Tale of two Chevys Impala SS nameplate comes back
in sporty and powerful new way by MARK MAYNARD (San Diego Union-
Uh, gee, officer, it's a little hard to tell how fast you're
going in this car . . . It's big, it's quiet, it's heavy."
The officer was not moved. "Uh-huh," he said. "What is this
anyway?" motioning with his ballpoint pen at the shiny black
cruise missile of a car.
I explained it was the new Chevy Impala SS, kind of a street
version of the police-package Caprice used by many
law-enforcement agencies (San Diego not included).
"Oh," he said, and nodded. "Do you know why you are being
I was hoping for a burned-out tail light, but no such luck.
This heavily modified Caprice thinks it's a Corvette with four
doors -- and it seems to attract just as much attention.
Chevrolet reincarnated the Impala SS nameplate for this
special production model. Only about 6,000 of the new Impalas
will be built this year and more than 5,000 orders already have
been placed. The $23,611 sticker price is guaranteeing speedy
sales of this super sedan, so don't expect any haggling -- and
some buyers have paid a premium for the car.
The Impala SS is just the ticket, as it were, if you need a
big car but would rather have a sports sedan or if you've always
wanted a sports car but are fearful of a small car.
Whatever your preference, the Impala is an American gladiator
with the comfort and agility of a touring car; it has generous
room for you and three friends or adequate room for you and four
Despite the police-package suspension, the ride is lithe and
seldom choppy or harsh, yet there is a taut feel that lets you
know this car is ready for fun.
Throw it hard into a curve and enjoy the grip of the tenacious
17-inch B.F. Goodrich TA radials. But hold on tight, because
while you may slide around in the big leather seats, this
4,218-pound sedan barely gives an inch. It comes with specially
tuned de Carbon gas shock absorbers for extra damping and road
feel, and heavy-duty front and rear stabilizer bars make for
Stopping power is also potent from the mammoth four-wheel
ventilated 12-inch disc brakes; anti-lock braking is standard,
too. Drop anchor and the garden-size plots of rubber at each
corner slow the Impala from 60-0 in 120 feet, which is about the
best in its class -- or any class.
Engine and transmission not mention to the officer that the
Impala is loaded with the LT1 5.7-liter Corvette engine.
Firepower is rated at a righteous 260 horses and 330 foot-pounds
of torque. (The Vette is rated at 300 horsepower.) Pull the
trigger and it shoots to 60 mph in an almost socially
irresponsible 7.1 seconds and passes the quarter mile in 15.4.
The Impala has no traction control and could easily do a burnout
the length of Main Street, but those tires won't allow that.
From the driver's seat the potency of the 350-cubic-inch V-8
is masked by the well-insulated cabin and engine compartment.
Not even the tone from the dual stainless-steel exhaust announces
the engine's fitness. You don't really know how deadly the
Impala can be until your right foot goes down and you're pressed
into the seat and the digital speedometer spins upward like Aunt
Effie just yanked on the slot machine handle . . . And then, it's
On the inside
The interior is not as interesting as the car's performance,
but there is no shortage of creature comforts.
The gray carpet, instrument panel and seats seem
police-cruiser plain, but they get the job done. Driver and
passenger are pampered with air bags and six-way adjustable
seats. However, those seats could use some thigh and torso
bolsters for a snugger fit to match the car's athletic abilities.
The instrument panel is simple and uncluttered and the center
console has a deep covered storage area and two small cup
holders. Visibility for the driver is good, but the outside rear
view mirrors are a little too fashionably small.
The oddest feature is the column shifter for the automatic
transmission. That placement is fine for a sedan but seems out of
place in this road warrior and virtually eliminates any selective
shifting that a console shifter would make possible. Not that
the four-speed automatic transmission needs any help, though.
Its shift points are well-timed and smooth even under forceful
This is an impressive arrangement of performance hardware,
which the EPA says will deliver 17 mpg around town and 25 mpg on
the highway. Depending, of course, on how often you make that
baritone V-8 stand up and sing -- and it can be a silver-tongued
While this year's Impala is available only in basic black,
next year's production run of 15,000 also will be offered in dark
cherry metallic and dark green-gray metallic.
The original run of SS Impalas ran from 1961-69 and they are
still quite collectible. Especially desirable are the years of
1961-67, when you could order the 360-horsepower "She's so fine,
my 409" V-8 engine made famous by the Beach Boys.
The next-generation Impala is still so fine, but you won't buy
it for a song.
Chevrolet Impala SS
Body type: 4-door, 5-passenger Drive system: Front engine,
rear drive Engine size & type: 5.7-liter LT1 (350-cubic-inch) V-8
Fuel induction: Sequential port fuel injection Horsepower: 260 at
5,000 rpm Torque: 330 foot-pounds at 3,200 rpm Acceleration: 0-60
mph, 7.1 seconds; top speed, 145 Transmission: 4-speed electronic
automatic with overdrive EPA fuel economy estimates: 17 mpg city,
25 mpg highway Fuel capacity: 23 gallons Trunk space: 20.4 cubic
feet Overall length: 214.1 inches Wheelbase: 115.9 inches Curb
weight: 4,218 pounds Warranties: 3-year/36,000-mile
bumper-to-bumper; Commitment Plus program includes courtesy
transportation during service maintenance; 24-hour roadside
assistance Standard features: LT1 5.7-liter engine, 4-speed
automatic transmission, leather upholstery with front floor
console, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 4-wheel disk anti-lock
brakes, full-size spare, 17-inch aluminum wheels, rear deck-lid
spoiler, de Carbon shock absorbers, heavy-duty engine cooling,
performance suspension, limited-slip axle Options: Electronically
tuned AM-FM stereo radio with seek-scan, digital clock, compact
disc player, coaxial front and extended-range rear speakers in
1SB package, $860, includes passenger's six-way adjustable power
seat; remote keyless entry with trunk release; twilight sentinel
headlights; power antenna; automatic day-night rear view mirror;
rear-window defogger with heated outside rear view mirrors. The
competition: Ford Crown Victoria LX, Ford Taurus SHO, Infiniti
Q45, BMW 740iL, Lexus LS400, Chrysler LHS Base price, $21,920;
price as tested, $23,611
American gladiator: The 260-horsepower Impala SS has the
thick-necked brawn of a muscle car and comfort and agility of a
touring car with generous room for you and three friends. 2.
Flowing lines: The instrument panel is simple and uncluttered,
but the shift lever seems out of place on the steering column.
Driver and passenger are treated to air bags and six-way
adjustable seats. 3. Chevrolet Impala SS (AUTO-5) 4. The 17-inch
B.F. Goodrich TA tires are grippy but generate noticeable road