News - 2006 Trailblazer SS - February 2005

Equipped With The All-Aluminum LS2 6.0L, The Chevrolet SSR Finally Lives Up To Its Looks

Joe PettittFeb 1, 2005
Photo 2/15
RETRO ROCKET
Equipped With The All-Aluminum LS2 6.0L, The Chevrolet SSR Finally Lives Up To Its Looks
We've reviewed the SSR several times, but this one, powered as it is with the new LS2 aluminum 6.0L V-8 with only 10 less horsepower than the 400 ponies it's rated when installed in the new Corvette, finally puts enough muscle and thrust in the machine to justify its retro-rocket good looks.
Photo 3/15   |   The powerful 6.0L engine is beautifully packaged; notice the semi-open air filter element in a high-pressure area.
OK, retro rocket is a little overexposed as a phrase, but it fits the 390hp Super Sport Roadster sport truck like the proverbial racing glove. And as we happened to have the this rocket ship on the same day that Burt Rutan and the Scaled Composites crew won the X-prize, by speeding to space and returning safely for the second time within two weeks with their own retro rocket, we felt compelled to make Mojave Space Port part of the drive loop for our driving impression.
The area of Southern California we were headed is near Edwards Air Force base and has a heritage of making and breaking speed and altitude records. The X-15 flew here, the sound barrier was broken here, the first top-speed lakes racing occurred here, and on the day we were driving this little hot-rod sport truck, the first privateer space ship flew into space and returned safely to earth. It's speed topped three times the speed of sound, and its landing speed was higher than the 130 mph we pushed our yellow roadster to across a desolate stretch in an attempt to get to the landing site before it touched down.
Photo 4/15   |   SSR has one of the best-looking interiors of any sport truck on the market.
At about 130 mph, the SSR starts feeling a little light in the nose and a little loose and unstable - plenty of power and rpm left in top gear of the automatic. Some of the vague steering comes from stock bushing deflection at that speed, some from lift in the nose, and some from lift in the rear. If we had it for a long-term project, we'd dial in a little more castor or some tweaking of the power steering. The handling issues aren't excessive, just very noticeable, and man, does the machine get there quick.
OK, not as quick as Space Ship One gets to Mach 3, but it's seriously quick. How quick? We put the test gear on it and got a quarter-mile e.t. of 14.75 seconds at 99.26 mph. That's impressive for a nearly 5,000-pound truck-and-driver weight. Not only that, but the truck sticks in the corners with near-sports-car tenacity, has a great ride, and sports the most stylish interior of any truck on the market, including the SRT-10.
If you're sitting on the sidelines about buying an SSR, this one will get you into the game. You have to drive this truck. And if you're fortunate enough to be able to keep it as a second or third driver, get the six-speed.
Photo 5/15   |   Here's Space Ship One on display in the Scaled Composite hangar after winning the X-Prize on October 4, 2004.
Specs
6.0L (366ci) OHV V-8 (LS2)
Bore And Stroke: 4.00x3.62
Block Material: Cast Aluminum
Cylinder Head Material: Cast Aluminum
Valvetrain: OHV, 2 Valves Per Cylinder, Camshaft In Block,
Hydraulic Roller Lifters
Ignition System: Electronic Direct
Fuel Delivery: Sequential Fuel Injection
Compression Ratio: 10.9:1
Horsepower (Hp @ Rpm): 390 @ 5,400
Torque (Lb-Ft @ Rpm): 405 @ 4,400
Recommended Fuel: 93 Octane Recommended, Not Required
Maximum engine speed (rpm): 6,500
Estimated fuel economy, MPG (city/hwy/combined): automatic: 17/23/19; manual: 16/26/19
Photo 6/15
'06 TrailBlazer SS
We've seen pictures of the TrailBlazer SS concept both at SEMA and the New York Auto Show, but the production version, shown here, clearly shows details the concepts omitted. Due in mid-2005 (either as an '05.5 or '06 model), the TrailBlazer SS will be powered by a 6.0L V-8, with horsepower expected to be in the 350hp range - though we wouldn't be surprised to see the 390hp LS2 engine a l the '05 SSR we report on further in the News section. Riding on a lowered suspension it shares with the Saab 9-7X (which is based on the TrailBlazer), the TrailBlazer SS will have a more aggressive stance and a lower center of gravity than the standard models. The SUV has a slightly modified grille (compared with the concept) that looks very similar to the SS Silverado, including the egg-crate pattern. The rear treatment features a highly modified rear bumper, huge exhaust, and new finishing touches.
Photo 7/15
Enter The Planet Killer
This truck is sure to send the tree huggers into tire shake. We already found a Web site complaining about this truck, with most of the rant directed at the audacity of its market position and marketing materials. For example, the marketing pitch starts off with: "What hauls 6 tons, can seat a football team's offensive line, and, for kids older than 20 who miss playing with trucks in the sandbox, is the ultimate toy for extreme work and play? The International CXT, the world's biggest production pickup truck for commercial business owners and the newest truck from International Truck and Engine Corporation."
The greens already hate the Hummer and most SUVs, so this is probably a recruiting tool for the Earth Liberation Front. But this rig's so big that they've probably met their match.
Born out of a 20-ton hauler and other International severe service trucks used by the construction, government, and waste industries, the International CXT is built on the same platform as dump trucks and snowplows. As a result, it is a vehicle unrivaled in capability, size, and appearance. It hauls three times the payload of consumer pickup trucks; is all-wheel drive; uses air brakes for unmatched stopping ability; and offers towing, dumping, and tilt-bed capability. Additionally, it features a spacious interior with a crew cab design that seats five and can be customized to meet owners' specific needs - from paint color to air seats to flatscreen TVs. For example, for people who want to make a statement while driving in luxury, try a customized black International CXT with ghosted green flames that has a leather interior with wood-grain trim, reclining captain chairs, a fold-down bench that can be used as a bed, an overhead compartment with drop-down DVD, an XM satellite premium radio system, and a rear-mounted camera for increased visibility behind the vehicle.
If too much is just about right, this is the rig for you. To learn more about the International CXT or to find a local International dealer, visit www.internationaldelivers.com/cxt.
Dodge Rumble Bee
Musclecar Style And Hemi Power Dress Up One Of The Great American Sport Trucks
Dodge's new limited-edition Dodge Ram 1500 Rumble Bee is a stylishly fun nod to the Hemi's musclecar heritage with its distinctive Rumble Bee box decal, reminiscent of the bumble-bee stripes made famous on Dodge musclecar legends such as the Charger, Challenger, and Super Bee. They come in black or solar yellow only, and Dodge is planning on this to be a future collectible, so you better push the plates out of the way and make a lot of room in mom's curio.
The Rumble Bee package comes with a 345hp 5.7L Hemi Magnum V-8 engine; Laramie door trim with solar-yellow spears; solar-yellow instrument panel bezel; body-color hoodscoop; body-side cladding; and accent kit on the front, rear, box side, and taillamp guards. It has chrome exhaust tips, brushed-aluminum fuel filler door, vertical stripe and bee emblem (yellow or black), Rumble Bee logo on door interior spear, and unique numbered plaque on dash (we drove #1962). Production of the Ram Rumble Bee started in spring of 2004, with only 3,700 to be produced.
They're cool to drive and fun to be seen in. And the 345hp 5.7L Hemi Magnum V-8 engine is one of the finest engines coming out of Detroit. We can't get enough of the Hemi exhaust note, torque, and just sheer fun-to-drive power.
Photo 11/15
'06 Dodge Ram Facelift!
With the introduction of the Ram Mega Cab set for the '06 model year, it looks like the entire Ram lineup will be getting a mild makeover. The truck shown here is sporting new headlamps with a horizontal amber strip below the lights, as well as new cladding around the wheel arches.
Photo 12/15
Dub Dilemma
GM Says No To Rolling Taller Than 20s: Legit Safety Issue Or Just Marketing?
When it comes to rolling stock today, no doubt, bigger is badder. And in the aftermarket world of hip-hop-culture-dominated automotive street fashions, the trend's gone from rolling 16s in the early '90s to pushing past 26s just to get noticed today.
The trouble in double-dub (22) land is that the larger the diameter and the wider the tire and wheel combos become, the more they affect your rig's handling, ride, stability control systems, and braking performance. Some dynamic qualities of your truck are enhanced, others degraded, and at some point, the wheel and tire package is so large that it sometimes degrades performance to the point of being dangerous. At least that's the pitch made by the GM Accessory division.
Photo 13/15   |   GM also tests wheel and tire combinations with specific vehicles to ensure performance and safety levels.
We do a lot of tire testing at Sport Truck and we're very aware that the handling and ride quality of truck changes with plus-one and plus-two rolling stock upgrades. At that level, we've only experienced positive performance enhancement, sometimes with the trade-off of a slightly firmer ride. And we're aware of the performance changes that occur with seriously tall wheels, so we concede GM has a point, up to a point. Whether or not that point is 20-inch wheels remains to be seen.
But that is where GM is drawing the line for its line of factory-authorized wheel and tire packages. Part of the reason is federal safety standards car makers have to live up to.
The Wheel and Tire Performance Criteria (TPC) tire systems produced for GM's fullsize pickups and utilities are good examples of GM's approach to using the extensive development, testing, and validation process for its accessory wheels and tires that it uses to develop the standard factory equipment.
Photo 14/15   |   GM's says it puts its new 20-inch wheel and tire accessories through the same extensive testing as the regular production parts go through.
"We use the same parameters as the group that engineered the trucks - the same mass, same offset, same width, same mounting flange design, same tire pressure monitoring sensor requirements, same brake clearance, same dimensional tolerances," said Todd Brechtelsbauer, GM Engineering Group manager, Powertrain and Chassis Accessories.
"Those critical elements were carried over to our accessory program," according to Brechtelsbauer. "Once we had the wheel designed, we ran through the finite element analysis (FEA) - a mathematical model that can help point out where your stresses are going to be and determine the problematic areas in the wheel design. We go through all that data to ensure that we have an optimal design. The wheel is then validated using the same type of tests that Tire-Wheel Systems runs every time it does a wheel, such as Fatigue and Corrosion Testing. We follow the same process."
Brechtelsbauer's group also taps into the body of engineering data drawn from GM's TPC specification system to hand-select the tires that are matched up to the accessory plus-size wheels. By specifying both parts of the system - the plus-size wheel and the tire that's specially selected and validated to go with it - GM can ensure that vehicles equipped with a GM Accessories wheel and TPC tire system designed for them continue to meet or exceed federal safety standards and GM's own safety and performance goals. TPC is an industry-leading methodology employed by General Motors to develop tires as an integrated part of the vehicle they're intended for, to provide specified tire performance, handling, and durability characteristics under a variety of load and driving conditions.
Photo 15/15   |   The wheels are manufactured to OEM quality and specs and are even crash-tested during development.
The new tire and wheel combination is put through its paces "to make sure the vehicle operates as expected with the 20-inch wheels and TPC tires," Brechtelsbauer said. Those tests include straight-line vibration, quick lane changes, driving the trucks over potholes and bumpy roads, and driving on different traction conditions such as ice and snow, looking for issues such as wheel kick and ensuring the vehicle responds as expected to the various inputs.
"When there is a question whether a new wheel and TPC tire combination may cause non-compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), GM will run tests - even crash tests - to ensure that the vehicle will continue to comply," according to Brechtelsbauer.
Crash-testing led to a redesigned and revalidated knee bolster bracket under the steering column for select fullsize pickup trucks. "When a customer purchases a GM Accessory wheel and TPC tire system for his '04 pickup, the dealership is instructed to retrofit the vehicle with the knee bolster brackets so that the vehicle can continue to meet federal crash requirements," said Brechtelsbauer.
The Powertrain and Chassis Accessories group also validated brakes and chassis controls. The team designed the 20-inch wheel in conjunction with a GM TPC-approved 20-inch tire to minimize the impact on the brake and chassis control system performance, helping them to maintain compliance with FMVSS requirements.
Modifications to accommodate the plus-size wheel and TPC tire systems are made at the point of sale by trained GM dealership technicians. Dealerships are instructed to recalibrate the speedometer and the ABS system, and install a new jounce bumper on two-wheel-drive models. Technicians also install the knee bolster bracket, if necessary, to meet crash-test requirements.
That's GM's pitch. It seems to us that given the regulatory and safety concerns the factories need to address, the company has made the call based on sound engineering and a healthy sense of caution.
On the other hand, aftermarket wheel makers have to contend with the style-conscious enthusiast, who considers rolling 20s and 22s as entry-level, and if you're not rollin' 24s, 25s, 26s, and even 28s, you'll get clowned. From our informal survey of several wheel marketers, we found they're doubtful about GM's insinuation that wheel sizes larger than 20 inches are basically unsafe. And for the most part we agree with the argument that as long as you stay with the proper load range and air pressure spec for your tires, your aftermarket wheel and tire combo will perform as designed.
We will say you have to pay attention as you shop, as all aftermarket wheels are not made the same. Some are more round than others, some stronger than others, and so on. Most important is to buy the combination that is high-quality and will handle the gross vehicle weight rating. Beyond that, you may need to consider tuning the suspension, brakes, and steering to compensate for your wicked-tall rolling stock, especially if you're rollin' larger than 24s.

MOST POPULAR

POPULAR TRUCKS

Subscribe Today and Save up to 83%!

Subscribe Truck Trend Magazine

Subscribe to:

Truck Trend
Magazine

PRINT DIGITAL
Subscribe Diesel Power Magazine

Subscribe to:

Diesel Power
Magazine

PRINT DIGITAL
Subscribe Truckin Magazine

Subscribe to:

Truckin
Magazine

PRINT DIGITAL
SUBSCRIBE TO A MAGAZINE
TO TOP