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2005 Chevrolet Cobalt New Car Review

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PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

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by Mark Fulmer TACH Editor-In-Chief

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Chevrolet

It isn't often enough that I get to draw your attention to an outstanding American car, but today is one of those days, thanks to Chevrolet's Cobalt.

First of all, the name.

Cobalt, the 27th element, was discovered by G. Brandt in 1737. It is a light grey transition element. Some metorites contain small amounts of metallic cobalt. Generally alloyed for use. Mammals require small amounts of cobalt salts. Cobalt-60, an artificially produced radioactive isotope of Cobalt is an important radioactive tracer and cancer-treatment agent.

More than you wanted to know? Well, that's what you get here at The Auto Channel!

Anyway, the folks at GM invited a bunch of us NorCal writers to drive the new Cobalt down the coast from San Francisco to Santa Cruz and back. Earlier this month I had tested the SS model on the track at Laguna Seca and experienced a jolt of driving delight very similar to my first drive in the new Subaru WRX a few years ago. And the Cobalt delivered. Tight cornering. Brisk acceleration. Clear and present feedback. The coastal drive in the LT version revealed that the non-sport-tuned 4-door models are share really comfortable molded seats and a well designed and finished interior.

Through some integrated design engineering, the Cobalt achieves a nice stiff structure which not only does wonders for noise and vibration control, but also makes for a solid-feeling ride regardless of terrain. The driving experience is a distinct improvement over its ancestor, the Cavalier, and what with a competitive price and good looks & build, the prospects should be quite bright, if not meteoric, for the new Cobalt.


The telltale is the A-pillar-mounted boost gauge. It’s the tip-off that the Cobalt SS Supercharged isn’t a car for everyone – only those whose pulse races with the swing of the gauge’s needle.

With more than 100 horsepower per liter – 1.68 horsepower per cubic inch – the 205-horse 2.0 SC engine of the Cobalt SS Supercharged delivers a level of performance that is unexpected. It also delivers an instant, exhilarating rush of power, thanks to its impressive, supercharger-induced 200 lb.-ft. of torque.

“The Cobalt SS Supercharged is one of the quickest, best looking and most affordable performance cars on the market,” said Brent Dewar, Chevrolet general manager. “This is the vehicle that sport compact enthusiasts have been begging us to build – and they know what that A-pillar gauge is for.”

More than a sport compact powerhouse, the Cobalt SS Supercharged is a satisfying driver’s car. It was bred with nimble handling, an aggressive exterior styling package that includes a distinctive wing-style rear spoiler, and a performance-oriented interior with leather appointments, a unique instrument cluster and that iconic A-pillar boost gauge.

Performance is demonstrated in a 0-60 acceleration time of 6.1 seconds, a quarter-mile time of 14.6 seconds and a stopping distance (60-0 mph) of 119 feet.

The Cobalt SS Supercharged also comes with standard 18-inch aluminum wheels and performance tires, making it the only vehicle in its competitive set to offer a standard 18-inch wheel/tire combination.

Other vehicle highlights include:
• 2.0 SC engine with 205 hp and 200 lb.-ft. of torque
• High-flow 2.5 inch exhaust with 4-inch chrome outlet
•Ground-effects front and rear fascias, rocker panels
• Wing-style rear spoiler
• FE5 sport suspension
• 18-inch forged aluminum wheels
• 215/45R18 93 W performance tires
• 4.05:1 final drive ratio
• Large four-wheel-disc brakes with four-channel ABS
• Unique instrument cluster
• A-pillar boost gauge
•Leather-covered seats with color-keyed inserts and leather covered steering wheel and shift knob
• Uplevel audio system with CD/MP3 player and seven Pioneer premium amplified speakers
• Optional roof rail air bags

Bred on the racetrack Engineers had a running start when developing the sport-oriented FE5 suspension of the SS Supercharged, as it is based on the Delta architecture used in the Saturn ION Red Line. But while the vehicles share DNA of the chassis, the engineers had to develop a unique driving personality that balanced responsiveness and take-no-prisoners grip with driving comfort and a smooth ride quality.

The SS Supercharged’s standard FE5 suspension features aluminum L-shaped front control arms, sport-tuned struts and a 24-mm direct-acting front stabilizer bar. The rear suspension has monotube shocks and a 22-mm stabilizer bar. Sport-tuned springs at all four corners help reduce lean during cornering and lower the car 10 mm, giving the SS Supercharged a more aggressive stance. The electric power steering system is tuned to provide more feedback and a sportier feel.

Transferring its cornering capability to the tarmac is the SS Supercharged’s specific 18-inch wheel-and-tire combination. Great looking aluminum wheels are shod with 215/45R18 93 W performance tires that deliver both grip and comfort.

Integral with the race-bred suspension is a superior brake system that consists of large, four-wheel disc brakes and ABS. The vented front discs measure 11.6 inches in diameter (296 mm) and the rear solid discs measure10.6 inches across (270 mm). Performance brake pads are used to enhance stopping power. The ABS system uses integrated dynamic rear proportioning for improved stability and more effective use of the rear brakes when the vehicle is loaded.

Blower drive To performance enthusiasts, a supercharger is known simply as a blower. The engine-driven device crams pressurized air into the combustion chambers – more air in means more power at the crankshaft. And, with the SS Supercharged, the effect is dramatic: The 2.0 SC produces 40 percent more horsepower and 33 percent more torque than the larger displacement 2.2L engine found in Cobalt base, LS and LT models.

A compact Eaton M62 Roots-type positive displacement supercharger is used because of its immediate response traits – there’s no “lag” when more power is called up by the driver. It makes a maximum of 12 psi of boost and is bolstered by an air-to-water intercooler. The intercooler cools the heated air charge before it reaches the engine, increasing the density of air to increase power and reducing the propensity of detonation at high rpm and high boost levels.

To support the high-performance characteristics and durability demands of the 2.0 SC engine, engineers incorporated numerous race-bred components and systems, including:
•Forged steel crankshaft
•Semi-permanent-mold cylinder head casting
•Stainless steel intake valves with undercut stems
•Sodium-filled exhaust valves
•High-flow air intake
• High-flow exhaust manifold
•12.5-mm-wide chain cam drive
•6.5-quart oiling system with crankshaft-driven pump •Engine oil cooler
•Coil-on-plug ignition with 58X crankshaft position encoder
•Oil-jet-cooled pistons

The SS Supercharged’s cooling system is upgraded with a larger radiator core and larger cooling fans. When it came to exhaust, engineers sought to move out as much as the engine ingested, so they developed an exhaust system that incorporates a low-restriction catalytic converter and low-restriction muffler. The system lowers back pressure from the engine, enhancing the performance of the supercharged engine and giving the car a noticeable “voice” on the street.

Tougher transmission The SS Supercharged uses a heavy-duty FGP (F35) five-speed manual transmission. It has a higher torque capacity to withstand the increase in output from the engine. The gears are spaced in even increments to keep the engine in its “sweet spot” between shifts. A short-throw shifter quickens the shifts, too. The shifter’s travel is approximately 1 inch shorter than the shifter found in other Cobalt models.

Complementing the higher torque capacity transmission are two equal-length halfshafts with higher torque capacity. Their equal length helps limit the tendency of torque steer in this powerful front-drive application. The final drive ratio for the transaxle is 4.05:1.

The heavy-duty transmission and axle system support the engine’s increased torque, but also multiply the effectiveness of the power generated by the supercharger. In all, it’s a carefully balanced, uncompromising high-performance powertrain that is enabled by a racetrack-tested suspension.

“You don’t know what fun is until you’ve driven this car,” said Dewar.


Cobalt base Standard content:
2.2L Ecotec engine 
5-speed manual transmission 
FE1 suspension 
15-inch wheels and tires 
Front disc/rear drum brakes 
CD radio 
Height-adjustable steering wheel 
Height-adjustable driver seat 
Remote trunk opener 
Intermittent wipers 
Floor mats 
AC with cabin filtration

Optional equipment: 
4-speed automatic transmission 
4-channel ABS 
XM Satellite Radio 
Uplevel CD radio 
Power locks with remote Cruise control
Roof-rail air bags 
XM Satellite Radio (coupe only)

Cobalt LS, LT (equipment in addition to or substituted for base content) Standard content: 4-speed automatic transmission (standard on LT only) 4-channel ABS Uplevel CD radio Power locks with remote Cruise control Power windows Heated leather seats (standard on LT only) Body-color power outside mirrors Sport cloth upholstery Trunk cargo net Optional equipment: 4-speed automatic transmission (standard on LT) Sunroof Spoiler XM Satellite Radio CD/MP3 uplevel radio Pioneer Premium Audio System with 7 speakers Heated leather seats (standard on LT) Sport Package(16-inch wheels, foglamps, spoiler, white-face gauges, leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter, bright exhaust tip) OnStar Roof-rail air bags SS Supercharged (equipment in addition to or substituted for LS and LT content) Standard content: 2.0 SC supercharged engine 5-speed heavy-duty manual transmission FE5 suspension 18-inch performance wheels and tires 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS Leather-appointed seats with color-keyed inserts Leather-covered steering wheel with radio controls Leather-covered shifter Foglamps Sport exhaust Wing-type spoiler Fascia and rocker extensions Unique instrument cluster A-pillar-mounted boost gauge Pioneer Premium Audio System with 7 speakers Optional content: Roof-rail air bags Sunroof XM Satellite Radio OnStar