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The interior is fashioned around a twin-cockpit design but doesn’t have the same refined, contemporary feel as the exterior. The horizontal bar theme is quite dominant as is the waterfall center console. The power window and power top controls are found on the aluminum bezel that surrounds the shifter. Further back on the console are hot-rod style gauges that are difficult to read at times. The E-brake handle is on the passenger side of the console.
I found the interior accommodations cramped with little shoulder room against the doors. And don’t try to adjust the power seats with the door closed. It’s nearly impossible to squeeze your hand down to the controls. With the top up, wind noise is among the highest of any convertible. But a ’32 street rod roadster isn’t much quieter or ergonomic. This is a hot rod with nice, leather seats and a booming Bose sound system. It’s for cruising, weekend drives and car shows. You’re already in a great mood going to these auto-enthusiast events, so a little discomfort won’t bother anyone. But tolerating the closed quarters after a 12-hour day at the office and spending two hours on the 405 freeway in 100-degree heat would take a toll on a normal motorist.
The SSR’s chassis and suspension is more suited to cruising than carving corners in the canyons. It’s stable but a little slow witted. It’s still a truck built on an SUV chassis. Engineers put extra effort into tuning the suspension—especially the steering—but the weight remains a major handicap. Traction control and a Torsen rear differential come with automatic while the manual foregoes the traction control and gets an Eaton limited-slip differential.
In summation, the SSR reminds me of the Isuzu VehiCross. Again, here is wild concept vehicle brought to life using an existing SUV chassis. The VehiCross was certainly more futuristic looking, so consumers had a difficult time identifying with it. The SSR has the heritage and a built-in identity. But the VehiCross was also was quite the conversation piece and drew plenty of attention. The main problem with the VehiCross was that it had a sports car exterior but a 2-door Trooper chassis underneath and weak V6 engine. Unlike the SSR which backs up its hot-rod image with almost 400 horsepower and a menacing exhaust note, the VehiCross didn’t come close to handling or accelerating like its persona would indicate. Not that the engineers didn’t try with a wicked set of remote-reservoir, extruded aluminum shock absorbers and special tuning. In a rally situation the VehiCross showed some promise, thanks to its 4-wheel-drive capability and generous ground clearance. The VehiCross is also similar to the SSR in that both vehicles utilized a unique stamping process, so engineering advances will be part of their legacies.
I had fun driving the VehiCross along the back roads of Hawaii, and I had fun driving the SSR up the California coast. But neither would be my choice as a first or second vehicle in a 3-car garage. I think SSR owners knew the truck’s limitations as well as its strengths when they purchased it. Customer satisfaction is probably higher than expected because of this understanding. The SSR’s starting price of $42,430 is steep—and most come in closer to $47,000 with the hot stereo and 6-speed—but so is the cost of any cool hot rod. There are intangibles that come with the SSR that offset criticisms that would normally hurt the truck. To be honest, I’m happy with my memories from admiring the concept five years ago. I’d rather spend the 45-grand building my own roadster, but I’ll certainly be one of the first to congratulate an SSR owner and pepper him or her with the well-deserved attention.
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