MagnaCharger Radix Intercooled Supercharger Kit Puts SSR in Striking Distance of Ford Lighting

The stock SSR's performance is a good beginning for hot-rod-type sport truck enthusiasts. For the enthusiast driver, Magnuson's new supercharger kit gives the 5.3L V-8 a double shot of espresso. We took the MagnaCharger crew's offer to drive the company's test mule SSR and put it to the test.

The first thing you notice about the supercharged SSR is that the polished MagnaCharger Radix supercharger is totally appropriate; a turbocharged SSR wouldn't be nearly as classy. The MagnaCharger integrates perfectly with the character and spirit of the SSR. In our opinion, you just can't get a better upgrade that equals the combination of power and style for this truck.

Functionally, it drives like a sport truck should. The only exception to this is you have to let it warm up on cold mornings before driving it hard; otherwise, it goes into limp-home mode and you have to restart it. It's not that big of a deal and we're sure the folks at Magnuson are working on a programming fix right now. Even if they're not, we'd still recommend the system to SSR owners; it adds that much punch to the machine.

The system's power increase is significant and noticeable in seat-of-the-pants driving. Most of the increase comes in the low and mid range - just where you want it in a street-driven sport truck.

The MagnaCharger Radix supercharger brings the SSR's performance more in line with what it should be. It's not as quick as a Ford Lightning, but it's not that far off, either. The SSR's engine isn't built with a supercharger in mind: i.e. it has a 9.5:1 motor versus the Lightning's 8.4:1 compression ratio. You can stuff a lot more fuel and air into the Lightning's cylinders than you can the SSR's, so it's limited in that regard. It also seemed limited in the high-rpm power. We're betting it's either in the exhaust or in the engine management. (Many OE engine management computers reduce torque output to protect the transmission.) The Magnuson crew also suspects opening the exhaust would let it free up some horsepower.

That speculation seemed to be borne out on the dragstrip. Our best e.t. at Los Angeles County Raceway corrected to sea level was 14.13 at 95 mph. That's an impressive improvement compared with the stock 15.36 at 91.35 mph. Given the weight of the vehicle with driver, the 95-mph trap speed puts around 343 hp at the wheels, or assuming a 15 percent drivetrain loss, 394 hp at the flywheel.

When we tested an '03/'04 Lightning (rated at 380hp SAE at flywheel) we got 14.07 at 101 mph (corrected to sea level) e.t.'s. We were not testing on a dragstrip, so the e.t.'s are slightly higher than what you'd see there, but the mph is a good indicator of the actual horsepower, which in this case is way underrated by the factory. Taking into account the difference in track surfaces will put the Lighting in the high 13s. So it edges out the supercharged SSR, but only ever so slightly.

We think that's not a bad showing for the 5.3L SSR with an aftermarket bolt-on supercharger kit running pump gas. The e.t. suggests that the average power output is especially high, as does our seat-of-the-pants driving experience. Remember that you drive the torque, and this baby's got plenty of it. We never got a hint of ping, even when pulling very steep hills, part or full throttle, thanks to the intercooler that provides rock-steady intake temperatures of 150 degrees F as measured on our scanner.

If you're impressed with the factory supercharged sport truck, you should be nearly as impressed with the performance of the kit as-is. Once the exhaust if loosened up, you should be equally impressed with the MagnaCharged SSR's performance. Besides, the SSR certainly beats it on style, and given the combination of style and performance, we're sure Magnuson has a ready-made market with SSR buyers for this combination.

Quick Spec Check:
Quarter-mile elapsed time:
14.13 @ 95.005 mph * Improvement over stock: 1.23 secs, 3.65 mph