TEST DRIVE Impala SS muscles its way back into
action Reincarnation an eye-catcher by Russ DeVault (Atlanta
Journal and Constitution 4/29/94)
Depending upon your viewpoint, the racy 1994 Chevrolet Impala
SS is a muscle-car throwback, a forward-looking performance sedan
or a marketing ploy aimed at making a blast out of a blase family
But then maybe the eye-catching Impala SS - it's available
only in black-on-black, and the badging is so muted that even car
nuts ask who makes it - is all of the above.
For nostalgic and/or older auto buffs, the not-all-new Impala
SS represents the revival of a nameplate that hasn't been used
Muscle is the message. The car is powered by a 260-horsepower
version of the 5.7-liter V-8 that appeared in the Corvette in '92
and has been wedged into Camaros and Pontiac Firebirds.
Its refined engine, anti-lock disc brakes, a nicely
compromised suspension and starkly appealing exterior make the
Impala SS a car that should ride nicely through the '90s.
Cynics, meanwhile, can say that the Caprice-derived Impala SS
is a crass attempt to sell big ol' family/businessperson cars.
After all, where's the tachometer? And didn't those revered 1960s
Impalas offer manual transmissions instead of only a four-speed
automatic, albeit a well-behaved one?
But the fact is Chevrolet has pumped some appeal into what is
basically a large car - the Impala's wheelbase is 115.9 inches,
it measures 214.1 inches overall and weighs more than 4,200
Its size is really negatively noticeable only in some parking
situations and in close-quarter driving. Otherwise, the Impala SS
handles so smoothly - with only a touch of big-boat sway and
float - that the ride/handling suspension proves the traditional
American luxury car can be put under a massive four-door that
will corner with a surprising degree of aplomb and do more than
tolerate sudden maneuvers.
Power is plentiful, with the responsive V-8 turning out a
useful 300- plus foot-pounds of torque. Zero-to-60 mph
acceleration is in the seven- second range and the Impala's power
anti-lock disc brakes have a good feel and make stops with
The interior is simply big, with a massive, unadorned dash and
enough glass for good visibility. The front seats are living-room
large, with good power adjustments (the test car's power
passenger recliner came as part of an $ 860 package of mostly
luxury items) and acceptable - but not seriously upscale -
perforated leather surfaces.
Neither the controls, the instrumentation nor the furnishings
will be really new to anyone familiar with other full-size
Chevrolets. The only real irritants other than the lack of a
tachometer are the too-short stalk for the turn signals, a center
console with molded cup holders that seem an afterthought and the
non-sporty, column-mounted shifter.
But give Chevrolet credit for trying. The Impala SS will turn
heads and - despite having room for some performance-sedan
refinements - it is proof that big American cars capable of
transporting five adults don't have to be totally boring.