General Motors Corp.’s Chevrolet brand will introduce its latest HHR variant, the ’08 SS, today in Royal Oak, MI, just in time for Saturday’s 13th annual Woodward Dream Cruise.

Boasting the usual SS design flourishes, it also features a turbocharged and intercooled 2.0L Ecotec I-4 making 260 hp and 260 lb.-ft. (353 Nm) of torque.

The base HHR LS makes 149 hp and 152 lb.-ft. (206 Nm) from its 2.2L Ecotec.

The HHR SS is the first vehicle developed since GM’s Performance Div. (GMPD) took over all Chevy SS models.

“Beginning with HHR SS, all future SS models will have superior power, braking and handling capabilities for maximum credibility with our customers and enthusiasts alike,” John Heinricy, GM Performance Division executive, says. “The SS badge represents high performance, and the HHR SS delivers with a fully-integrated, balanced driving experience.”

The turbocharged engine can be mated to either a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission, the latter boasting a shifter that is mounted higher and farther forward for throws that are 30% shorter between gears, GM says.

GM redesigned the center console to accommodate the manual gearbox, while those selecting the automatic receive a unique console with a flip-down armrest and large pocket to hold a cell phone.

Standard features on the HHR SS include GM’s StabiliTrak electronic stability control system and antilock brakes. Side-impact airbags are optional, as is a power sunroof.

Some of the exterior design features include new rocker moldings, body-color door handles, front and rear fascias that are different from the current HHR, a new grille design, rear spoiler and 18-in. 5-spoke polished aluminum wheels (tires are all-season Michelins).

Available colors include Victory Red, Light Tarnished Silver Metallic, Mystique Blue Flash Metallic, Sunburst Orange II Metallic and black.

The interior also gets the SS treatment, as seats and doors are bi-colored with ultra suede inserts. Interior color choices are Ebony, Light Grey and Victory Red.

GM also has changed the gauge cluster (now boasting a 140-mph [225 km/h] speedometer) and added a boost gauge on the vehicle’s A-pillar.

GM tuned the model’s all-new FE5 Sport suspension at Germany’s Nurburgring track. The suspension is tuned to complement the turbocharged engine, GM says, with specific stabilizer bars, spring rates and damper tuning.

The ’08 HHR SS hits U.S. Chevy dealers in the fourth quarter of this year.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com