Still, GM does a good job of matching the SSR to its hot-rod image. Besides the head-turning looks, some of our favorite custom touches include the bow-tie side-marker lights, body color highlights in the interior, semicircular brushed aluminum doorhandles, round silver HVAC controls, and an optional wood-trimmed truckbed. The five-star 20-inch wheels in the back and 19s on the front are mega-sharp. Despite all of these slick custom elements, the corporate parts bin still contributed nasty pieces like the Cavalier turn-signal stalk and Suburban radio.
The nifty convertible-top mechanism is an impressive feat of engineering and a head-turner by itself (check out photos at www.chevy.com/ssr). Yet like your favorite drop-top of yore, the solid-looking convertible exhibits excessive top-up wind noise, body shake, and cowl shudder. Driving the SSR top-down is an invigorating experience, especially on a 30-degree Michigan evening, although the optional heated seats make this a tolerable trick. If you have the seats on low, though, there are detectable gaps on the cushion and seat that don't get the heat.
We drove the automatic, which shifts with the rapt authority of an American muscle car. If you want more influence in cog choice, you'll have to manually shift like you would in a Chevelle because there's no manu-matic mode. According to a few co-workers, the automatic is preferable for proving the SSR's worth as a smoky-burnout monster, even with fat 295/40R20 Goodyears fastened to the rear wheels. Further proof of its tire-searing intentions is that the traction control automatically disengages if you manually downshift into first gear.
As far as handling goes, a Novacaine junkie on a bender could feel the road better in a Lotus Elise than a teetotaler captaining the SSR. But the SSR is acceptable for carving up canyons, with crispish yet hollow-feeling chassis movements. For more relaxed driving, the SSR satisfies with comfortable seats and solid high-speed stability. According to the information center, we averaged 18 mpg during a mixed highway/city cycle, but economy is an afterthought because the sound of the LS2 at high revs is so intoxicating.
If you want a retro-looking hot rod with the comfort of a factory warranty, lots of performance, and room for a few suitcases, this is the truck for you. The SSR's problem is that's a limited market. For 48 grand, you could build up a better-handling, very cherry vintage rod with the satisfaction that yours is one-of-a-kind, faster, and hasn't sat discarded on a dealer lot for nearly a year. Or, if you can fight the urge to be different, try a proven winner from the same fleet and go for the Corvette-it costs just a bit more and is worthy of universal admiration.