1994 Chevrolet Impala SS; includes a related
article with a countervailing view; Evaluation by Daniel Charles
Ross (Motor Trend 6/94)
The first problem is that a Caprice Classic looks like your
dad's car. The second problem, Caprice power, is related to the
first. Even if you bought a 5.7-liter-equipped LTZ model last
year, with its top-line 180 horse-power, you still don't look
bad. You aren't going to pick up any cheerleaders in this car.
Fortunately, the loan arranger is here to help you. This isn't a
famous masked man, but the finance wizard down at the Chevy store
where you sign the note on the back-in-black '94 Impala SS. The
car is back to save the town after a 25-year hiatus, and this
time, the good guys are wearing black.
The first Impala SS (for Super Sport, Simply Stupendous, or
Sorry, Speeding)since 1969 rolled off the assembly line in
Arlington, Texas, February 14. It's been a long, dry season for
such hot full-size, rear-drive sedans. Chevy badly needed the SS
model to shore up a flagging performance image.
Some of you, however, will have to wait until next year to
get one. Only about 6000 copies will be made in the '94 model run
due to an assembly choke-point attributed to the wheel supplier,
but next year, more than 12,000 units can be planned if demand
warrants. Consequently, this car is a rare and elemental thing,
like plutonium, with enough street performance to be proud of.
The Impala badge fails to disguise the Capriciousness of the
underlying car.Yeah, it's built from Caprice Classic bits, but
the good ones used (up until now) only on police packages.
Historically, going back to the first appearance of the nameplate
in '58 as a trim option on the Chevy Bel Air, the Impala began as
a clone. In '59, the success of the package inspired it to become
a stand-alone variation, and in '61, the Super Sport hit the
streets as a performance model of Impala coupes, sedans, and
convertibles. The badge was retired in '69. Now it's back as a
new bad boy born of the Caprice line, but in sedan form only.
The wait was worth it. An impressive 260 horsepower is
supplied by Chevy's LT1 5.7-liter V-8, the same power pump
provided for the police car and a direct and close descendent of
that used in the Corvette. The neo-classic small-block eight
gives the Impala SS impressive low-end punch and a charge to
redline. New for the V-8 in '94 is sequential fuel injection for
more precise fuel metering and a powerful new powertrain control
module that can oversee the fuel injection, the "Opti-Spark"
ignition system, and the shift points of the 4L60-E
electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission.
Compared to the output of last year's LO5 engine, the SS LT1
makes 80 horsepower more and an additional 30 pound-feet of
torque. Impala avoirdupois tips the scales at slightly over 4200
pounds, but plenty of it is ready to be spurred into action by
your right foot. Careful modulation of the throttle is necessary
to keep rear-wheel contribution to global warming down to the
indispensable minimum, but the car flat goes, bud, no kidding. It
clocked an impressive 0-60 time of 7.1 seconds, compared to 8.5
seconds in our last Caprice test (April '93). Yet despite the
improvements, this engine also starts to run out of breath in
higher rpm registers like the V-8 it replaced. The quarter-mile
dial of 15.4 seconds at 91.1 mph is 1.2 seconds and 7.7 mph
faster than the last 5.7-liter Caprice we tested, making this
significantly quicker than the legendary SS396 Impalas of yore.
In instrumented testing, the SS shined most brightly in
braking from 60 mph.At a staggering 120 feet, it's about a boat
and trailer shorter (13 feet) than in our last Caprice test.
Though the car comes equipped with GM's first-class Delco ABS VI
as standard equipment--same as the Caprice--the brakes are
radically upgraded for the SS. The four-wheel ventilated power
disc system includes huge 12.1-inch rotors (gratifyingly visible
behind the classy five-spoke mags), modernized from the Caprice's
standard 9.5-inch rear drums.
Its home-sweet-home is the street, and here, chassis
improvements made over the last 25 years stand out. The Impala's
front suspension features the same independent short and long
arms, steel alloy coil springs, and stabilizer bar as the current
Caprice, though the settings are firmed up to heavy-duty
standards. In the rear, all cars on the platform have a four-link
live axle with coils, stabilizer, and shock absorbers 10
millimeters larger; the Impala is tuned stiffer. Handling, with
quick firm-feel power steering, is so good this setup ought to be
expanded to the entire Caprice brotherhood. The SS has a natural
tendency toward tail-happiness, we found, but clocked 62.9 mph
(versus the Caprice's 61.7) in our 600-foot slalom. An 0.83g
figure was scrubbed off the skidpad, a negligible difference from
the Caprice's 0.82.
The Impala SS is as great a value as it is a performance
statement. Your $23,355 buys the right engine, ride, and
performance. And best of all, it ain't Your Dad's Car--unless
you're Luke Skywalker.