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Road & Travel's 2004 Sexy Car Buyer's Guide

Chevy SSR
2004 Chevy SSR

There once was a lass who had plenty of sass and, some will agree, a fantabulous... sense of fashion.

Well, everything doesn't have to rhyme. Does it? But wait. For someone like movie diva Jennifer Lopez, attention exeunt lends as much excitement as a red carpet arrival.

Same could be said about Chevy's newest hunk, the hardtop "ragtop" SSR saddle-back roadster that's the heart of GM's R-Evolution campaign. SSR blasted on-scene as a brazen newcomer several months ago with a lot of jaw-dropping charisma and eye-popping colors to boot, like a buxom bombshell in the wings just waiting for the curtain to rise. But a lot of the attention being heaped on this racy retro jet isn't just for the hyped performance quotient: A gutsy 300-horsepower cast aluminum 5.3-liter Vortec V-8. The deliberate "in-your-face" reminiscences of yesterday's street il-legal dragstrip races. (No one does that today, do they?) The (yawn) hydroformed steel frame and other equally mind-numbing technical specs that craft contemporary comfort with a sporty, rear-drive punch. It isn't even its stance as an accessory-phile's dream in the $42 K range (or a little over $46 K with all the available toys added).

Rather, it's that fabulous behind that says it most of all.

Riding on haunchy 20-inch rear wheels, an inch larger than the front ones for added authority, SSR commands attention wherever it goes, whether in up-top or down-top mode. And what happens to that retractable hardtop in fair weather remains a mystery, despite the explanation it's packed in a stack somewhere behind the seats. With sporty handling despite its semi-pickup mode, there's still plenty of usable truckbed space remaining when it's out of sight. Seems even a hippy diva can have a practical side.