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

car.



   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

pounds.



   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

authority.



   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.