WHAT'S BIG, BLACK, AND BRAWNY? THE NEW IMPALA SS (Bergen Record 8/20/94)




   Chevrolet Impala SS

Base price: $ 21,920

Price as tested: $ 23,611

Mileage: 17 mpg/city / 25 mpg/highway



   It feels like a genuine Chevy, something you haven't felt

since, well, maybe 1969.  That was the last year for the Impala

SS, the big Chevy family sedan with brawn.



   Today it's back as the 1994 Chevrolet Impala SS, with a base

price of $ 21,920.  It's all sleek and black outside, save for

the silver impala logos in three spots , and pumped up with a

5.7-liter V-8 engine derived from the Corvette. 



   This is the first time in 25 years that the Impala SS

nameplate graces a new car.



   And what a car it is.  True to its heritage, it's big and

heavy, weighing more than 4,200 pounds.  Yet it really gets up to

103 mph in no time while feeling like it's doing only 60.



   And despite its ample size, the new Impala SS doesn't go

flopping around on curves.



   The 1994 Impala SS (the "SS" is for "Super Sport") is actually

a 1994 Chevrolet Caprice makeover.  It's a rear-drive Caprice

family sedan that's been fitted with a Corvette-derived 5.7-liter

V-8 engine and a modified police-car suspension package.



   The Impala engine's 260 horsepower, at 5,000 revolutions per

minute, easily beats the 214 horses of the Chrysler LHS and the

190 horsepower of the Ford Crown Victoria LX.  The Impala's 330

pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm also separates it from the

competition.



   In fact, at an estimated 7.1 seconds from zero to 60, the 1994

Impala SS rivals some of its own ancestors road-galloping

performance.



   Yet fuel economy of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on

the highway is respectable, though a tad below today's

competitors.



   Its top speed of about 145 mph also is above the Chrysler LHS

112 mph and the Crown Vic's 125 mph, Chevrolet officials say.



   An impressively smooth, electronically controlled, four-speed

automatic transmission sends power to the wheels.  Shift points

during the test drive were hardly felt, except in aggressive,

pedal-to-the-metal maneuvers.



    Too bad, though, that the engineers and stylists chose to

keep the Caprice gear shifter on the steering column of the

Impala SS.  This car just cries out to have it on the floor.  The

1994 model has no tachometer, either.



    Chevrolet started with a police-car suspension package,

upgraded the power steering, then added new stabilizer bars in

the front and rear.



   Specially tuned gas-pressure shock absorbers were added, too.



   Anti-lock brakes are standard on the Impala and do an

impressive job stopping this rig.  There are 12-inch brake discs

on the front and rear.



    Traction control isn't available, but the special 17-inch

sporttires do a commendable job sticking to pavement.  They're on

especially attractive cast-alloy spoke wheels.



   The Impala is easy to spot.  Just look for the big black car

with the long hood.  Black is the only color for 1994, though

Chevrolet spokesman Craig Eppling said a few dark metallic colors

are being added for the 1995-model year.



   Both the front and back seats have ample room.  I could extend

my legs in the Impala's back seat even with the front seat back

all the way.  Indeed, three adults can sit comfortably in the

back.



    Adding to the ambience is the sound system, upgraded with a

compact disc player.



    There's a nice center armrest in the back seat, as well as a

sizable rear window shelf.  In between the front seats is a long

black console with several cupholders and cubbyholes.  But not

one of the cupholders, it seemed, was big enough for a large

fast-food cup.



   On the other hand, the Impala dashboard is huge, with one

rider remarking that he felt as if he were sitting behind a desk.



   The Impala SS is well-equipped with standard fare that

includes cruise control, two front air bags, a digital

speedometer, leather seats, a heavy-duty cooling system, and a

power driver seat.  The vanity mirrors have no light, though, and

front-seat shoulder belts are not height-adjustable.



   The 20.4-cubic-foot trunk is roomy and carries a full-size

tire.  In comparison, the Chrysler LHS trunk is 17.9 cubic feet,

and the Ford Crown Victoria trunk is 20.6 cubic feet.



    The lift over is quite high, however, to get items in and out

of the Impala trunk.



    Chevrolet's sales target is 6,000 Impala SS cars for the

1994-model year and 15,000 in the 1995-model year, Eppling said.



   Dealer invoice on the Impala SS, according to the New Car Cost

Guide, is $ 20,056.80.  The price as tested is $ 23,611.



   Competitors include the $ 30,283 Chrysler LHS and $ 20,765

Ford Crown Victoria.



   Predicted reliability: Consumer Reports says 1990-91 Chevrolet

Caprices with V-8 engines ranked worse than average in owner

trouble reports, and 1992 models ranked much worse than average.