Introduced for the 2003 model year, this retro-styled pickup truck is aimed squarely at enthusiasts. The rear-wheel-drive SSR (Super Sport Roadster) is smaller than typical trucks and borrows a few styling ideas from Chevrolet pickups of the late 1940s.
Billed as "the American Street Machine," the two-passenger SSR is part open-air roadster and part compact hot-rod pickup. Equipped with a retractable "top stack" hardtop, the limited-production pickup initially held a 300-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8 and a four-speed-automatic transmission. Chevrolet promised a "boulevard-cruiser ride and refined roadster handling." During 2004, a total of 9,648 were sold.
A new LS2 V-8 rated at 390 hp goes into 2005 models, and a Tremec six-speed-manual gearbox is available. Steering has been retuned and the exhaust system rerouted.
Chevrolet's Advanced Design family of trucks, produced from 1947 to 1953, inspired the SSR's styling, which features a sculpted hood and large flared fenders. The power retractable hardtop operates in 25 seconds, stacking roof panels vertically behind the passenger compartment. Cargo-bed volume, at 22.5 cubic feet, is the same with the roof up or down.
Measuring 191.4 inches long overall, the SSR rides a 116-inch wheelbase and uses body-on-frame construction. The cargo bed is approximately 4.2 feet long and 3.5 feet wide (at the wheelhousing).
Built on a modified version of the platform used for the Chevrolet TrailBlazer sport utility vehicle, the SSR features full-length hydroformed steel rails with eight cross-members. A lower stance and wider track are intended to increase stability and flatten cornering. Aluminum wheels hold Goodyear performance tires that measure 19 inches in front and 20 inches in the rear. No spare tire is included.
Two passengers fit inside the SSR, which features a twin-cockpit theme with body-colored accents and a horizontal aluminum-look bar spanning the width of the dashboard. Audio controls are hidden behind a movable panel. Three gauges sit low, which makes them difficult to see.
Under the Hood
The new 6.0-liter LS2 V-8 produces 390 hp at 5,400 rpm and 405 pounds-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. GM's 4L65-E four-speed-automatic transmission or a new Tremec M10 six-speed-manual gearbox can be installed. A Torsen differential distributes engine power to the wheel with the most traction; the automaker claims it will react before any wheel actually slips.
Four-wheel all-disc antilock brakes and side-impact airbags are standard.
Don't expect to pass unnoticed when driving an SSR. This car/pickup crossover draws plenty of attention on the road. Passersby can hear it coming because of its loud exhaust note, and they're likely to be enthralled by the sight of the SSR's retractable top in action.
Standing-start performance is even more ferocious with the new V-8, in keeping with the SSR's extroverted appearance. Acceleration isn't quite as dramatic when passing or merging, but few drivers will be dissatisfied.
Ride comfort is less appealing. You can feel plenty of road harshness right in the steering wheel. Construction quality has improved, but it's still not up to contemporary standards. The SSR's questionable body tightness actually evokes the now-extinct Chevrolet Camaro.