Chevy SSR: The Impractical Oddball

The Chevrolet SSR is a weird automobile. Take the propensity to add chrome trim and curves inspired by a 1950s retro theme to a bubble-shaped light truck powered by 2.4-liter inline fours.Then, since convertibles are retro, we have to have that as well, right? Except oh no, it can’t just be an average convertible. Why can’t we make it a pickup truck? Well, General Motors had that idea in 2003 when they released the Chevrolet SSR.

SSR means Super Sport Roadster, which, considering what the car had to offer, didn’t really do anything to describe the thing. The SSR is not super sporty in any sense. It’s like the Harley-Davidson of the car world. It’s a cruiser with a big engine and marketing intent on making you feel like you are driving down Route 66 taking a drag off a Marlboro in the middle of New Mexico. A place where loaded nachos and beer flow like a waterfall…

I also wouldn't call it a roadster either. It fits the basic idea of being a two-seat convertible, but the term roadster usually refers to a small, sporty, chuckable thing that you bang through gears on at the Tail of the Dragon while revving the nuts off it’s small (usually 4-cylinder) engine. The SSR does none of these things. Well, It does have two seats and the roof does fold down, but it is a pickup truck. It has a bed that can be used to hold things… like maybe groceries.

Let’s address the first issue with the SSR. Did I mention it’s a damn pickup truck? Because it is, but it can’t tow much or even hold much, despite the truck platform it’s built on. It is based on the GMT360 platform which also underpins the Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, and the Oldsmobile Bravada, as well as other badge-engineered vehicles that feature that body-on-frame SUV look. The aforementioned Trailblazer can tow from about 5,200 pounds to 6,800 pounds, depending on engine and rear differential.

So, how much can the SSR tow? Based on the same platform with a more powerful engine and less weight.... 2,500 pounds. Maximum. So, it can’t really tow much, short of small trailers. Now I know what some of you are thinking. So what if it can’t tow much? It can still carry stuff in the bed can’t it?


Sadly, not much. It’s carpeted all throughout, and the top only eats into the already limited space. It may hold a sheet of plywood at most, but that wood will tear up the carpeted trim. It’s just a glorified trunk in the back. That’s why I mentioned its grocery carrying prowess, as I’m guessing that’s all owners use it for other than bags for a weekend trip.

Now, with the impracticalities of owning a convertible pickup truck based on a truck platform, marketed to be sporty out of the way, let’s make this look like an actual review.

The Chevrolet SSR is a convertible pickup truck based on the GMT360 platform and had two engine options through its production run of 4 years. From 2003-2004, the sole engine choice was a 5.3L LM4, that made 290 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. From 2005-2006 though, the SSR received the 6.0L LS2 which made 400 horsepower from the 6-speed Tremec T56 manual transmission and 400 pound-feet of torque. The SSR is rear wheel drive, and you did have a choice between of a 4-speed automatic at a sacrifice of about 5 horsepower.

All those numbers may make the SSR seem fast, but it is not. The SSR weighs in at about 4,700 pounds, and it is still based off of a truck platform. with 0-60 times between 7.7 to mid-5 seconds, depending on the engine and transmission, and an average of a 14.4 second-ish quarter mile time at roughly 99 miles per hour.

Now, let’s compare that time to some lesser cars, shall we? A 2003 SSR is slower than or roughly equal to both the 1990 Chevrolet Beretta GTZ, which is a compact coupe with a 180 horsepower High Output Quad 4 and is 13 years older than the SSR. It beats the SSR to 60, and clocks in the same exact quarter mile time. A 1991 Ford Escort GT (not my LX) clocks in the same time as the SSR to 60, and a slightly slower quarter mile time, at 16.1 seconds. Remember, this is a small car with 128 horsepower.

An early model Chevrolet SSR gets slapped in the face by two mildly high-performance FWD compact cars from the early 1990s…

It’s not like you will be going very fast in the twisties with an SSR anyway. It does weigh almost 5,000 pounds, especially with the wife and all of your bags in the carpeted bed. Around the skidpad, it holds .82g of lateral grip and it stops from 70 miles per hour in 185 feet. Low numbers at best in terms of grip and stopping power. Higher than my car, but keep in mind my bargain-basement car has 175 width tires all around and it’s not marketed as being sporty.Keep that in mind SSR owners. You win one point against an econobox from 1991.

So, how much does it cost you to own this curvy piece of pickup truck with a folding roof? Well, new it MSRPed for about $43,180 to $47,000 depending on options, including a nicer Bose stereo (no highs, no lows, it must be Bose!), better leather seats, and a few more niceties for the price. GM made more accessories available through the dealer for the SSR, including branded tote bags and things like that which some people seem to love to buy. However, the SSR has a high resale value. Kelley Blue Book says a 2006 SSR is worth between $24,500 and $28,000 for a good condition example from a dealer… and this is a lesson learned.

There are always better sports cars, there are better pickup trucks, and there are better convertibles than the SSR. It’s a horrible excuse for all three, and the people who own them either like the look or the pure oddity of it. For $25,000 used, you can buy many new or used cars that are better and more useful than the SSR. I’m thinking more towards an E60 BMW M5, with a V10 engine that can go 200mph with a removed limiter while being comfortable and holding 4 people on the Autobahn. There are many other great choices, just don’t buy an SSR, unless you really want one. Doesn’t mean I won’t scoff at you though.