Chevy’s nostalgic SSR
Will the third time be a charm?
Chrysler tried for nostalgia with its neo hot rod, the Plymouth Prowler. It ended up killing the car and the brand.
Ford revived the Thunderbird, which will be taking its final flight into showrooms next year.
Will Chevy’s nostalgic SSR (or Super Sports Roadster, if you must know) fare any better?
Chevrolet’s cozy bit of truck nostalgia, redrawn for the 21st century, uses flared fenders and a rounded roofline to conjure up memories of Chevy’s 1947-53 pickup. The result seems less than authentic and more like a candidate for Toon Town. Its short, covered bed could be considered a large trunk, rather than the pickup truck bed it’s supposed to be.
But those flanks hide some slick modern magic.
This is the only pickup on the market that you can climb inside, hit a button and watch the SSR’s roof retract neatly under a cargo cover between the cab and the bed. It takes less than half a minute. It’s quick and it’s slick.
Of course, a lot of sins can be forgiven if the top goes down, so the question of the hour is whether this sinful SSR redeems itself performance-wise.
Well, yes and no.
Chevy uses a modified version of the TrailBlazer EXT platform, adding extra strength to the frame to make up for strength loss when the roof goes down. Chevy also swiped the TrailBlazer parts bin for the SSR’s 5.3-liter V-8 and four-speed automatic transmission. Of course, Chevy also used its steering system, disc brakes and suspension.
But the SSR weighs in at a chunky 4,760 pounds, 335 pounds more than the base rear-wheel-drive TrailBlazer.
This avoirdupois means that while the SSR is fast, it’s not as quick as you might expect. There’s a lot of noise, but little thrust as the SSR roars to 60 mph. GM quotes 0-60 mph performance time of 7.6 seconds, with the quarter mile coming up in 15.9 seconds at 90 mph.
The SSR’s truck-based platform means a somewhat bouncy ride, and heavy steering doesn’t help either. And let’s not mention the cowl shake, which seems excessive. On the plus side, the exhaust note is perfect.
Super Sport Roadster? Not judging by its performance. How about ”somewhat Sporty Roadster?”
OK, so this is more of a boulevardier, a super cruiser of the first order.
GM’s design staff, while conjuring up a cartoon-like shape, did an excellent job on the details. Simply drawn and well-assembled, the SSR is a masterpiece of simplicity.
It garnered stares and approval wherever it went. I got every finger shown to me except the middle one.
This is especially true of the interior, where bucket seats and a console provide decent support. The interior is just as expertly drawn as the exterior, with a large brushed metal trim piece mimicking a similar detail on the SSR’s grille. The metal trim also accents the steering wheel, transmission surround and climate controls. It helps enliven the otherwise dark interior. The radio is straight from the GM parts bin, and features XM Satellite radio, enduring a constant flow of commercial-free oldies-but-goodies.
The best part of the interior is its simplicity. There’s no OnStar, no navigation system, DVD player or other gimmicks to clutter things. It was a refreshing change.
The only downside was the cupholder, tacked onto the right side of the console. It looks like an afterthought and cheapens an otherwise fine interior.
Gas mileage averaged a truck-like 15.6 mpg on regular fuel. The SSR can tow a maximum of 2,500 pounds.
So how does the SSR stack up?
While it can’t tow much, it has decent, but not great, performance. Although it shakes like a hula dancer in a windstorm, it does look and sound great. But at just under $44,000, Chevy is going to have a hard time convincing people to line up for this toy. After all, that’s Corvette territory.
Maybe that’s why Chevy will have a hard time getting buyers to queue up for this bit of imagined nostalgia.
Or maybe it’s because, like Disney’s recreated version of Main Street and Ford’s recreated Thunderbird, the real thing is far more interesting.