By Tony Whitney

2005 Chevorlet Cobalt SS
Photos: GM. Click image to enlarge

The new Chevrolet Cobalt SS supercharged coupe may be based on the Cobalt economy car platform, but it’s a remarkable sports coupe performer and shows what can be done with a bit of technical imagination.

The compact Cobalt comes in 4-door sedan and 2-door coupe styles and the SS is based, understandably, on the sporty 2-door version. The car was developed on a platform that’s widely used now by GM for models all over the world and is an important project for the planet’s biggest automaker.

In any form, the Cobalt coupe is a very attractive little car and in SS guise, it’s not far short of “head-turning.” For those who like the idea of high-performance compacts with trick aerodynamic features but don’t have the time to spend on such projects, this car is the perfect answer.

The Cobalt SS bodywork has various modifications to enhance airflow, including a huge rear wing that would do justice to a touring car racer. It’s a little obtrusive, but few buyers of cars like this are going to complain. Also featured are huge and nicely-styled 18-inch wheels which really set this car off beautifully. They’re finished in a dark gunmetal tone and you can see the big disc brakes through the slim spokes. In the bright yellow my SS came in, the car turned heads wherever it went.

Looks aside, the most dramatic improvement over the basic Cobalt comes from the 4-cylinder powerplant. It’s a GM Ecotec 2.0-litre and is equipped with a supercharger to endow it with 205-horsepower. Put simply, by the way, superchargers are driven by the engine to increase breathing and thus power, while turbochargers get the same job done by driving the impeller with exhaust gases.

2005 Chevorlet Cobalt SS
Photos: GM. Click image to enlarge

Getting over 100-horsepower per litre of displacement is an achievement by any automaker and this puts the Cobalt SS in a very special class. The car will top 100 km/h in less than 6.5-seconds.

By the way, 2006 Cobalt SS sedans and coupes are also available with a 171 horsepower 2.4 litre 4-cylinder engine with variable valve timing.

In my supercharged test car, there wasn’t as much torque steer as I expected. This tendency for the steering wheel to go its own way under hard acceleration in front wheel drive cars can be a real problem with power like this. In fact, the car is very stable and tractable when driven hard, though it’s very easy to chirp the front (driven) wheels when really taking off quickly.

2005 Chevorlet Cobalt SS
Photos: GM. Click image to enlarge

The car is sporty and responsive, rather than refined, but this would be expected in the small performance coupe class. The only model I’ve driven recently that came close to the Cobalt SS was a Dodge SRT-4 with its 230-horsepower, 2.4-litre engine.

My test car came with the standard 5-speed manual transmission that matched the engine characteristics very well indeed. I’d go as far as to say that it was one of the best manual transmissions I’ve ever experienced in a Chev – including the latest Corvette. By the way, an automatic transmission is not available on SS supercharged models.

The interior is fairly plain, but very businesslike, with a great driving position, nice grippy steering wheel and a decent set of gauges.

2005 Chevorlet Cobalt SS
Photos: GM. Click image to enlarge

Sitting behind the wheel with that big wing looming in the rear view mirror, it’s easy to believe that you’re heading out on the track to race – especially when you hear the engine note. On the other hand, the wing impairs vision just where a rapidly approaching police cruiser would normally come into view.

Handling matches power availability very well and I never felt that this was a quirky car that would sooner or later come back and bite. It does have a larger turning circle than you’d expect (12.4 metres/40.7 feet) – I’d guess bigger than a Hummer H3! – but this just means you have to plan U-turn manoeuvres a little more carefully. Incidentally, much of the handling development was carried out at Germany’s legendary Nurburgring race circuit.

2005 Chevorlet Cobalt SS
Photos: GM. Click image to enlarge

It’s good to see a model like this in the Chevrolet line-up and it should please performance car fans still mourning the loss of the Camaro.

There are lots of “extras” on the SS model, including ABS, remote entry, cruise control and power windows and mirrors. The front seats are very well shaped and hold you in place effectively during hard cornering.

The 2005 Cobalt SS costs a reasonable $25,000 in basic form and around $26,000 as tested. This is a fairly inexpensive way to get some very exhilarating performance.

Technical Data: 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt SS supercharged coupe

Base price $25,000
Options None
Freight $930
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $26,030
Type 2-door, 5-passenger compact coupe
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 2.0 litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves, supercharger
Horsepower 205 @ 5600 rpm
Torque 200 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual
Tires P215/45ZR-18 performance, W-rated
Curb weight 1327 kg (2925 lb.)
Wheelbase 2624 mm (103.3 in.)
Length 4580 mm (180.3 in.)
Width 1725 mm ( 67.9 in.)
Height 1415 mm (55.7 in.)
Trunk space 394 litres (13.9 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 10.1 L/100 km (28 mpg) Imperial
  7.3 L/100 km (39 mpg) Imperial
Fuel type Unleaded Premium recommended
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Assembly location Lordstown, Ohio

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