IMPALA SS NEARS THE END OF A SHORT, SWEET RUN by
Jim Mateja (Chicago Tribune 3/31/96)
All good things, it has been written, must come to an end.
Sadly, that also applies to the Impala SS. It will be
discontinued at the end of the 1996 model run, though it now
looks as if that run might be extended to December to take
advantage of demand.
Someday the name will resurface, probably on a car short on
performance, short on style, short on the vibrance the SS offers.
And when it does resurface, unless there's a V-8 under the hood,
Chevrolet better leave the SS designation off of it.
Though the Impala SS has been around only a few years, having
arrived in the 1994 model year, it will leave its mark on the
industry and on Chevy because:
- The SS helped folks forget how much Chevy screwed up when it
redesigned the Caprice for the 1991 model year and the bulging,
bloated sedan became best known as a cab. Chevy tried deflecting
some of the criticism by coming up with the performance LTZ
version a year later. At the directive of Chevy general manager
Jim Perkins, who wanted a Caprice that ran and handled well and
looked good, too, the Impala SS arrived in the 1994 model year.
The Impala SS was Chevy's way of saying "Oops."
- The SS showed that Pontiac wasn't the only GM division to
make big cars that were fun to drive. And if a big car was going
to come up short in mileage, why not give it reason to by
building a full-size performance sedan that didn't carry the
- The SS gave middle-age boys a way to explain to their kids
and grandkids how Super Sport V-8 models from the '60s and '70s
were designed to perform.
In the 1994 model year Chevy built only 6,081 Impala SS
versions and, in taking a cue from Henry Ford, all were black.
In 1995, based on demand, production swelled to 18,643 SS
models in black, cherry or green. In the 1996 model year through
the end of February, 11,175 have been built and sold in the same
colors. By year-end maybe 20,000 will be built.
The solid color exterior is complemented by flush,
body-colored door handles, a selection of Impala insignias on
the body panels and wheels and a slender spoiler on the deck
lid. The stylists chose the understated approach to let the
car's performance make a statement. Had Ford designers done the
car, the body panels probably would have been laden with head
lamp to tail lamp decals that glowed in the dark and played
Though a bit sedate on the outside, get behind the wheel and
the SS is a pure joy. When the car bowed and Chevy turned the
media loose on the track in Elkhart Lake, Wis., we found
ourselves missing the pylons that directed drivers into the
pits. The blunder meant we had to make one more lap in the SS
while others in the media waited patiently--make that not so
patiently--to get behind the wheel. Ironically, most of the media
kept missing those pylons.
The Impala SS is the Caprice
engine/transmission/suspension/brakes police package in a
stylish sedan minus the mars lights.
But GM said the high-performance Impala SS sedan has to make
way for more pickup trucks. So Caprice, Impala, Buick Roadmaster
and Cadillac Fleetwood, GM's big rear-wheel-drive machines, soon
will become asterisks in the history books.
Don't blame pickups for Impala's demise. Blame those who
grouse that GM doesn't build enough full-size, rear-wheel-drive
sedans, but who have failed to buy enough of the cars.
What makes the SS special is the engine/suspension, basically
the Caprice police package with a few modifications for the
smooth, quiet, comfortable ride and handling that the typical
police car must skip to win the lowest bid.
The Corvette-derived 5.7-liter, 260-horsepower, LT1 V-8 with
sequential fuel injection, aided by a limited slip differential,
makes the SS come alive. The 4-speed automatic shifter is where
it belongs, on the floor. The exhaust is tuned to provide a
little growl to alert you--and those around you--that this is a
Chevy sedan with an attitude.
The special ride and handling suspension keeps the weight
clinging to the pavement without unnecessary roll in corners or
pitch on uneven or roller-coaster surfaces. Gas-pressurized
shock absorbers reduce road harshness and specially tuned front
and rear stabilizer bars keep the vehicle sitting flat in wide
turns and sharp corners. The 17-inch, all-season radial tires
smooth the ride while grabbing a wide patch of concrete.
Quick-ratio power steering allows the big sedan to respond to
wheel input quickly yet smoothly without floating.
The interior is spacious front and rear. The front bucket
seats are wide, supportive and deeply contoured to help hold you
in place in aggressive maneuvers, the SS's forte. If your only
interest in having a big sedan is to provide lots of passenger
and luggage room for long-distance vacation travel, get a
Be advised a group of motorists have bought or will buy an
Impala SS and put it up on blocks until it reaches optimum
collector status--in other words, is worth more than it is
If that's your intention, get two, one to store, one to enjoy.
Base price is $24,405. All comfort and convenience items are
standard so you don't need a bunch of options, other than the
AM/FM stereo with CD, which is only $155. For collector value,
you probably want leather seats, but for everyday driving
enjoyment, cloth holds you in place better and is cooler in the
summer and warmer in the winter.