What’s New – Chevy updates the Cobalt SS coupe for 2008 with a 260-horsepower turbocharged engine borrowed from the HHR SS and a host of upgrades including Brembo brakes, a track-tuned suspension, mesh grille inserts, standard 18-inch forged aluminum wheels rolling on performance tires, deeply bolstered sport seats, and a low-profile spoiler. Collectively, it creates a daily driver capable of hitting 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and using up every bit of its 160-mph speedometer.
Why It Matters – Buyers interested in sport compact cars, those known for affordable performance with varying degrees of style tossed in, have long found themselves making payments to companies such as Honda, Nissan, Mazda, and Volkswagen. The previous Cobalt SS provided buyers with a domestic alternative, and now the ante has been upped with the 2008 version. Providing more ponies than most of its competitors, matching or beating base prices, and doing it all with the only 100,000-mile powertrain warranty in the bunch, the 2008 Cobalt SS coupe demands a second look from those seeking thrills on a budget.
Chevrolet Cobalt SS – 2008 First Drive: “Our rewards are directly proportional to the efforts that we make.”
So said Colts quarterback, Peyton Manning, when addressing a group of roughly 1,100 people in 2004 during what was essentially a motivational speech about life. No doubt these are words to live by, but they hold particular relevance as we discuss, of all things, the Chevrolet Cobalt SS.
When first introduced as a supercharged model for 2005, the Cobalt SS represented Chevy’s foray into the burgeoning sport compact scene, long dominated by Japanese rides bearing the names Honda and Mazda and Subaru, with a few others such as Volkswagen thrown in to round things out. General Motors, and the domestics as a whole, were largely absent, and though the 205-horsepower Cobalt SS made a strong case, it failed to gain widespread appeal.
Things just might change when word gets out about the 2008 version.
GM unleashed its Performance Division on the little front-drive Chevy, allowing this band of gearheads to play with everything from the powertrain to the steering. The supercharged four-banger was swapped out for a 260-horse turbocharged unit, the five-speed manual transmission offers a no-lift feature and short throws, the track-tuned suspension sits an inch lower than stock, the standard 18-inch rubber bears a Z rating, and the front brake calipers carry the Brembo name. It all boils down to a car starting at less than $23,000 that’ll hit 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, offers 0.9g of lateral grip (Chevy’s estimate), pegs the needle at 160 mph, and returns an EPA-rated 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.
The question remains: Will the 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt SS fly off dealers’ lots when it goes on sale in April? Will the sedan version do the same when it debuts in July? If not, it won’t be due to a lack of engineering effort, though it just might be due the one area that was seemingly overlooked – styling.
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2008 Chevrolet Cobalt SS - Notable Features
There are two key elements that make the updated Cobalt SS stand out: its 260-horsepower turbocharged engine and its $22,995 base price. That Chevrolet, the company best known for building brutish full-size SUVs and pickups, would be the brand to deliver an entertaining and affordable sport compact worthy of causing the imports pause makes this all the more interesting.
In addition to the potent four-banger, the front-drive Chevy Super Sport also boasts four-wheel antilock disc brakes with Brembo calipers attached up front, standard StabiliTrak, a Competitive Mode function similar to that found on the Corvette, an available limited-slip differential, and standard front-side airbags. Word is a USB jack for direct MP3 connection will be available when the 2009 models debut this summer.
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2008 Chevrolet Cobalt SS - Models and Pricing
Chevy has waited until the last part of the 2008 model year to launch the turbocharged Cobalt SS coupe. Sedan versions accompany the coupes when 2009 models go on sale in late July.
Priced from $22,995 including destination charges, the 2008 Cobalt SS coupe arrives almost fully-equipped for about $1,000 more than the version it replaces. Standard features include the 260-horsepower engine, a five-speed manual transmission, steering wheel controls including an integrated trip computer, cruise control, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, a tilt leather-wrapped steering wheel, and keyless entry with a remote trunk release. Buyers also get a thumping sound system with a trunk-mounted subwoofer, an auxiliary input jack, and available satellite radio.
Options are limited to a large rear wing that was standard for 2007 (replaced with a low-profile spoiler for 2008) and now retails for $195, a power glass moonroof with sunshade that’ll cost you $750 and a bit of head room, and a $495 limited-slip differential that’s a must-have for anyone planning to track their new Cobalt SS on a regular basis. You’ll notice that an automatic transmission is missing from the list; Chevy suggests that those interested in a turbo mated to an automatic check out the HHR SS. Also missing from the roster are fancy features such as a navigation system and leather upholstery, neither of which would make this so-called streetable and affordable track car reach 60 mph any faster.