little Bow-Tie coupe with a healthy touch of Ďtude
By Bruce W. Smith - Editorial Services LLC - Special to GCN
Two tractor-trailer rigs lumbered up the Canal Road on-ramp, eastbound onto I-10. The snailís pace and wide-open Interstate looming ahead was the perfect excuse to open up GMís supercharged hot-rod econobox coupeóthe Cobalt SS.
Seconds later, after quickly snicking up through four of the short-throw trannyís five gears, it was pretty apparent GM has a keeper with their Cavalier replacement.
Oh, how I wished this was the famed Nurburgring racetrack in Germany where GM wrings out their Corvettes. It would be fun to see where the speedometerís needle stops.
But reality doesnít allow such fun. With the semis fading rapidly in the distance and that inner glow that comes with knowing you are driving something a little out of the ordinary I slow to a more law-abiding pace, flipping the shift lever into its top notch.
Such behavior is almost unavoidable the first few times you slide into the new Cobalt SS driverís seat. The supercharger sitting under the hood, Recaro bucket seats in front, the short-lever of the shifter, the carís squatty stance, and the clear view of the tall spoiler out the rearview mirror all entice driving with a bit of attitude.
The Cobalt SS really is a lot of car for the $21,430 price tag Chevrolet has placed on its newest sporty offering. The nearest competitor in performance-for-the-dollar is the Dodge Neon SRT4 ($21,195).
It should be; development of this highest-performance Ecotec variant found under the Cobalt SS hood comes from GM Racing, GM High Performance Vehicle Operations (HPVO) and Saab.
According to GM, to attain durability targets, the Ecotec 2.0L SC received upgraded components in critical stress areas. ďExperience in the National Hot Rod Associationís Championship Drag Racing series told engineers where the Ecotec would most benefit from heavy-duty components. Modified Ecotec engines routinely produce over 1,000 horsepower in drag racing trim.Ē
That knowledge base is what makes the SS such a strong runner. Although the four-door SRT4 is about 40 pounds lighter and sports 25 more ponies, the Cobalt SS, running the supercharged 205-horsepower 2.0L Ecotec in-line four, has proven to be the Neonís equal on the strip turning 0-60mph times in six seconds and ripping through the ľ-mile in 14.4 seconds at 100mph.
The Cobalt is a slightly better performer in braking and cornering, too, mostly due to its fatter tires and quicker revving engine. The Cobalt SS I recently tested here on the Gulf Coast also seems to be better than the Neon SRT4 in other ways.
The Cobalt SS utilizes drive-by-wire steering, which has been wanting in the past. The system in the SS has been refined to the point that you hardly know itís there, making the car feel almost as if it was old-fashioned rack-and-pinion steering.
If the new Cobalt SS has any weakness itís in the rear suspension. I found it a little firm (GM still uses a solid torsion beam instead of independent rear suspension like many of its competitors), but perfectly acceptable for a sport compact.
That aside, the Cobalt is quieter inside and the interior is better appointed and more comfortable than the four-door Dodge. I also found both head and legroom front and rear are plentiful, and the big door openings make it relatively easy to get in and out of the 60/40 folding rear seats.
That roominess extends into the trunk, which is massive by compact car standards. No problem putting four sets of golf clubs, or enough food and beverages for a considerable beach party. By the way, the seats open into the trunk, further extending the cargo carrying ability.
Other notable Cobalt SS standard features: anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes; dual-stage air bags with optional side-curtain protection; air conditioning; electric rear defogger; CD player and driver information center. You can also upgrade to heated leather seats, power sunroof, XM Satellite Radio (continental U.S. only), MP3 playback and OnStar.
What you canít get with the supercharged Cobalt SS is an automatic. Hey! Itís a sports coupe, not a grocery getter.
Maybe GM will offer that when the 2006 Cobalt SS arrives. Itíll have the same 2.4L Ecotec in-line four as found in the standard Cobalt sedansóonly supercharged. Now thatíll be an on-ramp rocket.óBruce W. Smith
2005 Chevrolet Cobalt SS
Base MSRP: $21,430
MSRP As Tested: $23,495
Major options: Front Limited Slip Differential; Recaro(R) Bucket Seats
Type: 2-door compact sport coupe
Engine: Ecotec DOHC 2.0L In-Line Four
Fuel system: EFI & Supercharged
Horsepower: 205 @5600 rpm
Torque: 200 lb.-ft. @4400 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Axle Ratio: 4.05:1
Wheels: 18x7 cast alloy
Fuel Economy: 23 city / 29 hwy