He Drove, She Drove: Huge Impala SS nears
extinction with macho gusto that might turn off women by Paul &
Anita Lienert (Detroit News, 2/21/96)
At a glance, the 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS seems like a relic
of the Bronze Age, with the girth of a Boblo boat. Little
surprise, then, that GM will halt production of the gargantuan
rear-drive sedan after this model year.
But once you drive it, you may begin to understand why
dinosaurs continue to be popular -- especially with boys.
She: If you're a woman, you can stop reading right now. This
is a total guy car. There's nothing delicate about it. In fact,
Chevy even brags that the Impala has "a special ride and handling
suspension derived from (the) law enforcement package." What
woman would be thrilled by that fact? I have to conclude there
are only two types of men who would want this car -- younger
males who fantasize about playing cop or retirees who don't
shuffle when they walk. By that I mean someone who's vigorous and
active, and doesn't want to give up the V-8 engine and rear-wheel
He: Let's see now. I'm not retired yet, although I've already
started shuffling and I love to play cops. By the way, did you
notice that back seat is bigger than the Macomb County jail?
She: Unlike a lot of sedans that seem to fudge on the number
of full-size adults that you can cram in, with the Impala, you
can easily and comfortably fit six big people. Look at all the
rear shoulder room -- more than 63 inches! I guess this is one of
the reasons the Impala SS has no direct competitors.
He: Actually, you can still get that much room in a Buick
Roadmaster, a Ford Crown Victoria or a Mercury Grand Marquis. But
none of those cars has the panache or pretension of the Impala,
which is really a land yacht that aspires to be a speedboat. The
engine is a detuned version of the Corvette V-8, but it still
makes 260 horsepower. And the suspension is stiff enough to keep
this Baby Huey glued to the pavement when you fling it around a
corner at any kind of speed.
She: The car may be glued down, but you won't be. One of the
things I absolutely didn't like about the Impala was that you
don't feel nestled in the cabin like an egg in a styrofoam carton
the way you do in, say, the Ford Taurus. The instrument panel has
a lot of old-fashioned straight lines, and there is no sense of
warmth and coziness. In that way, it's very much like a police
car. But I'm sure the typical Impala buyer won't be bugged by
that. Anybody who likes that sinister monochromatic paint job,
which seems to emphasize the car's sheer bulk, and the scary
spoke alloy wheels with the blackwall tires isn't going to be
worrying about curling up in the cabin.
He: But they'd probably like the way this car handles. The
quick-ratio power steering gives the SS a surprisingly snappy
feel, and the 3.08:1 axle ratio really powers this monster off
the line. You want leather? They got leather -- seats and
steering wheel. And for the safety-conscious parent who may be
drawn to the Impala, there are standard anti-lock brakes, dual
air bags and child-proof rear door locks. What more could you
She: A car that's not too bulky to park. A car that my husband
doesn't tell me, "Don't take it out in the snow to test drive; it
wouldn't be fair." Well, you're right. It makes you think twice
about driving in a Michigan snow storm. And even in clear
weather, the rear end seemed to have a mind of its own whenever I
tried to accelerate too quickly in corners. But it does have
something to recommend it. It feels like a bargain. I love to
look at a window sticker and see lots of those zeros next to all
the standard equipment.
He: There's a lot of car here for 25 grand, and it's pretty
much fully loaded. We didn't talk about the gas mileage either,
which is shockingly good considering the Impala's two-ton curb
weight and that powerful V-8. The EPA claims you should get up to
25 miles a gallon on the highway. Of course, that's driving with
a feathery touch on the throttle, not your usual lead foot,
She: As if. But if you are that type, you'll be happy to know
that the Impala SS is trying to go out with a bang, not a
whimper. For the 1996 model year, it gets a tachometer and what
we used to call four on the floor, except this transmission is an
automatic, not a manual.
He: Okay, forget the handcuffs. All I want for our anniversary
is a shiny new Impala SS -- and a silver badge.
Anita and Paul Lienert are partners in Automotive Intelligence
Reports, a Detroit-based automotive information services company.
Anita's rating: *
Paul's rating: * * * *
What we liked: Bargain price for tons of standard equipment;
reasonable insurance rates; loads of power -- and room; good
What we didn't like: The most sexist Big Three car (Anita);
difficult to park (Anita); hate rear-wheel drive (Anita);
intimidating styling (Anita)
1996 Chevrolet Impala SS
Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, six-passenger sport
Price: Base, $ 24,405; as tested, $ 25,692 (incl. $ 590
What's new for '96: Floor-mounted shifter, tachometer.
Standard equipment: Air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering
wheel, rear-deck spoiler, map pockets, center console with
cupholders, leather sport bucket seats, tilt steering column,
rear-window defogger, remote keyless entry, theft-deterrent
system, intermittent wipers, AM/FM stereo with cassette.
Safety features: Dual air bags, anti-lock brakes, child-proof
Options on test vehicle: AM/FM stereo with CD player ($ 155)
and Impala SS preferred equipment group ($ 490) incl. 6-way power
seat, passenger automatic day/night rear-view mirror, twilight
sentinel headlamp system.
EPA fuel economy: 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway.
Engine: 5.7 liter V-8 SFI engine; 260 hp at 5,000 rpm; 330
lb-ft torque at 2400 rpm.
Transmission: Four-speed automatic.
Specifications: Wheel base, 115.9 inches; overall length,
214.1 inches; curb weight, 4036 pounds; legroom, 42.2 inches
front; 39.5 inches rear; headroom, 39.2 inches front/37.9 inches
rear; shoulder room, 63.4 inches front/63.4 inches rear.
12-month insurance cost: $ 885
Where built: Arlington, Tx.
AAA Michigan rates based on an average family of four from the
Livonia area whose primary driver is aged 40 with no tickets who
drives 3-10 miles each way to work. Rates reflect multicar
discount and, where appropriate, discounts for air bags and seat