Five-passenger, four-door sedan, 260 hp, 5.7-liter V8,

rear-wheel-drive, four-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 mph,

8.1 sec. (est.). EPA combined mileage: 20 mpg (19.1 observed).

Chevrolet Motor Division, 4455 dealers. Base price: $22,910. 

   There's something about the Impala SS that gripped my

subconscious and won't let go. Chevy's Jon Moss probably didn't

realize he was messing with the minds of a large part of the

baby-boomer generation when he showed the lowered, blacked-out

LT1-powered Caprice at the 1992 SEMA show.

   What is it about this hot-rod version of a car that's pictured

all too often in the mind's eye as a police car or taxicab? Maybe

it's the menacing looks. Maybe it's the sound. Maybe it's the way

it just goes, like cars used to when we were kids.

   I remember learning how to drive in a late '60s Impala,

powered by an air-and-gas sucking 454-cid V8 with a four-barrel

carb. Freeway speed limits were 70 in urban areas. Mr. Peruka, a

jock-turned-phys ed teacher-turned-driving instructor always

wanted us to get up to freeway speeds ''quickly and safely,''

which meant standing on it while merging. He'd help, too, pushing

your right leg as far down as it would go.

   The Impala SS retains a kinship with that driver's-ed car-big

and fast with four doors. Chevrolet has a hit on its hands

(selling 8000 instead of the projected 5000 in the first model

year). Naturally, when something works, you don't want to mess

with it. For '95, there are only two minor changes, both in

appearance: two new colors-green-gray and black-cherry

metal-lics-and a revised C-pillar that rounds out the

quarter-window and moves the Impala badge from an applique to

being mounted right on the sheet metal.

   The car still looks best in basic black. The two metallics,

especially a muted black cherry that's more chocolate than black,

take some edge off the aggressive look.

   Maybe we've been spoiled by the six-speed SS (see page 18),

but the exhaust note seems lacking some timbre. Gripes from last

year carry over-no tach, instruments are digital and, despite the

console and buckets, the shift lever's column-mounted.

   The car is still a hoot to drive-the 260 horses, and

especially the 330 lb ft of torque, belie the car's 4036-pound

curb weight. The seats are more bench than bucket, and their

placement is a bit off-center from the pedals.

   Though Chevrolet hopes to sell 12,000 Impalas this year, we

hope a more serious effort than just paint and badging is under

way for the future. Doing the car in the first place was a bold

move, but that momentum could be quickly lost if Chevy decides

not to improve the breed. After all, it's our minds they're

messing with, and we are a fickle lot.