The SSR (Super Sport Roadster) was a daring experiment made by Chevrolet in 2003. The main idea was to create a factory-built hot rod with a retro style and superior driving dynamics.
Though, the result was a bit south to the initial plan and the SSR proved to be a major fail from Chevrolet, as it went out of production only after three years.
The Chevrolet SSR offered an odd mix between a classical customized hot rod and a rear wheel drive sports car. One of the main mistakes made by Chevy was to build its sport pickup on GM’s midsize SUV platform, which made it too heavy.
At the launch, the vehicle was powered by General Motors’ Vortec 5300 V8 engine, while the 2005 generation received a stronger unit borrowed from the C6 Corvette.
The Chevrolet SSR was based on the SSR concept revealed in 2000 at the Detroit Auto Show. The concept was received with enthusiasm by the automotive media so the company decided to put it into production.
Luckily the series version didn’t look too different from the concept and the new SSR looked like no other vehicle on the road, being a pure automotive work of art.
The bold, curvy lines of Chevy’s sport pickup made you feel the same emotions as any classical speed crazed hotrod. The Chevrolet SSR features a neo classic design with oversized flare fenders and a heavily raked windscreen combined with 19 inch and 20 inch wheels front and rear.
The front end style continues the classic design language initiated by the gargantuan fenders. The curvy hood was pretty tall and was combined with a unique front grille and a set of circular headlights which enhanced the hot rod appearance of the pickup truck.
Chevrolet decided to use steel sheetmetal for the SSR skin and not composite panels like other sports cars. This decision was made to make the SSR’s structure stiffer, but the result was far from the initial plan as the so called sporty pickup suffers for more shakes and shimmies than expected.
The pickup truck was also offered with a two piece power retractable hard top stowed between the seats and the rear load bed.
The SSR cab offered space for only two passengers, but it was pretty spacious and had plenty of leg-room to keep you satisfied. The materials and plastics were part of the high class and the interior build quality was also pretty refined with every fitting being well polished.
The tasty interior design was a perfect match for the curvy exterior lines and Chevy added many chromed details to spice things up even more.
The instrument panel looked pretty sporty and was fitted with three round gauges which came with chromed edges. The center stack was neatly integrated into the dashboard and every button and switch can be reached without too much fuss.
We also like the unique Hurst-style shifter and the classic four spoke steering wheel which offers a confident grab.
The seats are deep and comfortable offering adequate back and side support. Though the placement of the seat controls is a bit awkward, as are placed at the base of the seats and there is almost no room between the door and the seat, so reaching down adjust your seat it’s not an easy task. Back incline is handled by a mechanical lever, while bolster, fore-aft movement and overall tilt are handled electrically.
Fortunately, you won’t have any complains about the road visibility, as you can rely with confidence on the massive windscreen and the big, lateral mirrors.
When it comes to storage places however, the cabin falls pretty short and apart from a small glove box and some cramped door pockets there isn’t anything else worth to be mentioned.
Engines and performance
The Chevrolet SSR was launched with General Motors’ Vortec 5300 V8 engine which had a 5.3 liter displacement and developed 300 hp. The engine was fairly strong and had a mighty roar that was heard every the go pedal was hit.
Equipped with the 5.3 liter V8 the SSR was able to run to 60 mph in only 7.7 seconds. After two years, this engine was replaced with a stronger 389 hp V8 that was also found under the hood of the Chevrolet C6 Corvette. Since 2005 it was also introduced an optional five speed manual transmission.
The engine’s output was further increased in 2006 up to 395 hp for the automatic transmission and 400 for the manual. When mated with the automatic transmission, the new engine sprints from zero to sixty in 5.49 seconds.
Ride and handling
It’s true that, thanks to the powerful V8 unit, the SSR was pretty fast, but how does it handle?
Chevrolet tried it’s best to help this anomaly drive like a true sports car. It has rear wheel drive, independent front suspension, rack and pinion steering, all around disc brakes and huge tires.
The company went so far, that it even fitted its pickup with a multi link rear suspension sacrificing the vehicle’s ability to tow anything heavier than 2500 lbs.
Luckily the result was positive as the SSR handles pretty nice and it’s fairly agile around corners, despite its high center of gravity and the heavy weight (4760 lbs.).
On the other hand when the top is down the truck trembles and vibrates like a scared rabbit, and even with the top up the vibrations are still present.
The Chevrolet SSR was a unique pickup truck and the idea behind this project was pretty bold. But while the exterior design was a delight and the engine was a true beast, the vehicle was a bit too heavy to be considered a true sports car and despite Chevy’s numerous attempts to improve things, the SSR continued to be seen with skeptical eyes by the true sports cars fans.
Like any other sports car and like no other pickup, the SSR was highly unpractical and wasn’t a comfortable day by day commuter either.
The interior looked pretty upscale, being fitted with first class materials. The overall build quality however was doubtful and the vehicle trembled every time it had to deal with uneven roads.