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

wheels.



   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

shark.



   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

in chrome.



   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

including freight.



   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

speedometer.



   * * *



   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.



   ART'S RATING



   1994 Impala SS



   PRO -- Family sedan with hot rod heart.



   CON -- Sloppy interior panel fit.



   PRICE RANGE -- $ 26,398 to $ 31,788



   SAFETY



   Dual airbags, side-impact protection beams, ABS all-disc

brakes.



   PERFORMANCE



   0-100 km/h -- 7.1 seconds



   50-100 km/h -- 4.9 seconds



   80-110 km/h -- 3.9 seconds



   FUEL ECONOMY



   City: 14 L/100 km (20 mpg)



   Highway: 8.6 L/100 km (33 mpg)



   Fuel tank capacity: 87 litres