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2005 Chevrolet SSR

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San Francisco: If your goal in life is to turn heads, you can't find a better vehicle than this Chevrolet SSR. With a retro look, Corvette power and disappearing convertible top, it's sure to make you the talk of the neighborhood. The retro style extends into the SSR’s two-seater cabin, where chrome gauges and body-color trim make it feel like a classic hot rod.

Want to be treated like a star? Here's the next best thing. But if you're the shy type, don't ever ride in this Chevy. From the moment you step inside this wild truck - a power-top convertible, no less - you become the center of attention wherever you drive.

People roll down their windows at stoplights to ask what it is; you can't fill the gas tank without being interrupted at least twice; little kids stare at it with open-mouthed amazement; and cops pull you over for no apparent reason. That's the power of the SSR.

Nobody really needs a truck like this, especially for the nearly $50,000 sticker price on the test vehicle I drove for a week. It has only two seats and a small truck bed, and it makes gas disappear faster than the pizza buffet at Dominoes when a starving football team walks in. It's safe to say Chevy won't sell one of these trucks on the basis of practicality.

Maybe that's the reason it's been a major sales flop for the past two years. Unlike the similarly retro-styled PT Cruiser - which is priced like a compact car but has the practicality of an SUV - the SSR is almost useless except as a rich man's toy. From a sales standpoint, that's clearly why the PT Cruiser is hot and the SSR is not.

In any case, Chevrolet adds a little sugar to the already sweet convertible truck by tossing in the LS2 engine from the 2005 C6 Corvette. A 6.0-liter V8 monster that powers the latest generation of GM's famed sports car, this engine fires up with the kind of deep-throated rumble that could be heard from here to Australia.

When coupled with a six-speed manual transmission, the SSR is an awful lot of fun to drive. Imagine getting behind the wheel of a low-rider Chevy Trailblazer with a humongous engine, and you'll have some idea of what this truck feels like.

But, as everybody who sees it can tell, the SSR is more about looks than anything else. It has an exaggerated, heritage-inspired body that people either love or hate, and it certainly draws attention everywhere it goes.

For extra boulevard-cruising fun, you can drop the hard top with the push of a button. It splits into three parts and neatly folds away underneath a hard cover, perfectly hidden from view until you push the button again to quickly raise it. It takes less than 30 seconds to complete the transformation.

Chevrolet also takes away the SSR's truck-like steering feel this year with upgrades that provide a more precise on-center feel, smoother overall operation and reduced effort at lower speeds. It's more car-like, which is a good thing.

All in all, the SSR is a great vehicle for a couple of reasons. One, it gets more attention than a Ferrari at less than half the price. And two, it brings back good memories for people who remember Chevrolet's pickups in the 1940s and '50s.

Still, I can't help but think that Chevrolet is going the wrong direction to fix the SSR's core problems: it's too expensive and too impractical. If it had a back seat, more efficient engine and half-price sticker, Chevrolet couldn't keep them in stock. Until then, it's just a fun toy for the rich ... and those of us lucky enough to mooch one for a week.

Why buy it?  It's probably the most impractical pickup truck ever made, with a small bed, only two seats and awful gas mileage. But it's great for getting attention, if you like that sort of thing. It's also lot more fun to drive now that it has the 6.0-liter V8 from the new Corvette.  By Derek Price  © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name: 
 The Star Power of the SSR
 The 2005 Chevrolet SSR
Word Count:  
Photo Caption: 
 The 2005 Chevrolet SSR
Photo Credits:   Chevrolet Internet Media
Series #:   2005 - 15

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2005 Chevrolet SSR

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