Customers who bought a 2004 Pontiac GTO or Chevrolet SSR had good reason to be annoyed when General Motors introduced the 2005 versions of the two vehicles.
The V-8 engine in the GTO grew from 5.7 liters and 350 horsepower in '04, to 6.0 liters and 400 horsepower for '05. But the performance difference in the SSR, Chevy's retro-looking pickup truck, was even greater: The 5.3-liter, 300-horsepower V-8 had become a 390-horsepower, 6.0-liter V-8.
Essentially, the SSR's engine in 2004 was a regular V-8 from the pickup line. But for 2005, the SSR got the same engine as the all-new 2005 Chevrolet Corvette, though Chevy claims 10 more horsepower for the Corvette powerplant.
Also, the 2004 SSR was offered only with a four-speed automatic transmission. That transmission is still standard, but the 2005 SSR gets a six-speed manual as an option for an extra $815.
Is this a big deal? If you bought your SSR for just plain ol' daily transportation, no, but I wonder if anyone, anywhere spent more than $40,000 on an SSR just because they think it's practical. Because it isn't. It is one of the least practical vehicles you can buy. The SSR is about fun, and 90 extra horsepower is just that much more fun, right?
It's also about performance. One magazine tested a 2004 SSR and got a 0-to-60 mph time of 7 seconds, and a quarter-mile time of 15.4 seconds. The 2005 SSR it tested ran to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and did the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds. So the performance difference is substantial, and as a result, likely the difference in resale value will be, too.
Chevrolet upped the price for 2005, but not by much - base price in '04 was $41,620, and for 2005, it's $42,430. Add in the six-speed manual transmission fè and a few other features, and our test SSR's list price was $47,500, including shipping. By comparison, the base price of a 2005 Chevrolet Corvette is $43,710.
The SSR debuted in January 2000, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, as a concept. It was such a hit that Chevrolet quickly made plans to build it and subsequently elevated its designer, Ed Welburn, to the chief of design for all of General Motors.
Between 2000 and 2004, though, a few things happened: The original SSR was built on the platform of the antiquated S-10 Blazer, but it seemed just the right size at a length of 186.1 inches and a weight of just more than 3,500 pounds. But Chevy decided to build the production version on the larger platform created for the TrailBlazer SUV, and the SSR grew to 191.4 inches and a weight of more than 4,700 pounds. The SSR concept had a 6.0-liter V-8, and when the production model showed up larger and heavier with a 5.3-liter V-8 engine, it was - well, a bit of a letdown.
The 2005 model, though it's no smaller or lighter, is a lot faster than last year's. The 6.0-liter V-8 sounds just right, and with the six-speed manual transmission, the SSR has the hot-rod feel that its looks suggest.
As for those looks: Chevrolet thankfully kept the cool but complicated retractable hardtop that, at the touch of one button, disappears behind the driver and passenger seats. Another button pops open the cover on the bed, and you'll need that space for anything larger than a loaf of bread. The bed is carpeted, though, so borrow a neighbor's pickup if you need to haul a load of manure.
The build quality on the 2005 test SSR was the best yet, but that might sound like I'm damning it with faint praise, as some of the early '04 SSRs had copious squeaks, rattles and, with the top down, cowl shake. None of that with the '05.
There is still nothing practical about the 2005 Chevrolet SSR, the most outrageous factory-built hot rod since the Plymouth Prowler. The extra power and manual transmission in the '05 model don't make that much difference in the ultimate success of the SSR's central mission, which is rumbling around town with the top down, thus making its owners, who are mostly mature, feel a little less mature. But the extra 90 horsepower does shave off a couple more years.
Base price: $42,430.
Price as tested: $47,500.
EPA rating: 13 mpg city, 20 mpg highway.
Details: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive convertible pickup truck with a 6.0-liter, 390-horsepower V-8 and a 6-speed manual transmission.
Sentinel Automotive Editor Steven Cole Smith's television reports air Wednesdays on Central Florida News 13.
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