For 2005, the Chevrolet SSR receives several major changes. The biggest one is under the hood, where 2004’s 5.3-litre V8 has been replaced with a 6.0-litre LS2 V8 engine borrowed from the Corvette, which gives it a 90-horsepower boost over its predecessor. What’s truly surprising is that, even with the bigger engine, the price has dropped $10,700 (yes, you read that right) from 2004. GM had a lot of trouble moving these last year at seventy grand and is no doubt hoping the improved power-to-cash ratio will bump up sales.

Along with the engine, 2005 changes include an available six-speed manual transmission and a redesigned dead pedal to accommodate it; a new engine cover; retuned steering for more precise on-centre feel and less effort; revised exhaust routing; self-supporting gas strut hoods; new body colour packages; a new exterior colour (Aqua Blur replaces Ultra Violet) and a revised driver’s floor mat.

The SSR comes in a single trim line, and includes a hard plastic cargo liner, fog lights, heated mirrors, removable hard tonneau cover, 19-inch front and 20-inch rear aluminum wheels, variable intermittent wipers, manual climate control, cruise, electric rear window defogger, floor mats, leather-wrapped wheel, express-down windows, leather bucket heated seats with six-way driver and two-way power adjustment, CD/MP3 player, automatic headlights and programmable power locks.

The SSR is Chevrolet’s modern version of a hot rod; it’s loosely based on the 1948 Chevrolet, although its squared-off fenders don’t complement the swoopy body as well as the original truck’s rounded fenders did. The SSR’s crowning glory is its roof, a magnificent piece of engineering that retracts at the touch of a button, stacking the roof panels vertically behind the passenger compartment in less than 30 seconds. Some hot-rod fans have suggested that offering a fixed roof for a lower price tag might get the SSR into more garages, and that may be true, but pull into a parking lot and start the roof moving, and you’re guaranteed to draw a crowd. And when it’s time to pull away, the tailpipe sends out an exhaust note that’s so perfect it sends chills up your spine.

Along with the extra power, Chevrolet has addressed a few concerns that plagued the 2004 model: on-centre numbness, high steering effort, and a cheap-looking hood prop rod. You can still buy two high-quality real hot rods for the SSR’s price-tag, but for those who want a cool ride delivered from a dealership with a warranty, this is pretty much the way to go.

The SSR is built in Lansing, Michigan.

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