2008 Chevrolet Cobalt SS First Drive
Chevy cracks Japan’s sport compact code
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.