I recently drove a Chevy SSR, which is just a truly bizarre vehicle — the kind of truly bizarre vehicle that could’ve only come out of pre-bankruptcy General Motors, when there seemed to be no checks and balances on the kind of crazy they could put out, and no apparent interest or attempt to make a profit.
The SSR is the finest example of this, because it’s a 2-seat pickup (bad idea) that’s also a convertible (bad idea) with a locking cover over the bed (bad idea), combined with retro styling (bad idea) and a V8 (good idea!). Not one thing about this vehicle made sense. Oh, and the one I reviewed was purple. That really didn’t make sense. See the Chevrolet SSR models for sale near you
I’ll start with the driving experience, which was only average. Yes, sure, it was fun to put down the roof in the SSR and drive around in a rolling monument to weird, but the truck doesn’t handle especially well — it is, after all, a truck — it isn’t especially fast, and it’s not incredibly exciting or thrilling to do anything. Except, of course, to look at. The real fun comes on the outside, when you park your SSR and walk away from it, and you realize you’re driving something far more interesting than everyone else.
Now, part of the reason why my SSR driving experience may have been a little lackluster is the powertrain. The SSR I drove hailed from the truck’s early period — 2003 to 2004 — when it had a 300-horsepower 5.3-liter V8, mated to a 4-speed automatic. In the SSR’s "final years," 2005 and 2006, that engine was replaced with a 390-horsepower 6-liter V8 that also offered a 6-speed manual. I bet those are a bit more of a hoot.
And yet, I think they kind of miss the point — because despite the average driving experience, I came away from my time with the SSR thinking that I really enjoyed it. And it had nothing to do with how it drove — I liked it because it was just plain weird.
Think about it this way: everyone has a Chevy Malibu, or a Silverado, or a Honda Accord, or whatever. The SSR is for those people who complain that they don’t like boring cars, and then actually do something about it. No, it doesn’t fit with every lifestyle. In fact, it doesn’t fit with the vast majority of lifestyles. But for the few people who really want something that stands out — truly stands out — the SSR is the king. Nothing stands out like an SSR. Nothing. It’s a 2-seater convertible that’s also a pickup truck that looks like a 1950s car. It’s insane it was ever put into production in the first place.
Unsurprisingly, the SSR is also loaded with weird quirks that go beyond the driving experience or the styling; the bed, for example, has a bizarre opening and closing procedure you’ll have to watch the video to really experience. The roof is weird. The styling is just … I mean, you really wonder who approved this thing and why — and whether they thought it would have any impact beyond the few thousand units it actually sold.
In the end, the SSR was everything I wanted it to be: It’s not fun behind the wheel, but it’s fun in every other respect. Most importantly, it’s a fun affront to car enthusiasts who say they don’t want boring cars, but then bristle anytime any automaker actually comes out with something interesting. I’d probably consider getting an SSR if it fit my lifestyle and the needs I have for using a vehicle. Unfortunately, but perhaps unsurprisingly, it does not. Find a Chevrolet SSR for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.