For 2006, the Chevrolet SSR’s major change is a jump in horsepower. Its 6.0-litre V8 made 390 hp in 2005; now, it produces 400 hp with a six-speed manual transmission, and 395 hp with the four-speed automatic.

Other changes are cosmetic. There’s a new Pacific Blue Metallic exterior colour; available two-tone exterior colour schemes (Smokin’ Asphalt over Ricochet Silver Metallic, or the silver over the Asphalt); an available chrome package; new accessories, available through the dealer catalogue; and available dealer-installed accessories, including a bright blanket for the underside of the hood, a cargo organizer, soft side-saddle bags, and an upgraded towing package with storage bags and foam inserts for storing the hitch and ball.

There’s also news in the pricing department: following a $10,700 price drop in 2005, the SSR comes down another $9,300 in 2006. That’s quite a change from $69,996 to $49,995 in just three model years; this pricey niche vehicle has never really strayed very far from dealer lots in large numbers.

The SSR comes in a single trim line, with a 6.0-litre V8 and a four-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission that can be optioned up to a six-speed manual. Features include 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 drive away, the tailpipe sends out an exhaust note that’s so perfect it sends chills up your spine. You can still get a good-quality real hot rod for the SSR’s price tag, with gas money left over, but for those who want an out-of-the-box cool ride delivered with a warranty, this is pretty much the way to go.

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