We’ll just come out and say it: Chevrolet’s treatment of its RS sub-brand has been puzzling us lately here at GM Authority. In recent history, RS has represented either a dedicated trim level or a standalone option package, depending on the model on which it’s offered. Based on feedback we have heard over the past few years, the inconsistency creates confusion among customers and dealers alike. Let’s break down what’s going on, and the opportunity that exists to realign the Chevrolet RS line, and to make something beautiful of it.
In order to fully understand what RS means, we must look back to the first time it was used onto a car. RS stands for “Rally Sport,” referring to an appearance package on the first and second generations of the Chevrolet Camaro. On the original Camaro, the RS package included headlight covers, a different taillight treatment and some modified bodywork. It was nothing major, but the Camaro RS was instantly recognizable, and wasn’t all that expensive.
In the current product lineup, Chevrolet RS still delivers a sportier appearance. Whether one opts for a Sonic RS, a Malibu RS or even a Blazer RS, you’re getting spiced-up looks by way of different wheels, spoilers, body kits, grilles, and potentially headlamps and taillamps. But the problem is a certain inconsistency regarding what the RS badge provides from one model to another.
For example, the Blazer RS and Traverse RS are standalone trim levels that slot at the higher end of the model range, with leather seats, a bunch of standard features, and the RS-prerequisite hotted-up looks. But since both models offer the RS as trim levels, customers who desire hotted-up looks delivered by the RS trim level lower in the Blazer and Traverse model ranges are simply out of luck.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Malibu RS is also a standalone trim level. But it is based on the low-end LS trim, with cloth seats, spartan levels of features and equipment, and the turbocharged 1.5L inline-four LFV. That means that those who want Malibu RS looks but with all the fixins, or even just with leather, are also out of luck. But wait, there’s more.
The all-new Silverado offers the RS model—known as RST, for Rally Sport Truck—as a full-fledged trim level based on the mid-range LT trim, while the Colorado offers the RST as a “special edition” package exclusively based on the LT trim level. And the Camaro—the car that started all things RS for Chevrolet—offers RS as a package only on the LT trim, but not on SS models that include some of the package’s features as standard.
Indeed, the Chevrolet RS line is an incongruent hot mess. We sum up the discrepancy in the following table.
|Camaro||Appearance option package only on LT|
|Colorado||Appearance package (RST Special Edition) only on LT|
|Cruze (first-gen)||Appearance option package on LS – LT – LTZ|
|Cruze (second-gen)||Trim level|
|Equinox||Trim level (China only)|
|Malibu||Trim level based on LS|
|Silverado 1500||Trim level (RST) based on LT|
|Silverado HD||Not available|
|Sonic (pre-facelift)||Trim level|
|Sonic (post facelift)||Appearance option package only on LT and Premier|
|Suburban||Appearance option package (RST)|
|Tahoe||Appearance option package (RST)|
|Traverse||Trim level based on high-end LT|
|Trailblazer (crossover)||Trim level (unknown donor trim)|
It would be great to see GM re-establish Chevrolet RS/RST as an appearance option package (as opposed to a trim level) across its model lineup so it can be added to (almost) any trim level. The perfect execution, in our opinion, was the RS line on the first-generation Chevy Cruze, which offered sporty RS looks on LS, LT and LTZ trims.
Doing so would enable customers to add a sporty appearance to the model they desire, rather than being locked/pushed into a specific trim, whether on the low-end, mid-range or high-end levels.
One final note: we’re well aware that there is a faction of people who prefer for Chevrolet RS to carry mechanical items that enhance performance. We don’t agree with that perspective, since it would be best to leave the performance-enhancing bits to the engine package.
The grave reality is that the overwhelming majority of car buyers are much more interested in having a sportier appearance, and not so much in the go-fast mechanical bits, such as a more potent engine. Hence, those who desire a higher performance vehicle would be better served with a separate high-performance engine option that also bundles the RS/RST appearance package. Hence, RS is for looks only.
Thoughts? Sound off in the comments below.