What it Is
2008 Chevrolet Cobalt SS Turbo Preview – SEMA Show: Many moons have passed since “Chevrolet” and “performance” were uttered in the same sentence. Unless, that is, talk was of the Corvette, the late Camaro, or many unworthy recent SS models. Chevy officials openly admitted that the Super Sport badge was being overused, and suggested that, in the future, it would be reserved for only truly qualified vehicles. Based on the 260-horsepower turbocharged 2008 Cobalt SS, all indications are that these guys are true to their word.
By Thom Blackett
MyRide Senior Road Test Editor
Photo credit: Staff, Chevrolet
Why it Matters
It’s a good time for sport compact shoppers with rides like the redesigned Volkswagen GTI, Honda Civic Si, Dodge Caliber SRT4, and Mazdaspeed 3 hitting the market. But with Chevy dropping its Cobalt SS Supercharged model, it looked like GM would be left out of the mix. Now word comes that the model will live on, albeit with turbocharged rather than supercharged power. The move, utilizing the same engine as is found in the HHR SS, makes sense and provides 260 horsepower – better than or equal to most of the competition. For speed junkies on a budget, that keeps the Chevy brand on the coveted young buyer’s consideration list.
What’s Under the Hood
Power for the 2008 Cobalt SS comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-banger with dual continuous variable-valve timing and direct injection. Total output registers 260 horses at 5,300 rpm and 260 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,000 rpm, all of which is delivered to the front wheels thanks to a five-speed manual transmission. Chevy reports a 0-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds. The 2,975-lb. SS rides on MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam suspension under out back, with an antilock disc brake setup featuring Brembo calipers charged with bringing things to a timely stop. Standard alloy rollers measure 18 inches and are wrapped in 225/40 Z-rated rubber.
What it Looks Like
Props go out to Chevy designers for avoiding all the boy racer add-ons that have plagued sport compact cars for so long. Though its style is rightfully short of refined, the ’08 Cobalt SS is a bit understated, thanks in part to a smaller rear spoiler (the oversized rear wing is optional). Other exterior enhancements include revised fascias, front mesh inserts in the grille and new lower air dam, and stylish forged aluminum wheels. Buyers can choose from seven colors: White, Sport Red Tintcoat, Rally Yellow, Imperial Blue, Ultra Silver Metallic, Black, and Victory Red.
SS-embroidered seats serve to distinguish the turbocharged Cobalt from its less sporting brethren, as do suede upholstery inserts, unique gauges including one marking boost pressure, and a specific short-throw shifter. Countering the seven exterior colors are three for the interior: Ebony, Light Gray, and Victory Red.
What Chevrolet Says
Chevy’s General Manager, Ed Peper, says “The Cobalt SS is the very essence of Chevrolet’s fun spirit and serious performance. The horsepower will put a permanent smile on your face and you’ll find yourself wanting to turn around and zip through your favorite stretch of twisty roads again.” John Heinricy of GM’s Performance Division, adds “The Cobalt SS delivers an integrated driving experience that balances a strong, satisfying feeling of acceleration with a precise, responsive chassis. It has been tuned to deliver confident handling and road manners, while also maintaining overall ride comfort.”
What We Think
Not too long ago we spent a day at the track comparing the Cobalt SS Supercharged against the GTI, Civic Si, and a supercharged tC. Though it didn’t win, the Cobalt impressed us with its power and handling capabilities. Adding an extra 55 horses should only improve matters, provided torque steer doesn’t become more of an issue. With GM’s renewed focus on quality, in addition to that extra boost of power, the 2008 Cobalt SS holds strong potential for its debut this coming Spring. However, we continue to question why this model isn’t sold as a Pontiac G5, putting it within GM’s “performance” brand.