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

Bonneville name.



   - 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

music.



   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

Caprice.



   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

today.



   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.