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Chevrolet Impala SS (1995)

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SEE ALSO:Chevrolet Buyer's Guide

The new Chevrolet Impala SS demonstrates a couple of positive things about American auto buyers. Many remember the muscle cars of the sixties, the nostalgic days of the Beach Boys and their fine (Impala SS) 409. There are also those who still prefer plenty of go-power in their transportation despite government fuel economy regulations and a social climate of increasingly bland practicality. These folks remember the simplicity and raw power from plenty of cubic inches that now has been replaced by technology, sophistication, and safety.

After a 25 year hiatus the muscle car has returned. The Impala SS is the full-sized American performance car of the nineties. Since its introduction last year its production has virtually been sold out. Production quotas have been increased for 1995. Back in the late sixties these factory hot rods were basic, simple and loaded with power. While not exactly simple, the latest Impala SS is the result of dipping into the Chevrolet parts bin and combining a 260 hp Corvette LT1 V8 pushrod engine with a modified police car suspension and large 17 inch wheels with sticky tires in a slightly-restyled Caprice Classic sedan. It is a civilian version of the police special with an upgraded interior and without a light bar across the top. These alterations really change the image of the car and transform the bland Caprice Classic into a good-looking, good-handling, and safe modern muscle car.

A week of suburban and highway driving, plus a few laps around a closed training course left these impressions:

APPEARANCE: It's surprising what a few detail changes can do for looks. With the addition of 5- spoke 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels and low-profile tires, full cutaway wheel arches, modified rear quarter windows, a small ducktail spoiler on the rear deck, and a dark-colored paint job with some distinctive badging, the rather bulky Caprice Classic is transformed into the svelte Impala SS. Originally available only in monochrome black, the SS can now be had in dark cherry or dark green- grey. Consensus among many buyers and writers is that black best suits its powerful image!

COMFORT: Roominess is a hallmark of the Impala SS. Its interior is trimmed in leather, with contoured seats in front and back. A full complement of power windows, locks and mirrors, plus infra-red remote locking, and powered front seats add a touch of class to go with its performance potential. A center console with cupholders, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and black satin finish on the instrument panel develop its sporty character. However the shifter is still on the steering column like it was in the sixties. The AM/FM/CD stereo fills the large cabin with high-quality sound. The heater/air conditioner is easy to use and maintains a comfortable cabin climate.

SAFETY: Besides dual front airbags, the Impala is fitted with four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, 3-point outboard seat belts with height adjustment for the front seats, and rear door child safety locks. Its design incorporates rugged steel safety cage construction along with front and rear crush zones and side impact protection. The PASS-key II provides passive safety.

ROADABILITY: Muscle cars were renowned for their acceleration and often criticized for their stopping and handling abilities. The new Impala SS shows how far the state of technology has come in the last quarter-century. With four-wheel disc brakes, it stops far better than its drum-equipped ancestors. And, even though the Impala has the same classic independent front suspension and solid rear axle design as its predecessors, the art of suspension tuning has come a long way in twenty-five years. The P255/50ZR17 B. F. Goodrich Comp T/A tires don't hurt any, either. As big as it is, the Impala SS handles very well, even on a tight "sports car" road, and has a good, firm sports-sedan ride.

PERFORMANCE: There might be some static from the faithful here. 'Sixties muscle cars had big- block engines. The Impala SS uses the classic small-block Chevy V8 in its 350-cubic inch 260- horsepower form. The LT-1 powerplant produces plenty of urge and makes for a better-balanced machine than a big block would. Acceleration is fully comparable to the old muscle cars - or better! - and fuel economy is much improved. A limited-slip differential helps get power to the ground.

CONCLUSIONS: Chevrolet has a unique offering for enthusiasts of American performance in the Impala SS. It is a modern update of the classic muscle car of the past with just enough modern technology to make it work very well.


           Base Price              $  22,910
           Price As Tested         $  24,601
           Engine Type             V-8, ohv - 16 valve, spfi
           Engine Size             5.7 liter/350 cid
           Horsepower              260 @ 4800
           Torque (ft/lbs)         330 @ 3200
           Wheelbase/Length        116"/214" 
           Transmission            four-speed automatic w/od 
           Curb Weight             4200
           Pounds per Horsepower   16
           Fuel Capacity           23
           Fuel Requirement        Unleaded regular (87 oct)
           Tires                   BF Goodrich Z24 Comp T/A P255/50 ZR17
           Brakes                  antilock standard  vented disc/vented disc
           Drive Train             Front engine/rear drive
           EPA Economy - miles per gallon,        
             city/highway/observed         17/25/19.8
           0 to 60 mph                     7.4 sec  
           1/4 mi (E.T.)                   15.9 sec    
           Coefficient of Drag  (Cd)       .36