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

since 1969.  

   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


   Large interior

   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.