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2005 Chevrolet Cobalt SS

American Rice

    Hold up on the Teriyaki sauce, this one looks to be red hot already! And by that we mean more than just the color of the rice burner that GM sent us. The Cobalt SS does not play by the muscle car rules of engagement, save one. Lots of power! My apologies up front, as Rice Rockets and the like are not generally welcomed with the kind of open armed, warm and fuzzy feelings that we reserve for cars with, well let’s just say, a few more cubes. Nonetheless, me and my little chilly pepper got along just fine.
     Styling of the Cobalt in general is tasteful, keeping the flash factor dialed down, as editor Dye so noted about the standard cars in his review. Enter the SS, however, and that reserved no-flash idea gets thrown out the window. A unique front fascia features a wider grille opening with a low chin spoiler and tiny foglamps set deep. Side skirts wrap around the body adding visual weight with large white and silver SS badges adorning the leading edges of the doors. The rear fascia features lower egg-crate grilles and looks unique, but gives the Cobalt a very large booty, especially when combined with the excessively large rear wing that looks as though it would be better fitted to a Cessna. The aggressively shaped greenhouse lends the Cobalt a distinct boy racer image as well, but the pinched rear side windows are about useless when it comes to checking blindspots, and forget about seeing anything past that huge rear wing. It’ll obstruct your view of every over-eager deputy in the county.
     Power to the people is what they say. Well, power to the driver anyways. Residing under the bonnet of this red rocket is a 2.0-liter EcoTec four-banger. A Eaton M62 helical roots-type blower forces an extra 12 psi down the throat of the Eco, winding out 205 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 200 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. Keeping her going with haste means keeping her on the boil. An air-to-water intercooler joins the combo keeping the charge air cool for maximum combustibility. The Cobalt loves to rev and watching the boost gauge needle rise and fall elicits an extra inch of smile. Having this very healthy amount of power plagued the Cobalt with a spinning inside tire once in a while, making for some interesting maneuvers. GM has the solution for it too, and why our car was missing this one very vital option package still leaves us scratching our heads. Anyways, the performance package adds a limited-slip differential and Recaro seats. More on the seats later, but the limited-slip diff is worth it enough to benefit checking the option box. The engineers seem to have a handle on the torque steer, keeping it subdued, yet feel remains weighted and accurate. Near as we can figure, somebody hacked into the electronics and dialed in some feedback, because as the press kit reads, the SS is still turning with the same electric steering as the standard Cobalts, and they refuse to talk. The 18” rolling stock did its best to keep hold of things, the Pirelli Rosso’s leaving the driver confident of a surefooted run. The sole transmission choice is a 5-speed manual, though the Getrag gearbox like in the LS sedan we had a while back was ditched in favor of the Swedish FPG F35 Saab tranny. Swapping gears happens with smooth action, not quite rifle precision, but satisfying close. Clutch take up was quite light. Matching revs and heal toe shifting were of little difficulty. The highlight, however, had to be in the stopping department. Hauling this little guy down to a stand still required little more than a firm foot. Braking performance was strong with excellent feel and short stopping distances.
     Inside the SS one can expect all the same niceties as in lesser Cobalts. The color scheme is a bit more creative, however, leaving the organic look to the LT, LS, and base models. Bright red inserts trim the doors and seats, with embroidered SS badging in the seat backs. Our only gripe was the difficulty of finding a good seating position. Seemed like no matter how we moved our seat, we always felt as though we were sliding out of it. Lateral support however was excellent. Again, the fix comes down to selecting the performance package option and getting those Recaro sport buckets. Rear seat passengers, unfortunately, don’t benefit either way from the Recaros, as their very square cut cushions dictate where your hiney goes. Though we did squeeze Dye back there for about a half hour during an ice cream run, and according to him, the 6-foot-plus variety don’t fit very well.
     After sampling the entire family lineup, we still hold that the Cobalt in general is an impressive vehicle. Fit and finish are among the best we’ve seen come out of GM yet, and they keep getting better. The SS is by far the wild child of the family, but we love it just the same. It just wants some attention. And for $22,715, it would be hard not to give this Victory Red rice burner some attention, if this was the market you were looking in.

The Good:
Slick shifter, superb brakes, quality construction.
The Bad:
Gaudy wing impedes rear view, unsupportive seats.
The Verdict:
If buzzy and flashy is your style, then this one’s a looker.


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