CHEVY A BARGAIN AT $25,692: Impala SS is still a fine big car Lexus refinement missing, but feature-for-feature it compares favorably by Steven Cole Smith (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/25/96)

   When I tested the 1994 Chevrolet Impala SS, there wasn't much

to criticize.

   Negative comments were essentially restricted to the automatic

transmission shifter mounted on the steering column a car with

such sporty intent needed a console-mounted shifter and the dopey

digital dashboard, which would be more at home in the geriatric

Caprice Classic. (The median age of the average Caprice Classic

buyer is 67.)

   For 1996, the Impala SS has two major changes: a

console-mounted shifter and regular analog gauges that have

replaced the digital dash.

   So now, the car is perfect?

   Well, for what it is, it's pretty close. Plenty of room, a lot

of standard safety equipment, including dual air bags and

anti-lock disc brakes, excellent performance and distinctive

looks. List price, with a compact disc player and leather-trimmed

interior: $25,692.

   Our 1994 model listed for $23,611, but didn't have quite the

level of equipment the 1996 model does. It was a bargain then,

and it's a bargain now. For a similar level of performance and

comfort in a big sedan, you'd have to look to Germany for

Mercedes and BMW models, or to Japan for a Lexus or Infiniti.

   And you'd be looking to your banker for a much bigger loan.

   Feature-for-feature, the Impala SS compares favorably with the

Lexus LS 400, but costs less than half as much.

   Is it as refined? Of course not. But for the difference in

price, I'm willing to overlook quite a bit of unrefined behavior.

   Really, though, there isn't much. The Impala SS still has a

260-horsepower version of the 5.7-liter V-8 found in the Corvette

and Camaro Z-28. The four-speed 4L60-E automatic transmission,

which is as good as any in the world, is immediately responsive

and still helps the Impala SS to a respectable 17 mpg in the

city, 26 mpg on the highway.

   For a 4,036-pound sedan, the Impala SS handles much more

nimbly than the weight suggests. Much of that is due to a taut

suspension, featuring premium de Carbon shock absorbers, and

plump P255/50ZR-17 radial tires mounted on five-spoke cast

aluminum wheels.

   The front power bucket seats, although comfortable, are still

lacking in lateral support.

   Instruments and gauges are properly placed and legible, and

the stereo is more than adequate.

   All Impala SS models are built at the GM plant in Arlington,

Texas, which will be changed over to produce pickups after the

1996 model year. This is the last hurrah for the Impala SS, as

well as the Caprice, Buick Roadmaster and Cadillac Fleetwood.

   Will the Impala SS become a collector's item? That's unlikely,

because too many were built. But it does, and will, hold its

value quite well.

   When I tested the 1994 model, I said that if I needed a big

car, I'd probably buy an Impala SS. That hasn't changed.