A CLASSIC IS RE-CREATED IN CHEVY'S IMPALA SS by
Richard Truett (Orlando Sentinel 4/21/94)
For auto makers, there is danger in resurrecting a hallowed
nameplate from the past.
Do it wrong and you could tarnish the reputation of a
time-honored classic and alienate the nostalgia buffs.
But get it right - as Chevrolet has done with the head-turning
Impala SS - and you'll get orders for more cars than you can
Before the new Impala SS even rolled off the assembly line,
Chevrolet headquarters in Warren, Mich., was bombarded with more
than 5,000 orders for the car.
Support for the new Impala SS began at auto shows in 1992,
where a concept of the car began to draw attention. At that time,
there was no plan to build the car.
But when enthusiasm for the car started to build, Jim Perkins,
Chevy's general manager, huddled with dealers, found out they
wanted to sell the car, and then gave the boys over in production
the thumbs up. That's how the Impala SS was resurrected.
Although the new Impala SS is based on the conservative
Chevrolet Caprice sedan, it is a radically different car.
The Impala name first appeared on a Chevy Bel Air in 1958. It
became a separate model in 1961. Throughout the '60s, the Impala
SS (for Super Sport) came with large V-8 engines, offered
tire-smoking performance and boasted conservative but attractive
styling. The car was designed to appeal to middle-aged,
The model was discontinued after the 1969 model year.
For the new Impala, Chevy's mechanics stuffed a Corvette
engine under the hood. Then they engineered a radical suspension
system and created a sporty interior. And finally, they designed
a unique exterior styling treatment with huge wheels, a special
grille and other cosmetic touches.
After one week and nearly 400 miles in the 1994 Impala SS, I
can tell you that the '90s version does not veer far from the
The heart of the Impala SS is a Corvette LT1 V-8 engine and a
computerized four-speed automatic transmission. No other
drivetrain is available.
Chevrolet rates the Impala's 350-cubic-inch V-8 at
260-horsepower, making it the most powerful four-door sedan on
the road for less than $25,000.
In the Corvette, the LT1 engine makes 300 horsepower; in the
Pontiac Firebird and Chevrolet Camaro, it makes 275 horsepower.
In all three of those cars, the engine rumbles and shakes with
Not so in the Impala SS. The car idles very smoothly and runs
And the performance is civilized, too. The Impala SS remains
quiet and stable as it gains speed.
It is only when you step hard on the accelerator at a low
speed that you can hear the engine sucking in air as it winds up.
It's a nice sound, one that appeals to a person's sporting
Chevy has done its marketing homework. The Impala is designed
for aging baby boomers who want more room and who like a
full-size car with a lot of power. Chevy knows that younger
buyers aren't going to choose the Impala SS when, for about the
same money, they can have a Chevy Camaro Z28.
When it comes to performance, the Impala SS delivers. No
official 0-to-60 mph times are available from Chevy, but Motor
Trend magazine says the Impala SS will make that trip in just 7.1
Not bad for a car weighing 4,218 pounds.
The transmission is nothing short of excellent. Most of the
time the shifts up through the gears are close to undetectable.
However, when you pass slower traffic at about 40 mph, you can
feel the gearbox downshift from fourth to third, sometimes
Incredible is the only word that can describe the way the
Impala SS slices through curves. No big car that I've ever driven
handles as competently as the Impala SS.
The secret? A very firm and stiff suspension system that keeps
the body straight. At each wheel, Chevy has installed a special
high-performance gas-charged shock and a heavy duty coil spring.
Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are capable of hauling the
Impala SS to an effortless stop from high speeds. For instance,
it takes just 120 feet to stop the Impala SS from 60 mph,
according to Motor Trend.
The anti-lock system is one of the best yet from GM. You feel
little feedback at the brake pedal.
The power-assisted steering is sharp and crisp, making lane
changes and sharp turns a breeze.
Fat, 17-inch B.F. Goodrich radial tires mounted on special
Impala SS-only aluminum wheels complement the handling and the
On the down side, I noticed that the stiff suspension system
causes the car to shudder slightly when a small bump is hit. But
that's a small price to pay for such stellar handling.
Fit and finish
GM cars are starting to feel great again.
The shoddy workmanship and slap-'em-together way GM built cars
in the '80s is gone.
The Impala is screwed together tightly. The gaps between the
fender and doors, hood and trunk, and interior panels are all
uniform and straight. Nothing was loose on the test car, and the
doors closed with that reassuring solid thump, a characteristic
of GM's solidly built products of years past.
Every power accessory worked flawlessly. The controls were
designed well, and they felt good to the touch - no cheap
The test car was fully loaded. It came with power seats,
mirrors, windows and door locks, plus a CD player, air
conditioning and cruise control.
As much as I liked the car, I still think there is room for
improvement in the way some of the Impala's parts are designed.
The door-mounted outside mirrors are too small and seem to be
poorly placed. Getting a good view of what's behind you can be a
bit of a chore.
Also, the rear view mirror on the windshield doesn't seem big
enough; you can't see the whole area behind the car unless you
move your head back and forth.
A few other improvements also could be made: The shifter
should be on the floor in the console, not on the steering
column, and it will be on the floor in '95 models, said Chevrolet
spokesman Tom Hoxie in Michigan.
The Impala has a computerized speedometer readout and analog
fuel and temperature gauges, carried over from the Caprice. It
really needs a full gauge package, one that includes temperature
and oil gauges and a tachometer.
Also, I would like to see some nicely styled chrome-tipped
exhaust pipes. Two plain pipes hang just under the rear edge of
the bumper; some special tips really would set off the back-end
Lastly, the Impala SS comes only in black. The logos on the
side of the car also are black; you can't read them or make them
out unless you stare intently. If the logos were red or chrome,
they would stand out better against the black paint.
A special set of comfortable, leather bucket seats, divided by
a console containing cup holders, gives the Impala SS interior
its classy, sporty feel.
The dash contains two air bags and a centrally located pod
containing the radio and air conditioner controls.
The back seat area is huge. Impala logos emblazoned on the
upholstery give the car a very classy and special look.
In my book, the Impala SS is just a few minor cosmetic
upgrades away from being a modern-day classic. In any case, the
new Impala SS is a car that deserves to wear such a cherished
1994 Chevrolet Impala SS; PHOTO: 1994 Chevrolet Impala SS; CHART:
SPECIFICATIONS - 1994 Chevrolet Impala SS; VEHICLE; LENGTH;
Overall 214.1; Wheelbase 115.9; WIDTH; Track-front 62.3; Overall
77.0; HEIGHT; Overall 54.7; FRONT COMPARTMENT; Head room 39.2;
Leg room 42.2; REAR COMPARTMENT; Head room 37.9; Leg room 39.5;
WARRANTY; 3-year, 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper with no
deductible; 6-year, 100,000-mile rust protection and 24-hour
roadside assistance.; MECHANICAL; Drivetrain layout: Front
mounted engine and transmission, rear-wheel drive.; Suspension:
Front, independent with gas-charged shocks, coil springs and
anti-roll bar; rear, live axle with gas-charged shocks, coil
springs and anti-roll bar.; Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel
disc with anti-lock brakes.; Engine: 260-horsepower,
350-cubic-inch (5.7-liter), fuel-injected V-8 with two valves per
cylinder.; Safety features: Dual air bags, anti-lock brakes.;
Fuel tank: 23 gallons.; Weight: 4,218 pounds.; Steering: Integral
with power assist.; Transmission: Computer-controlled four-speed
automatic.; Wheels: Alloy.; Inches unless otherwise specified
COLUMN: TEST DRIVE
1994 Chevrolet Impala SS
Base price: $21,920 EPA rating: 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway
Price as tested: $23,611 Incentives: None
Truett's tip: The Impala SS offers incredible power; excellent
handling; a smooth, quiet ride; and a supremely comfortable
interior. It just may be the best full-size high-performance
sedan on the road for under $25,000.