Tuesday, February 24, 2015

10k: Bumble Beater: 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt SS

Like a hoodie-wearing slacker who aces his finals, the Chevrolet Cobalt SS is a car that constantly exceeds expectations.  You wouldn't expect a front drive econobox to be as fast as a Nissan's 350Z Track edition at the track, or that it would wallop everyone else in the under $30k category in Car & Driver's 2008 Lightning Lap at Virginia International Raceway, but that is exactly what the king of the torsion beam rear end can do.  Find this 2009 Cobalt SS offered for $13,500 in Michigan via NASIOC forums.

The Cobalt name may be synonymous with  GM's ignition key recall (aka keygate) but fatality in the performance version comes from excess speed because this thing is faster than it should be.  The SS version is powered by a 2.0 liter version of GM's Ecotec inline-4 that pushes out 260 horsepower and 260 ft-lbs of torque into a front wheel (or both if you opt for the G85 performance package) via a 6-speed manual gearbox. 

This example has a few more ponies freed from the LNF turbo engine via exhaust and tuning (300-350 hp?), but the sticky Dunlop rubber up front should help contain some of the added torque...at least in higher gears.  This isn't a stock survivor SS, but if you are going to drive an arrest me yellow car with a coffee can exhaust, it may as well be stupid fast. 

See a faster econobox for less? tips@dailyturismo.com


  1. Faster econobox? I'm not sure there is one.

    I remember driving these at GM's Auto Show in Motion and being surprised how awesome it was to drive fast on a small course with tight turns. There was an hour long line to drive a Corvette around a single corner (with a "pro" driver who pulls the e-brake when you go too fast), but I could repetitively hop in and drive the SS around a short autocross track with rarely anyone else wanting a turn. Such an awesome day.

    Don't think I have enough hair gel (or hair) to own a yellow one.

  2. The pig, an 08 g5 sedan (my current daily) is good in the snow and has remote start. The only good things good about this car. The seats are shite the driving position is amazingly terrible and the interior is forked after nine months. In the snow though it will go through anything And it amazes me every storm, which here is every four days lately.

  3. My son-in-law has the early stick-shift Cobalt SS with the supercharger.
    I got to drive it a few times and I must say it was a lot of fun.
    The performance and handling were amazing. I could not believe I was driving a Cobalt.
    I think it would be awesome to totally debadge one and make it look like the low rent model.
    Then smoke some German iron through the twisties.

    1. ...and yet the later turbo version is much, MUCH better.

      Faster, smoother, better balanced, the front suspension has a lot of pieces (prerelease Cruze stuff, I think) that never got into any other Cobalt, the chassis got the full John Heinricy number at the Nordschleife, and you can get (and should NOT pass up) the helical limited-slip differential.

      Yeah, there's room to grumble about the interior materials, and I'm no fan of the two-door shape, but it's a damn sweet car to drive.

    2. A few of us here in the DT "offices" got to drive an early SS competitor, the car used by Garrett to develop a turbo kit to get the base model 2.2L engine up above the supercharged SS power levels.

      The rest of the car was obviously way out of its league, but the engine pulled amazingly. No need to downshift to execute uphill passes on high desert highways - just leave it in 5th and the turbo speed responded almost linearly with throttle position.

      The front suspension was woefully inadequate - grip was a constant problem and you could see/feel the control arms and struts banging around under the unit body.

      I'm sure the real SS was a better all-around car but the 2.2L Ecotec plus GT2860R is a great combo. Maybe better suited for a kit car type build or as a swap in a Fiero.

  4. I think the post is wrong in one regard - the Cobalt SS uses a 5-speed F35 gearbox, not a 6-speed.

  5. This one's more to my taste, a little more money but sedan, LSD, minimal mileage, and no questionable aftermarket cruft.


    GM had a warrantied bump-kit to push the LNF to 300HP, and for a real-world driver that's about as far as I'd go.

  6. Apparently if you remove the rear wing, you gain a couple mph to your top speed, and you can see out the rear window. Lots of SS owners sold their wings to non-SS owners, which is an awesome deal for a piece of aero kit that slows you down.

    My worst ever trackday experience was following one of these things, in yellow to boot. I was in a BMW that had maybe half the horsepower of the Chevy, he would walk (walk isn't the right word, it was seriously fast, and I was seriously not) away from me in the straights, but I'd be on his tail by the apex of every turn. The **** should have let me by, but he didn't. I should have pulled into the pits and waited half a lap so I could follow somebody else, but then I'd just be caught in traffic again. Don't be a dick at track days.

    1. If your worst-ever trackday experience hasn't involved a flatbed home, a tow truck, or at least cleaning a lot of mud and grass out of the car, then you're doing okay ;)

  7. There was grass/mud cleaning and a bent lower valence involved later in the day, the Cobalt was just the beginning.

  8. In my opinion, some significant Cobalt SS contenders are the Mazdaspeed 3, GTI, WRX, HHR SS (related!), Ion Red Line (related!) and Neon SRT-4. Are they as fast? Mostly, no. But the interior quality, exterior design and handling tradeoffs are clear and worthwhile in comparison. As noted, the difference between the supercharged and turbo versions of the Cobalt SS are significant. This could be a future “sleeper” collectible, for sure.

    It’s also worth noting this is one of the cars affected by the notorious ignition recall. “Hey look Ma, my car can turn itself off going over a bump at speed. Yippee!”

    1. The GTI has better material quality but it feels a bit heavy compared to the Cobalt.

      The Mazdaspeed3 is almost as fast, the material quality's a bit better and it's a hatchback which is preferable but it doesn't feel ANYWHERE near as good to drive, everything about it feels artificial and electronically managed. And then there's the Joker-face. This is one car that did NOT impress me.

      The HHR SS has the same powertrain but it's tall and chunky and didn't get the chassis tuning of the Cobalt.

      The Ion's build quality makes the Cobalt look like a Bentley.

      The WRX is a nice car, I could own one, but the Cobalt is faster (in the dry, at least) than any Impreza short of a well-tuned old STi.

      The Neon is fast and has lots of tuning potential but it's screwed together like a postal delivery van and the SRT-4 has in my opinion the worst seats of any production car of the past decade and a half. Just intolerable. A decent car to strip down for a track slut but as a daily driver...uh...no thanks.

    2. I think this is mrkwong's round-about way of agreeing with me. Sort of. Maybe. Who knows. I'm pretty sure he doesn't really agree with anybody, at any time. But I'll take the support! Besides, I answered the question that DT put out there to some degree, so I'm happy.


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