2006 Chevrolet SSR - Fast Mover, Nice Looker
The latest permutation of Chevy's roadster pickup embraces the new 6.0L LS2 V-8. With a powerplant that fulfills the latent promise of the SSR's retro-racer styling, the rest of Chevy's truck lineup has a city-slicker halo vehicle they can look up to. The new SSR is not "An American Revolution" so much as an evolution, but one that could really benefit this vehicle. The LS2 aligns it with two of GM's other top-shelf performers-the Corvette and GTO-that share that powerplant.
The new engine pulls hard from a dead stop, but the torque converter soaks up a lot of that 395hp output. The shift points on the automatic four-speed are weaker than we expected from a performance-oriented vehicle. In fact, a reprogrammed ECU would make a huge difference in tightening the responsiveness of the drivetrain. The '06 model's race-inspired, independent front and five-link live-axle rear suspension, and rack-and-pinion steering, are better suited for the cut-and-thrust of assertive driving, but the grip of those hard Goodyear tires failed to inspire confidence during aggressive turns. Fortunately, the electronic traction control was watching over us in case we deviated from the straight and narrow.
That said, it was sometimes unfortunate that the traction control was there to keep us on the straight and narrow. But a stab at the system's on/off button made sure that nothing interfered with the 400 lb-ft of torque to work the meats on the back of this rear-wheel drive meanie. On the track, the 4,701-pound SSR clocked 6.54 sec from 0 to 60 and 14.88 sec at 95.75 mph on the quarter-mile. That puts it in the middle of the pack of our high-perf wolves.
We really liked the '06's Pacific Blue Metallic finish and the "Chrome Package" that adds three extra gauges (voltage, torque, outside temperature) and lots of bling to the SSR's interior. Chrome 19-inch wheels up front and 20-inchers in the back accentuate the SSR's hot-rod stance and increase the truck's albedo (and perhaps enhances the driver's libido), although bigger wheels with a 2/3 lowered stance would fill the wells nicely. All that and heated seats (a must for a date when you're driving with the top down), keyless entry, and a premium Bose sound system add $3,000 to the sticker price. But is this upgraded, up-engined SSR worth the $46K for a magazine guy earning a (non-union) blue-collar wage? Yup...but only if the price for the required premium fuel remains reasonable-and in the month of September, which is when we did this eval, it cost about $56 to fill up a 25-gallon tank. Of course, our company is welcome to graciously allow us to expense the cost of fuel for, oh...the life of the vehicle. But, then, that truly would be an American revolution.