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.

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.

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.

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

'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.