Impala SS provides surprising element of driving
fun by JERRY WALLACE (Advocate 4/29/94)
"Fun" is a word reserved for sports cars -- convertibles,
sports coupes, sports sedans, etc.
Perhaps sport utility vehicles and some steroid-influenced
trucks might qualify. Seldom since the sixties, though, has a
family sedan included "fun" as part of the deal. And back then
the sedans with the most potential for fun featured some
Still, the word "fun" applies to the 1994 Chevrolet Impala SS.
This dolled up Caprice is the product of the exact same thing
that made '60s vintage family sedans fun: it's souped up as well
as dolled up - and it comes that way from the factory.
Designed for fun, the shiny black Impala that Chevy provided
for a test drive was just that: fun; a hoot; a car you want to
drive on the interstate.
Far from the fastest car on the road, it is still a lot
quicker than anyone would expect and therein is a lot of the fun.
Plus it's a big ol' blast from the past when Impala Super Sports
were dueling with Plymouth Furies and the like.
Furthermore, the longer you look at the new Impala, the more
you like it. The first incarnation of this generation of Caprice
was downright ugly. Caprice itself is vastly improved with
opened up wheel wells etc., and the Impala is really quite
There's really nothing else on the market like the Impala SS:
rear wheel drive, Corvette powered, big as all get out and fitted
with some snazzy extras. It's fun and it's fast and it's also a
bit fancy, what with leather seats, and all.
It's too big to fit today's definition of a "sports sedan" and
barely makes any pretense in that direction. It has a column
shift, for example. On the other hand, if sporty means racy,
Impala carries the "super sport" SS and a few other speed cues
such as a black out grille with only the bow tie shining in
chrome and a rear deck spoiler.
Seventeen-inch rims are shod with speed-rated rubber and spoke
with chrome. The black-on-black Impala SS logo on the car's
flank is a neat touch.
Inside, there's an interior that boasts the comfort that was
behind the whole idea of the Caprice in Impala's heritage.
No-nonsense black satin finish on the dash sets the tone. The
big, softly padded power bucket seats are a far cry from the
Recaro racks you might find in a real race car and the
digital/analog dash even lacks a tachometer. There are voltmeter
and oil pressure gauges, though, and a trip odometer.
The standard equipment stereo is an excellent AM/FM/cassette
The test drive vehicle had a compact disc that is sure to be a
popular option -- one of the few available.
Between the seats is a very useful console with two versatile
and, believe it or not, attractive cup holders plus a utility
tray. The console storage compartment is deep enough for a layer
of junk and a stash of CDs on top. There's also a glove
compartment that's smaller than you might guess since the
passenger side air bag is mounted on top.
There's interior room to spare. Driver and front passenger
are wallowing in it; rear seat accommodations are plenty for
three. Trunk space is also good but the standard equipment
full-size spare eats into it a bit. Standard in the trunk are
carpeting and a cargo net.
Reading lamps front and rear, a tilt wheel, power locks and
mirrors, and visor mirrors are also standard.
Now for the goodies that surprise the guy next to you on the
interstate. The Corvette LT1 version of General Motors'
quintessential V8, the 350 C.I.D., rumbles quietly under the
The only tranny available is the electronically controlled
four-speed automatic fitted with an oil cooler.
Special ride and handling items include de Carbon shocks and
the big ol' tires. The rear axle features a 3.08 ratio and
limited slip technology. The car's extras include speed control.
Before the guys at Chevy provided the SS, they had me test
drive a plainer Caprice. Here's the tame version of the car.
Bench seating, a toned-down version of the V8 engine and lots
more chrome and nods to the "family styling" that spawned the
return of Caprice spell Jekyll to Impala's Hyde.
While the Caprice sacrifices a lot of the jazzy elements of
the Impala for "tastefulness" it sacrifices nothing in terms of
comfort and space.
Here's the basic America big car. It's not going to impress
anyone with speed or handling but it features the soft,
comfortable ride a lot of people feel has been left out of modern
cars. There's a market out there for the big car and Caprice is
designed to fill that bill.
As noted above, the Caprice is much more attractive than it
was at first and the interior is everything you'd want and then
Moreover, the car doesn't cost an arm and a leg. It's about
average. Granted, average is a hefty $ 19,000 or $ 20,000 these
days, but Caprice with a fine outfitting of extras will still fit
Impala, after all, is barely $ 23,000, and it's got a lot in
the way of expensive extras on it.
Between the two, Chevrolet has something for the big car buyer
-- regardless of whether he's looking for fun or for economical,