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

build.



   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,

performance-oriented drivers.



   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

original formula.



   Performance



   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

anger.



   Not so in the Impala SS. The car idles very smoothly and runs

very quietly.



   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

nature.



   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

seconds.



   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

harshly.



   Handling



   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

car's appearance.



   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

materials here.



   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

appearance.



   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

name.



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.