First Look: 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS
Retro wagon gets the Super Sport treatment
By Kirill Ougarov
Chevrolet has finally made official one of the worst-kept automotive secrets of the year: the HHR, its Cobalt-based retro wagon, will be the latest vehicle to wear the brand's famous SS badge.
Having taken flak for previous watered-down efforts like the Malibu SS that had the Bow Tie brigade crying foul, GM has taken several steps to ensure the hopped-up 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS -- developed under the direction of the GM Performance Division -- is worthy of the Super Sport moniker. The vehicle is being revealed on the eve of the Woodward Dream Cruise, where scores of old school SS-badged Chevys are always out in full force.
The HHR SS uses the same 260 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged Ecotec four-cylinder found in the Pontiac Solstice GXP/Saturn Sky Red Line. The engine is mated to either a Saab-sourced five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. Interestingly, automatic-equipped models have been de-tuned to 235 horsepower -- likely in an attempt help with torque-steer issues and/or reduce stress on the tranny.
To help the vehicle handle the added power, GM has fitted it with a Nurburgring-tuned suspension that it claims can deliver up to 0.86 g of grip. The SS's 14.8:1 steering ratio is 20 percent quicker than that of a standard HHR and provides improved steering response, according to the automaker.
All four wheels are fitted with anti-lock disc brakes -- 11.65 inches in diameter up front and 9.84 inches in rear -- behind 18.0-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. A limited-slip differential (an item that should be standard equipment on any powerful front-drive vehicle) is available as an option with the five-speed.
Chevrolet claims the manual-transmission equipped HHR SS can sprint from 0-to-60 in 6.3 seconds and cover a quarter mile in 14.8 at 98.5 mph with a top speed of more than 150 mph -- respectable numbers given the car's nearly 3300-lb heft.
Cosmetic alterations are plentiful. The exterior is fitted with new front and rear fascias and side rocker panels, mesh-style upper and lower grilles, a rear roof spoiler, body-color door handles, rearview mirrors, license-plate surround, and, of course, SS badges on the front doors and tailgate. Inside, the HHR SS is fitted with an A-pillar-mounted boost gauge, along with sport seats with suede inserts accented with embroidered SS logos. Optional equipment includes side-impact airbags (strange, given that most new cars come with them standard), and a power moonroof.