Chevrolet’s eagerly awaited SSR (Super Sport Roadster) is part open-air roadster and part hot-rod pickup truck. Equipped with a retractable “top stack” hardtop, the limited-production rear-wheel-drive pickup is equipped with a 300-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8 engine and an automatic transmission. Chevrolet promises a “boulevard-cruiser ride and refined roadster handling.”
Even though a few SSRs went on sale in the summer as late 2003 models, full production of this brand-new vehicle began for the 2004 model year. First seen in concept form at the 2000 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the SSR “crossover” borrows a few styling ideas from Chevrolet pickups of the late 1940s.
Chevrolet expects to produce close to 15,000 SSRs annually. The first 25 examples constituted a Signature Series.
The Advanced Design family of trucks that were produced from 1947 to 1953 inspired the SSR’s styling. The new version includes a sculpted hood and large, flared fenders. The power retractable hardtop operates in 25 seconds, stacking roof panels vertically behind the passenger compartment. Because those panels are tucked rearward in a “waterfall” fashion, cargo-bed capacity 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). Mounting the battery at the rear is said to improve weight distribution and preserve the SSR’s front styling.The SSR features full-length hydroformed steel rails with eight cross-members on a modified version of the platform used for the Chevrolet TrailBlazer sport utility vehicle. The SSR has a lower stance and wider track, which is intended to increase stability and flatten cornering. Aluminum wheels hold Goodyear Eagle RS-A all-season performance tires: 19 inches in front and 20 inches in the rear. The fuel tank holds 25 gallons.
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 of the gauges are set low, and the location makes them difficult to see.
Under the Hood
The SSR’s 5.3-liter aluminum Vortec V-8 engine produces 300 hp at 5,200 rpm and 335 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. GM’s 4L60-E four-speed-automatic transmission is installed on all models. A Torsen traction differential distributes engine power to the wheel with the most traction; the automaker claims it will react before any wheel slippage can occur.
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. They’re also likely to be enthralled by the sight of the SSR’s retractable top in action.
Standing-start performance is energetic, keeping with the SSR’s extroverted appearance. Acceleration isn’t quite as ferocious when passing or merging, but overall, few drivers will be dissatisfied.Ride comfort is less appealing. In fact, you can feel plenty of road harshness right in the steering wheel. Construction quality isn’t up to contemporary standards, either. Because both exhibit questionable body tightness, the SSR evokes the now-extinct Camaro more than a modern automobile.