Reviews

2004 Chevrolet SSR Road Test

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Category:$40,000 to $45,000 Convertible Pickup Truck
Who should buy this car:A person looking for a cross between a sports car and a pickup truck that is fun to be seen in.
Comparable models in this class:Nothing comes close

As with so many vehicles these days, I’m often not impressed when I first see them, but the admiration grows the more time I spend with it.

Such was the case with Chevrolet’s dramatic SSR truck. At first, I thought it was a nice concept, but would never make production. Then, when Chevrolet announced that it would be produced, I wondered how much of the original concept would make it to production. Much to my surprise, the translation to production came through virtually intact.

I had my first chance behind the wheel of this 2-seater last fall at Pocono Raceway, where I had an opportunity to put the SSR through its paces on both the oval and infield road course. The SSR had tons of power (300 horsepower and 332 lb-feet of torque) so it was able to get up and move quickly. It also handled extremely well, and exhibited almost zero lean, even during hard cornering.

That power can get the fairly heafty SSR from 0-60 mph in 7.6 seconds. It also can tow 2,500 pounds.

Ah, but the true test of a vehicle is a week behind the wheel. That’s the best way to discover the bugs that can make some of the best vehicles annoying.

The SSR didn’t have any bugs, other than a tendency for the body to rattle more than it should. The odd two-seater convertible truck with the huge fenders covering huge tires passed the test with flying colors.

The most distinguishing feature of the SSR is its retractable hard-top. This top doesn’t fold, as do many retractable hard-tops, but it stacks, almost like shuffled cards, into a well just behind the passenger compartment. Almost no cargo area is sacrificed for the stowed top. With the top down, there’s some wind inside the cockpit, but it’s enough to add charm to the truck that has suddenly become a sports car.

The second most distinguishing feature is the covered cargo area. A hard tonneau cover is hinged at the back of the passenger compartment and lifts to provide access. The cover doesn’t lift that high, so you can’t carry a refrigerator or motorcycle, for example, but there was certainly enough room back there for all my grass clippings, and the person who had the SSR before I did, carried firewood in it. Chevrolet quotes 22.5 cubic feet of cargo volume.

My only complaint about the cargo bed was that the lid couldn’t be lowered with the tailgate up. Also, the tailgate was carpeted, so you’d have to be careful about the degree of dirtiness that you’re carrying.

The third most distinguishing feature about the SSR is the huge fenders and aerodynamic hood. The fenders cover 20-inch rear tires and 19-inch front tires, so they’re needed. I felt a running board connecting the fenders might be a neat touch, and I understand an optional `board is in the works for the `05 model year. I’d also like to see a boattail design to the cargo bed, but I’m not the designer.

Design is everything with the SSR. I spoke with chief designer Ed Wellburn (after he was named vice president of design for all of GM) and he pointed out such neat features as the drawer just to the right of the steering column for holding small items, the matching cupholder (when closed) on the passenger side, and the brushed aluminum door handles that take the form of a circle with a slash through it. In addition, there is brushed aluminum trim on the dash, on the shifter and on the center console.

A neat feature is a fold-down cupholder that attaches to either the passenger or driver side of the transmission hump. Wellburn also added outside rear-view mirrors that resemble those of a race car.

The classic, white-on-black instruments are located in three brushed aluminum nacelles in front of the driver. Included in the pods are a speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, water temperature and oil pressure gauges.

When the SSR was delivered, there were teenagers coming home from the high school down the road from my house. Brakes screeched and two cars stopped across the street. Four kids got out and began reciting all the details of the SSR. I was impressed with how knowledgeable they were about this niche vehicle.

That’s the kind of excitement it generated wherever we went. It’s a vehicle that makes you sit up and take notice. And it’s one that you like being noticed in.

2004 The Auto Page Syndicate

Engine Type5.3L Overhead Valve V8, 16 valves
Horsepower300 @ 5200 RPM
Torque331 @ 4000 RPM
Fuel RecommendationRegular Unleaded
Transmission4-speed electronically controlled automatic
Drive TypeRear wheel drive
Tires – StandardP255/45R19 Front, P295/40R20 Rear
Overall Length191.4″
Wheelbase116
Width78.6″
Turning Diameter38.1 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight4,760 lbs.
Fuel Tank25 Gals.
Miles Per GallonEPA city 16 , hwy 19.
Acceleration 0 to 607.6 Seconds
Base Price$41,370  + Destination charge of $625

Specifications

2004 Chevrolet SSR 2 passenger convertible pickup truck

Standard Equipment

(partial list)

Major Available Options

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Author

John A. Heilig Jr.

Automotive Expert

John has been an automotive journalist and historian for more than 20 years. Since 1982 he has written "The Auto Page," a self-syndicated weekly new automotive review column that appears in a dozen papers and two Internet sites. Mr. Heilig has recently begun a car care column that is to be distributed to papers nationally through the Associated Press.

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