2008 Chevrolet HHR
Chevrolet originally billed the HHR as being the best of both worlds upon its release two years ago – a vehicle with the dynamics of a car and the practicality of a utility van. However, outright performance was always missing from its agenda, until now. Powered by a new turbocharged 260 hp Ecotec engine, the 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS
is capable of rapid pace yet manages to retain all the everyday usability so central to the base HHR's formula. While the styling might not be for everyone, this is an entertaining retro-wagon – so good, in fact, that you might just forget about its unconventional exterior styling.
What's to Like
The HHR SS sports some serious acceleration, managing to pull itself from 0-60 mph in just 6.3 seconds. Cargo space is massive with fold-flat rear seats as well as an expandable rear cargo shelf. The SS is packed with standard features and accessories.
What's Not to Like
The HHR's sport-tuned suspension can be rough over uneven road surfaces, while the optional automatic four-speed transmission is limited on power and could use a fifth ratio to help maintain the performance of the manual.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
The HHR SS doesn't drive like the tall, unwieldy retro-wagon it actually is. In fact, from behind the wheel it feels more like a front-wheel drive sport sedan. Despite the fact that the HHR is front-wheel drive, Chevy has managed to massage torque steer out of the experience through clever use of revised suspension geometry and an advanced traction control system. The standard 18-inch wheels provide a large footprint and as a result the HHR SS has ample traction to keep understeer at bay. The steering is good on feedback for a front-wheel drive electronic system, but doesn't quite have the high-speed feel of similar hydraulic systems.
Engine and Drivetrain
The HHR SS is powered by the same turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecotec inline four as the Chevy Cobalt SS
, which makes 260 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque when mated to a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic is also on offer, but we wouldn't recommend it to those looking to hustle their HHR, as it is limited to 250 hp and 222 ft-lb of torque and makes do with one less gear, though it does make city driving a breeze.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
The HHR SS comes with plenty of standard equipment including hefty four-wheel antilock disc brakes, 18-inch forged-aluminum wheels, SS model-specific side skirts and front and rear fascias, a liftgate-mounted spoiler and an A-pillar mounted titanium boost gauge. With so much standard equipment, there are few options are available, including a $750 moonroof, the $1,000 four-speed automatic transmission, $395 head curtain side-impact and front and rear outboard airbags and a $295 upgraded sound system.
Key Technology Evaluation
The five-speed Chevy HHR SS features a launch control system which delivers perfect front-wheel drive starts off the line. Once the system is activated, the driver simply pins the throttle with the clutch in and the car takes care of the rest, dialing in 5,100 rpm and using electronic traction control to minimize wheelspin once the clutch is let out. A "no-lift" up shift feature – said to help keep the turbo on-boost – has also been included, which allows the driver to keep the throttle down while completing upshifts. Booh-yah!
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Chevy's new 2.0-liter Ecotec engine is somewhat of a wonder when it comes to fuel economy. While it maintains high power output, its direct injection design helps it return 22 mpg in the city and an impressive 30 mpg on the highway. Even under "spirited" driving conditions, the car rarely delivers less than 20 mpg.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The HHR SS comes with upgraded Ultra Suede sport seats with outer accents, which are available in either ebony, light gray or victory red. While the seats are superior to those of the standard HHR, they unfortunately do not offer vertical adjustment and don't have ample lower back support for the long highway haul.
While the standard HHR's exterior is certainly distinct, the HHR SS builds on the base-model's aesthetics with a sense of aggression. 18-inch wheels, large brakes, extended side-skirts, front and rear fascias and a jet-black grille bring a sense of performance to the HHR's retro-cool styling. No doubt about it, when you spot and HHR SS, you'll know there's something special brooding under the hood.
Market Segment and Pricing
With a base price of $22,995, the Chevy HHR SS packs plenty of performance and practicality. A fully-optioned HHR SS will set consumers back around $26,000, meaning the SS is priced evenly with its biggest competitor, the MazdaSpeed3
. Two very different cars for the same money.
What We Think
The HHR SS offers a fantastic blend of practicality, performance, unique styling and value. It might have a few quirks that keep it from being perfect, but at this price that's part of the game. It will certainly put a smile on your face every time you step on the gas. We hope they make a panel van version for our fleet.
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