Tale of two Chevys Impala SS nameplate comes back in sporty and powerful new way by MARK MAYNARD (San Diego Union- Tribune 7/30/94)




    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

stopped?"



   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

business associates.



   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

near-flat cornering.



   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

too late.



   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

acceleration.



   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

devil.



   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

sing. (AUTO-5)