Impala shows nostalgia goes over As a Caprice
Classic, nah, but as an Impala SS, this ugly duckling becomes a
speedy swan with a truly surprising look and movement by Terry
Jackson (Des Moines Register, 12/17/95)
Nostalgia is a great tool sometimes. Take the Chevrolet
Impala SS for example. Here is a car based on the Caprice
Classic, which has been one of the major design flops for
Chevrolet this decade.
The best that could be said for the Caprice was that it made
a great taxi or police cruiser.
But as an Impala SS, this ugly duckling of a car becomes a
speedy swan, acquiring a look and movement that is truly
How is this possible?
Start with some history. In the 1960s, Detroit was just
discovering that the Baby Boomer generation had an appetite for
performance-oriented cars - or at the very least cars with a
At Chevrolet, the marketing answer to that trend was to create
a performance option package for most of its models that could
take even the most mundane car and make it into something
special. That package was called Super Sport, or SS for short.
SS Novas, Chevelles, Monte Carlos, Camaros and Impalas - the
latter being the name of the flagship Chevy before the Caprice
What an SS designation meant was a car was equipped with
bucket seats, a floor-mounted shifter, some fancy wheels and,
many times, a huge V-8 under the hood.
At the peak of the 1960s performance craze, Chevrolet was
stuffing cubic-inch V-8s into the SS version of the Nova, a car
that was the equivalent of today's Cavalier. In the Impala, it
was possible to order a 427- cubic-inch V-8 in the SS model,
turning the family car into a real thunderbolt. Today, SS model
Chevys from the 1960s are coveted by collectors and regarded as
possessing a certain cachet.
Prodded in part by Chevy General Manager Jim Perkins, who is a
collector of vintage Chevrolet performance cars from the 1960s
and '50s, the special products team decided two years ago to
resurrect some of the SS magic for the Caprice Classic.
The engineers went beyond cosmetic tinkering and created a
true performance car. Where a drive in a Caprice Classic is
patent medicine for insomnia, the 1995 Impala SS delivers a
delightful wake-up call.
Starting with parts that are included in the Caprice police
package - mostly stiffer suspension pieces - Chevrolet added a
260-horsepower version of the 5.7-liter V-8 found in the Camaro
and Corvette, stylish 17-inch aluminum wheels, quick-ratio power
steering, gas-pressurized shocks and grippy 225/50ZR tires.
Chevy added a floor-mounted console, leather-wrapped steering
wheel, leather seats, a small rear trunk-lid spoiler and an
"Impala SS" logo along the rear fenders.
Taken from a visual standpoint, these changes dramatically
transform. It appears to be a very capable road-handler just
sitting still, and the somewhat ungainly look of the Caprice body
is diminished by the way the wheels fill out the large wheel
But when the V-8 is fired up and the four-speed automatic is
put into gear, the true nature of the Impala SS shines.
This car is a two-ton sedan that goes and handles like a
Camaro Z28 - which is very faithful to the original Impala SS.
Flick the key and the V-8 rumbles to life with a deep but
muted roar. The dual exhaust note, as it is on the Z28, is among
the most exciting available in a new car today. Under
acceleration, the V-8 is a real adrenaline rush.
Versus the Impala SS of yore, this car performs much better in
handling and braking. Those old Impalas went like a rocket in a
straight line, but the suspension and brakes were never the equal
of the big-block V-8s.
Base sticker price for 1995 models was $ 23,210, and even with
a CD player and power seats the price rose to just $ 24,892. When
you consider that a Toyota Camry V-6 or a Honda V-6 would cost at
least that much - and offer considerably less fun - the value of
the Impala SS becomes obvious.
Chevrolet is phasing out production of the rear-wheel-drive
Caprice after next year, and the Impala SS in this form will
likely go away because the big V-8 just wouldn't work as well in
a front-wheel-drive format, which is what the Caprice replacement
will be. That may mean we'll all be reminiscing in 30 years about
those great SS models of the 1990s.
1995 IMPALA SS SEDAN
7 Engine: 5.7-liter V-8, 260 HP at 4,899 rpm
7 Base price: $ 23,210; as tested: $ 24,892
7 Transmission: 4-speed automatic
7 Weight: 4,036 pounds
7 Go power: 0 to 60 mph in 7 seconds
7 Fuel economy: 17-25 mpg
7 Safety: Dual air bags, anti-lock brakes