Driven - Jul 2017

The Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute – the Australia-American love child.

Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute Driven Review

Fewer things scream “Merrrica” more so than the fabled V8 motor. Large, boisterous and incredibly charismatic, all combined with the warm fuzzy feeling you get inside, knowing that you have very angry and deaf neighbours. This is the stuff of petrolhead dreams, in theory at least. The enormity and thirst of a V8 in a country like South Africa is a rather silly notion to the average person. This primarily due to the underlying fact that at around R12.86 for a litre of 95 unleaded, it’s rather hefty on the pocket. More so if you have the joys of 16l/100 km while driving your noise machine around town. But nonetheless, the V8 is simple, uncomplicated and rather cool.

So what happens when you combine a 6.0-litre V8 shafted from a Corvette and another uncomplicated thing, the ute, or half-ton bakkie to you and I. This sounds like a rather ponderous mess, but GM didn’t think so when they introduced the Chevrolet Lumina SS UTE, as a performance variant that cost far less than the typical German alternatives. Years later, I have finally sampled this machine in its final SSV rendition and have managed to compile some rather interesting thoughts.


This is by no means the best element of the bruiser, as it does consist of materials found in far cheaper cars, but the list of standard features is comprehensive, like the standard touchscreen radio with iPod/USB/Mp3 and Sav nav. The two power leather buckets are rather well bolstered and the list of safety and convenience features is long and inclusive. Auto-lights and wipers, Cruise control, six-airbags and storage behind the two front seats.

Driving Impressions

The V8 Swansong is where this big-ol’ girl comes to life, even cruising around town, you are constantly reminded by this deep rumbling baritone of whats lurking under the bonnet. A generous 6.0-litres, good for 270 kW and 530 N.m, all of these horses driving just the rear wheels, and after much searching, in the configuration of the test car, a ‘stick shift’, enough for a 6.5 second robot dash and a rather un-bakkie like 240 km/h. When driving spiritedly, the Ute is incredibly accomplished, both as a bakkie and more so as a proper full-cream sports car. The V8 provides very linear and constant power all the way to the red line and doesn’t really feel like you are standing on a bomb that explodes and vomits power at your spine, but instead a sustained machine-gun fire, it’s still rather good at ‘killing you’ so to speak. Silly metaphors aside, It’s quick, period. The steering is good, but feels strangely numb and is not the greatest at communicating the direction of the tyres, but does the job fairly well.  The brake pedal did get a bit soft when really pressing on, even with the 335 mm Brembo vented-discs hidden under the 19-inch chrome drug-dealeresque wheels. Getting this car to behave is the tricky part, turning off the driver aids is like strapping yourself to the tail of an excitable shark, eager to turn around and show its digestive tract. The rear end skids about and powerslides are initiated at the slightest touch of the loud pedal and the sheer brutality of the torque lets you pin its giant haunches way out there in fantastic hero like slides. It’s a complete laugh, and you’ll marvel at the amount of fun you can have and just how quickly it humbles many a 2-seater sports car.

Final Thoughts

The SS Ute could only be a product of a country that really loves beer because simply it makes no sense what so ever. Two seats, a thunderous V8 and all in all, a bakkie that can take corners far too quickly for most and makes rather rubbish drivers like myself look like DK’san himself Keiichi Tsuchiya, in mammoth smokey skids. Realistically, I think this would grow tiring, because the best consumption figure I managed was a rather high 11 l/100 km on the freeway in top gear, and the owner tells me the rear tyres are down to the steel belting after a rather scary 40 000 kms. This is a silly car; it would cost you more money than an aggressive cocaine habit and is just as likely to kill you.

Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute Pricing in South Africa

Early 5.7 models start from as little as R140 000 and range all the way up to R550 000 for the later facelifted  6.0 SSV.