Who says General Motors (GM ) can't build cool cars? Just look at the retro muscular Chevrolet SSR convertible sport pickup. With its big grille, round headlights, and wide, flared fenders, the styling harks back to the Chevy pickups of the late 1940s. Add to that a brawny V-8 engine, and the SSR promises to be a pretty cool package.
Does the SSR, which runs from $42,000 to $45,000, deliver on that promise? It does if you're looking for panache. But it lacks great driving performance. While the 300-horsepower V-8 makes the car roar, serious sports car fans will want more power. The SSR is built on the bulky chassis of the Chevrolet TrailBlazer SUV, which is one reason the SSR weighs in at a hefty 4,800 pounds. A bigger engine, like the 350-horses in the Pontiac GTO, would make this one scream.
The SSR also could use more refinement. It's low to the ground like a sports car but the ride is harsh. I took a 90-degree right turn quickly, and the rear end went swinging to the left. It was fun, I admit, but it shows the SSR is more about style than handling.
The pickup bed is useable, although the SSR is hardly the kind of truck you would load up with mulch. You don't want to scratch this baby. The bed is covered by a painted, locking hard cover. That's handy if you're transporting some valuable cargo and want to stow it away out of sight. Another nifty feature is the hard top that retracts at the push of a button for open-air cruising.
The pickup's biggest drawback is its price. With chrome accents stretching across the steering wheel and on the gear shift, center console, stereo controls, and door-lock knobs, it's stylish inside. Still, it suffers in comparison with other cars in the same price range that are more warmly appointed with soft leather. Since the SSR is not a true performance car, you're not getting the kind of bang for your buck that, say, a BMW delivers.
The SSR is a sexy convertible for burning down the boulevard. But you really have to be enamored with its looks and all-American image to be satisfied with the truck at this price.
By David Welch