- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2003

There are some givens in this life (or at least there ought to be) — You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t take the mask off that ol’ Lone Ranger, and you don’t mess around with… the legacy of the SS . Don’t get me wrong here, the Chevrolet Bowtie camp offers up a very nice and worthwhile ride in their latest version of the Impala SS for 2004.

It provides added performance and a distinctive appearance over other Impala models in the lineup. But guess what…it could be a whole lot more — and, it definitely should be, especially when flaunting the revered (it used to be anyway) SS badging.

“SS” used to stand for Super Sport, and conjured up visions of heaping doses of extra power and performance. Admittedly, the power and performance are a cut above the rest of the Impala stable and there are some unique styling cues as well, such as the monochromatic black paint theme, including color-keyed bodyside moldings, “SS” badging, decklid spoiler and lowered front fascia with integrated fog lamps. Dual, bright stainless exhaust tips and body-color taillamp applique further add to the car’s exterior individualism. On the inside are other marks of distinction which include: a racing-inspired six-gauge cluster with boost gauge; and “SS” logos on the door trim and floor mats.

The supercharged engine is a 3.8 liter V6 that produces 240 horsepower, shifting through a four-speed automatic transmission and finally delivering power to the front wheels. The chassis and suspension componentry have been enhanced to provide a somewhat sportier ride and improved handling characteristics.

The Impala SS rides on W-rated 17-inch tires mounted on sporty, attractive diamond-cut 5-spoke aluminum alloy wheels.

This is all well and good, but I’m confident that a lot of enthusiasts feel that things would really be right if a healthy V8 (a small block would be just fine) with a low, rumbling exhaust, delivering horsepower in the mid-300 range were nestled under the hood in place of the V6. An automatic transmission is okay, as long as we’re talking rear-wheel drive which we’re pretty sure the Almighty intended.

The test Impala SS was finished in black (the only color for now) with a base price of $27,335. Addition of the Impala SS preferred equipment group, comfort seating package, driver’s side impact airbag, XM satellite 100 channel radio and destination charge elevated the final count and amount to $30,540.

The 2004 Chevy Impala SS is a fine four-door family sedan for someone who wants performance that is just a cut above the norm. As already stated, it doesn’t really possess super sport performance on a comparative level with its predecessors, but it does stand out above its stablemates. Unfortunately, the exhaust note is on the mundane side of the equation, and would be more fitting of the SS label if it emitted at least a low rumble. Even the SS badging is understated.

The acceleration is certainly healthier than in a normally aspirated Impala, and the ride quality is firmer than other antelope in the lineup. The transmission is a heavier duty version of the Hydra-Matic 4T65E electronically controlled four-speed automatic shifter, and does its job smoothly and efficiently.

A manually shiftable automatic wouldn’t be a bad thing though.

There are lots of worthwhile features to be had as standard fare with the Impala SS. The gray leather interior of the test car sported carbon fiber look trim accents on both the dash and door for a nice touch, and the steering wheel was leather wrapped. Visors featured illumination and extensions and the rear seat provided a 60/40 split back for cargo flexibility. Headlamps have an automatic setting and there is battery rundown protection. Outside mirrors and seats are heated to offset those frosty mornings, and the XM satellite radio makes up for the lack of a throaty exhaust tone.

Bottom line, this is a super Impala, but not a super sport Impala.

Let’s save the “SS” designation for the real deal in the future — maybe even add some rally stripes.

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