Do you ever force yourself to think in hypotheticals? Fans of the sci-fi subgenre Steam Punk will understand the idea of returning to a point in history and imagining a world evolving differently from that point. For instance, what if the characteristics that defined the family car in the ‘50s and ‘60s defined it still today? What if our roads were filled, instead of with slow, confused, slushy crossovers; with large, powerful sedans, spinning their rear tires and making their owners shift for themselves?
Such an alternate version of United States history actually exists – just not here. This is a picture of the Australian market. The big island down under is one of the best places in the world to be a gearhead. They’re obsessed with muscle and tire smoke. They have entire competitions just for burnouts. They built the Mount Panorama circuit at Bathurst. They host MotoGP, Formula One, and V8 Supercars. And next year, Holden, their branch of GM, is sending us a car.
The 2014 Chevrolet SS will be a full-size, RWD sedan, the first Chevy has sold in 17 years.
This isn’t GM’s first port of an Australian vehicle. A few years ago, while Pontiac was still alive and struggling for breath, they tied their hopes to the Pontiac G8, a Yank version of the Holden VE Commodore. And frankly, it was brilliant. The brand, however, was not, and was sacrificed to keep GM afloat.
But the new car market, particularly among the Big Three, is much stronger these days, indicating that the SS might just be crazy enough to work. Rear drivers are booming among the luxury market, with Cadillac’s CTS and ATS and the Chrysler 300 SRT8 (and crickets from Ford). Does this mean the mainstream segment is ready for a return to muscle sedan?
One segment that never left is law enforcement. Chevy already makes a police version of this car, the Caprice, but won’t sell it to anyone not wearing blue. Who knows how long we would have had to wait for used ones to start showing up at local auctions?
The Cop-rice is indeed awesome, but lacks something every muscle sedan needs, something the Aussies equate with a door pass to a club called Manhood: a stick shift. We’re too jaded to get our hopes up for a six-speed in the SS, but we won’t rule it out, either. Both the CTS and ATS are row-your-own cars, and even the Buick Regal GS has three pedals.
The SS also bugles Chevrolet’s return to NASCAR, as the racing “version” of the SS will debut at Daytona next year. They’ve already released a shot of hilariously camouflaged SS rocketing around an oval. (If you’re wondering what it looks like, photoshop a bowtie onto an existing NASCAR racer.)
Other details are scarce right now, but we do know that the SS will have a limited run and will likely be V8 powered.
What does it all mean? Two things: First, it means GM thinks we can be trusted with rear-wheel-drive. Right now the only rear-drivers for sale amongst the Big Three are trucks and luxury or sports cars. The SS will obviously be a sports sedan (SS stands for Super Sport, younguns), but could also serve as a family car. A big, roomy vacationmobile for the average Joe with an above-average hoonage quotient.
Secondly, it means that enthusiasm for such a car actually exists. For decades, the FWD vehicle was far more profitable at the sales desk. Safety, practicality, and (worst of all) image all played into a general disdain for all things pushed. But now the populace seems to want more, the driving experience of a CTS-V without the massive cost. They want it so bad, GM is actually building it.
They (and by they, I mean we) are starting to resemble our cousins down under, who started looking like us half of a century ago. If that means we simple folk get a big, V8 powered muscle sedan, we’re happy to return the favor.