CHEVROLET IMPALA SS CALL OF THE WILD by Matt
DeLorenzo (Autoweek 6/13/94)
If ever there was a car that screamed ROAD TRIP the way the
Phi Delts did in Animal House, it's the Impala SS.
It's big, it's black and, with 260 hp and 330 lb ft of torque,
Dressed in black-on-black-on-black (You look at it and say,
''How much more black could this be?'' And the answer is none.
None more black.), the Impala SS looks as every bit as menacing
as Flounder's brother's Lincoln, after it was transformed into
Actually, we were a little worried how well the SS package
would translate from the Chevy Raceshop version prepared by Jon
Moss into the production units. At Chevy's long lead last summer,
an early prototype appeared to have a higher ride height and the
wheels didn't quite fill up the wells. But our fears were allayed
when we took delivery of our test car. The smartly styled
five-spoke 17-inch wheels wear BFGoodrich Comp T/As that are
proportional to the bulk of the car and its wheel openings. The
monochrome treatment works extremely well, as does the embossed
Impala SS badging on the flanks and the subtle rear spoiler. This
car comes across as more of a SHO Taurus hunter/killer than a
There is more to the Impala SS than just a retro name. Like
power. Gobs of it. The 260 hp, which peaks at 5000 rpm, is only
half the story-the real hero here is the 330 lb ft of torque
delivered at 3200 rpm. That stump-pulling grunt makes the car act
as much as it looks like those brawny cars from the golden age of
Old-timers who remember how engine torque on big-block sedans
used to lift the left-front slightly higher than the right will
be washed with feelings of deja vu when giving the Impala SS the
Those feelings will definitely fade with the lack of fade in
the brakes. The good ol' days weren't really that great when all
you had between you and the end of the road were drum brakes
spewing asbestos dust whenever you jumped on the binders. The
four-wheel vented discs equipped with ABS are state-of-the-art
and help haul down the car's hefty 3418-pound curb weight in
short order. Other new-age goodies that make this car eminently
more livable than its ancestors include variable-rate power
steering, the relatively large footprint of the tires (which
makes going around corners actually fun) and safety features such
as dual airbags. And there's also a thick, grippy steering wheel
covered in leather-much nicer to hold than those thin-rimmed
plastic jobs of yore.
Still, the size of the Impala SS remains true to the species.
There's plenty of spread-out room both in the passenger cabin,
trunk and even beneath the hood (quick-when was the last time you
could see the ground when looking down into an engine
This here's a Blues Brothers, jazz musician, poetry-slam ride
of the first order. Just make sure you wear dark glasses inside
the car, too, and don't invite any guests from the blues clubs
unless his name is something like Blind McGee, Blind Bob or Blind
Melon. For all the enjoyment packed beneath the hood and in the
suspension, the interior on the Impala SS is its Achilles' heel.
The buckets are comfortable enough, but they're offset from the
pedals (obviously Chevy merely stuffed the buckets on either side
of the trans tunnel, resulting in the awkward seating position).
Instead of a nice console shift, the lever remains
The biggest disappointments are the digital speedometer and
lack of a tach. After all, it's the '90s and we should be well
through this digital thing now. And for all its sporting
pretensions (Chevy is marketing the SS as a sport sedan), there's
minimal instrumentation, though one staffer had a unique
perspective on the missing tach: ''Don't you get it? You're
supposed to buy a black-and-chrome Sun unit and hose-clamp it to
the steering column like the old days. Sheesh. Use your heads.''
Of course, these deficiencies are cost-related. Chevy took a
big roll of the dice to build the SS and any savings realized by
not reworking the interior to any great extent is somewhat
understandable. If the car doesn't sell, it won't be out a lot of
cash. If it does sell well, the money should be available to
address these shortcomings in future model years. Certainly the
division must be credited for holding the line on price-the low
$20,000s sticker is spot-on with SHO Taurus and Vision TSi.
The big-hearted engine and menacing looks touch something deep
down inside we're not sure we want disturbed. In a way it's scary
that GM, and Chevy in particular, knows us this well. Impala SS
is fast, roomy and reminds us of the cars we learned to drive in.
And though we'd like to think of ourselves as too hip to ever
admit to liking the Caprice (police cars and taxis did as much as
anything to ruin that car for us), we really like this car. Just
don't tell anyone, O.K.?