poundage minus passengers and cargo — 3,975 pounds, to be exact.
Yet, it moves from 0 to 60 mph in five seconds and reaches that speed without screeching wheels or other adolescent theatrics. Acceleration is smooth, instant — almost magical. But, as is the case with all magic, this one also comes with penalty. I held on to my gasoline receipts — $126.73 for 721 miles. My mathematics are influenced by place and time of purchase. But the costs seem to accurately reflect the reality of a car that delivers 14 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway — dropping it below the required city/highway combination of 22.5 mpg to avoid a federal gas guzzler tax.
The guzzler tax on this one is $1,300, figured into an overall base sticker price of $43,475.
The fuel-economy penalty — that is, the lack of fuel economy — should upset no one. No right-thinking consumer would order a 6.2-liter gasoline V8 engine in a nearly two-ton, full-size sedan expecting top fuel economy, not any more than a sane individual would enter a strip club expecting to find the Queen of Virtue.
The pursuit in both cases is excitement. The SS delivers.
The car has everything — front brakes with two-piece rotors and four-piston calipers by racetrack supplier Brembo; a six-speed automatic transmission that also can be shifted manually; forged aluminum, 19-inch-diameter wheels with Bridgestone high-performance tires front and back.
To executives at BMW, kindly take note: While you all insist on charging your buyers for advanced safety options that should be offered as standard equipment on your ultra-expensive automobiles, GM/Chevrolet has gone the “shared value” route on the 2014 Chevrolet SS. That’s “shared value” — offering the best to the consumer even at higher costs to the manufacturer because that makes happy consumers who, ultimately, are willing to reward the manufacturer with more of their business. To wit: Standard advanced safety features on the SS include automatic parking assistance, which enables hands-free parking; eight air bags, including knee bolsters for the driver and front passenger; forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning, blind-side monitoring; and rear cross-traffic alert systems.
There also are heated seats and a rear-vision camera — offered as standard stuff, all for a price that is nearly $19,000 below the 2014 BMW 435i coupe sitting in my driveway without many of those advanced safety options — at this writing.
The SS was expensive to run, but I was reluctant to part with its company. I loved being in it, loved driving it. It pumped new blood into being 66. Thank you, Chevrolet.