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The test drive this week went fast in more ways than one. I had the 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt SS supercharged coupe to evaluate for only seven days.
The Cobalt SS is a hot little car with a smooth, sleek exterior and a fast roofline. It has jewellike headlamps and taillamps and a high-mount spoiler on the deck. It looks much more expensive than it is. Base price is $20,925 and with a few options, the price of the test car came to $24,115.
Yet it performs like a car of much greater value, and as a constant reminder that performance is the name of its game, the exhaust is tuned to make acceleration sound exciting. As for performance, I'm told 0-to-60 mph can be achieved in 6.4 seconds and the quarter-mile in just less than 15 seconds. It has a top speed of 143 mph.

I didn't have this car on a racetrack, but I did enjoy normal highway driving. All I had to do was touch the accelerator pedal and the response was immediate -- along with the expressive exhaust tone. But speed wasn't the only pleasure of the Cobalt SS. It was a fun car to drive because of its ease and responsiveness in handling.

It's not a big car, and it's a bit of a struggle to get into the rear leather seats that can accommodate three passengers. The trunk is not too large either, but the front seats are inviting with leather-appointed bucket seats and the driver's seat has manual lumbar support.

The doors open wide and it's easy to slide into the seat and get behind the wheel. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is height-adjustable. This coupe comes with many thoughtful features, such as air conditioning and rear-window defogger. In the center console is an AM/FM stereo radio and CD player with MP3 playback input jack. It also had XM Satellite radio -- all standard equipment.

It has four cup holders -- two in the front, two in the back -- a lot of storage areas, including a large, binlike glove box.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder DOHC engine. It produces a modest 205 horsepower and 200 foot-pounds of torque. But what makes the car fast is a supercharged engine. In addition to the two main gauges on the instrument panel -- speedometer and tachometer -- there is a small gauge on the A-pillar that indicates a boost reading from the supercharger.

There's nothing exciting about the gas mileage, although it's not too bad: 22 miles per gallon city and 30 highway. It was easy to shift through the five gears and enjoy the response of this front-wheel-drive coupe when accelerating. I've driven a lot of fast cars but this one was definitely an enjoyable experience -- to both feel and listen to.

The test car had a couple of options: OnStar Safe and Sound, which includes turn-by-turn navigation. What surprises me is the head curtain side air bag system that protects both front and rear occupants is an option.

I would think any safety feature should be standard. I'd feel more secure if this compact coupe were equipped with head curtain side air bags.
The Cobalt SS has the FE5 suspension. My supercharged test car had a 24 mm front stabilizer bar on the front and a 22 mm rear stabilizer bar, as well as high-rate springs and bushings, four-wheel disc brakes, monotube shocks and 18-inch forged aluminum wheels rolling on performance tires.

The Chevrolet people say this delivers sports-car-level handling and grip. The ride and handling is excellent and when the exhaust sound wasn't heard, the overall interior noise level was quite low. But I preferred to hear the exhaust; it was all part of a very enjoyable week.
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