After our extensive review of an early production SSR for our Sport Truck of the Year competition, we said that if we scored charisma, Chevy's Super Sport Roadster would blow away the competition. After driving this mid-year production model equipped with a few extras, we haven't changed our opinion. It has such style and class that it always draws a crowd wherever you drive it. So if you decide to buy one, be ready to share it with the neighborhood.

But that's OK because there's much to share about the SSR, the classiest, friendliest sport truck on the market.

For example, the SSR shares the Trailblazer chassis, but the body-on-frame construction is reinforced with several additional crossmembers as well as its upper all-steel unibody shell. The combination gives the SSR a fairly stout chassis for a convertible pickup with minimal cowl shake and very good road-holding power on moderately rough road surfaces. In other words, it's blast to drive on twisty mountain roads, on the freeway, or just cruisin' the local spot.

The SSR has its quirks, which add or detract to its charm depending on your disposition. The nose rolls away, so it takes some driving time to get to know where the front edges are. The rear box flares also take some getting used to; you have to remember they're there when maneuvering in tight spaces.

This truck is all about style, but for the most part, the form and function blend wonderfully in this machine. But, of course, there are a few exceptions. For example, the placement of controls on the flat dash put a few of the controls just out of reach, and the trip odometer, angled as it is below the instrument cluster, is virtually impossible to read from a comfortable driving position. The powered seat controls, located on the side of each bucket seat, are difficult to manipulate unless you open the doors. We also found that the armrest positioning in the sculpted door panel was a bit low for our comfort. But we have to admit, the Super Sport interior atmosphere outweighed all our minor complaints.

On the upside, the design of the cockpit of the SSR flows effortlessly out of the truck's exterior styling. Its sweeping dash with satin-finished bright-aluminum crossbar carries the body color into the interior. The gauges are large and easy to read, with a distinctly American feel from the graphics on the gauge faces. Our SSR tester came equipped with the electric-heated seats. If you're going to have a convertible, spring for this option. The heated seats extend your ability to enjoy top-down motoring as well as getting you up to temperature quicker on frosty winter mornings. Also, the myriad stylish details, such as the delicate spot lighting on the center of the dash and console, make being in and around the machine an automotive pleasure.

As cool as all the styling and brilliant design details of the SSR are, the heartbeat of any hot rod/sport truck is its engine and driveline. The SSR is motivated by a 300hp all-aluminum Vortec V-8 powerplant that puts power to the rear wheels through a 4L60-E electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission. It pushes the SSR through the quarter-mile in 15.36 seconds at 91.35 mph and reaches 60 mph in just less than 7.5 seconds. For most people, this level of performance is adequate. But for those not satisfied with the stock performance, check out our performance test on the new SSR MagnaCharger Radix supercharger kit.

LikesStar power
Beautiful styling and packaging of the aluminum V-8; rear-wheel-drive power
One of the best factory exhaust growls we've heard

DislikesEmphasis in the interior of form over function
The stance of the SSR needs to be lower and with less rake
The need for crowd control when driving or parking

Specs:
Year/Make/Model:
'04 Chevrolet SSR

Base price: $41,370 (tax, license, delivery charges excluded)

Price as tested: $43,910

Vehicle type: midsize two-seat convertible pickup

Construction: steel unibody on hydroformed frame; rear drive

Engine: Vortec 5300 V-8: sequentially fuel-injected, OHV pushrod, 2 valve/cyl., aluminum block and heads, 325ci/5.3L, 9.5:1 comp. ratio

Horsepower: 300 @ 5,200 rpm

Torque: 331 @ 4,000 rpm

Fuel: 87 octane unleaded

Transmission: Hydra-Matic 4L60-E 4-speed automatic w/ Overdrive

Suspension: F: double A-arm R: five-link solid axle

Wheel: F: 19x8-inch aluminum; R: 20x10-inch aluminum

Tire: F: P255/45R19 Goodyear; R: P295/40R20 Goodyear

Brakes: power-assisted four-wheel vented disc with 4-wheel antilock braking system; front rotor: 12x1.14 in; rear rotor: 12.8x0.78 in

Wheelbase (in): 116

Length/Width/Height (in): 191.4/78.6/64.2

Track (in): F: 64.1; R: 64.9

Turning circle (curb to curb): 38.1 ft

Curb weight (lbs): 4,670

Tow rating (lbs): 2,500

EPA city/hwy/combined mpg: 15/19/17

Fuel-tank capacity/range: 25 gal/475 mi

Acceleration 0-60: 7.49 sec

Quarter-mile elapsed time: 15.36 @ 91.35 mph

Braking 60-0: 144.9 ft

Brake fade 60-0: 140.3 ft

600-ft slalom: 60.93 mph

SCSSR
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

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