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

non-factory stuff.  



   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

attractive.



   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

unit.



   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

hood.



   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

some.



   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

that description.



   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,

sizeable transportation.