IMPALA SS: Monster mill moves mainstream sedan BY
ART SUDERMAN (Calgary Herald 6/3/94)
FOR a drive on the wild side of Wheels, could I interest you
in a Chevrolet Caprice souped-up with a Corvette engine?
The muscle car era returns. Muscle Caris Rapidus, Book Two. To
title the sequel, the bowtie brigade dips into the past and gives
the Impala SS nameplate a return engagement. Impala first
identified a Chevy sedan in 1959 followed in 1961 by the Impala
Super Sport. The GM division dropped the handle in 1985.
Stuffing a monster mill into a mainstream sedan is what
started the first muscle car era in the 1960s when Pontiac
upgunned a mid-size Tempest and called it GTO.
There's a significant difference to this deja vu, however.
While those big-bore brutes of the '60s and early '70s could go
like lightning in a straight line, they'd roll like thunder in
the curves. By sharp contrast, the 1994 Impala SS caresses
corners with athletic enthusiasm thanks to beefy low-profile
performance tires and a taut street-smart suspension.
At the heart of this factory hot rod is a 'Vette-derived
powerplant known as the LT1. It's a strong heartbeat. The smooth
5.7-litre V-8 feeds through sequential port fuel injection to
churn out 260 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and a potent 330
foot-pounds of torque at 3,200 rpm.
A crisp five-speed manual transmission would be too much to
expect, I suppose. But the good news is the four-speed automatic
tranny shifts with authority and works in tandem with a
limited-slip differential to get plenty of push to the rear
Impala SS blisters the pavement in acceleration runs and is
happy through the hairpins. Super-wide footprints make it next to
impossible to get out of shape in the twisty sections unless the
roadway is slick. Anchor points are all-season BF Goodrich Comp
T/A tires generously sized at P255/50 ZR17.
Steering rates an A+. The power-assisted recirculating ball
setup is blessed with quick turn-in properties and is acceptably
co-operative on-centre although wheel feel is firm.
On the open road, the behemoth becomes a 1,812 kg (3,995 lb.)
security blanket as it arrows down the 'pike immune to cross
winds. Wind whoosh and suspension thump are subdued but tire
noise can be heard when running over patched pavement.
Encountering low-speed irregularities, the suspension allows a
bit of jostling and side-to-side pitching.
Deceleration hardware ensures superior stopping power. Each
wheel has a big disc brake fortified with Bosch anti-lock
technology, and nosedive is minimal in a panic stop situation.
OK, so it's fast. But who wants a sports sedan that looks like
a taxi? Or an unmarked cop car?
Not to be concerned; subtle but effective styling tweaks have
transformed Caprice the beluga whale into Impala SS the killer
You can have any color you want, as long as it's black.
Onlookers gawk and wonder. There is no blatant exterior
nomenclature, just a trio of leaping Impala caricatures rendered
To hunker the imposing four-door down properly over those big
boots on handsome five-spoke aluminum alloy wheels, wheelwell
openings have been slightly reduced with fully-radiused skirting.
A wing hugs the top of the decklid and twin exhaust tips peek
from below the rear bumper valance.
But the most successful modification involves the rear
three-quarter windows where knife point trailing edges have been
softened by add-on plates. This simple alteration dramatically
reconfigures the greenhouse area.
John Zoet of GM's Calgary zone office rolls out this week's
test unit. Equipped with air, cruise, tilt, power
windows/mirrors, keyless entry via key fob push pads, map reading
lamps, electrochromic dimming rear view mirror, automatic
exterior lighting and a four-speaker AM/FM audio with CD player
and power antenna, it sells for a suggested retail of $ 31,788
Chevy exploits the wide-body Caprice interior with thoughtful
packaging and king-size components. Headroom and legroom are
plentiful, but rear door openings are surprisingly small.
All four portals offer door pulls and storage pockets. Other
places to carry oddments include a good-sized glove box and a
rangy central console containing a deep armrest bin, dual
beverage holders and a two-stage tray.
Front seats are overstuffed reclining easy chairs with
backrest pouches big enough to swallow a phone book. The leather
high-back buckets are long on comfort but short on lateral
support. Both are power adjustable but not electrically heated,
which means a cold backside on chilly mornings.
The light-colored dashboard is attractively laid out with
matte black inserts consolidating an instrument binnacle and a
midships control panel.
Sometimes, though, I think The General suffers from brain
fade. Given its high performance profile, why is there no
tachometer on the Impala SS? To make the situation even more
incongruous, four proper analog gauges (fuel level, coolant temp,
oil pressure and battery voltage) surround a dumb digital
* * *
This is the last Art's Rating column for a while. Art is at
home recovering from bypass surgery.
In the meantime, Herald sports editor and car nut Dave Obee
will be filling in.
1994 Impala SS
PRO -- Family sedan with hot rod heart.
CON -- Sloppy interior panel fit.
PRICE RANGE -- $ 26,398 to $ 31,788
Dual airbags, side-impact protection beams, ABS all-disc
0-100 km/h -- 7.1 seconds
50-100 km/h -- 4.9 seconds
80-110 km/h -- 3.9 seconds
City: 14 L/100 km (20 mpg)
Highway: 8.6 L/100 km (33 mpg)
Fuel tank capacity: 87 litres