- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2003

It’s hard to believe the Chevrolet Impala SS has been around for 43 years. Yet I suppose 43 years from now it will still be going strong.

Constant improvements fulfill the desires of those who simply want a reliable, easy-riding car that can get up and go at the drop of a heavy foot on the accelerator pedal. For a moderate price, this Impala can satisfy those passions without question. In a nutshell, the SS contains the best of both worlds: comfort and power.

Through the years, Chevrolet has beefed up the power of the Super Sport and the latest version is no exception. Under the hood of the 2004 model is a 3.8-liter V-6 engine that produces 240 horsepower and a zippy 280 foot-pounds of torque that peaks at only 3,600 rpm. This power is transferred to a four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. Power is obvious right from the get-go. Yet in spite of all this force on its front-wheel drive, there is no evidence of torque steer; acceleration is smooth and direct.

Any car that has a strong engine must have a strong chassis to harness its power. The engineers at Chevrolet explained what they have done to provide a solid ride. First, the engine is made of aluminum to reduce the overall weight and help reduce the engine noise and vibration. Then the overall body is strengthened to make it more rigid, enabling the engineers to tune the chassis and suspension to provide peak performance. The system features four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts on each wheel.

The stiffness in the SS reduces body roll when cornering hard through a turn. The new model also has beefed-up stabilizer bars, and its suspension system is mounted on 17-inch aluminum wheels. The wide tires are able to hold the pavement under just about any road condition, especially in a turn.

But the SS really isn’t intended to be a hot rod. It’s a gentle, easy-handling car that makes even a trip to a local shopping center pleasant. The size of this five-passenger sedan is easy to manage, both on the road and when parking. Visibility is good and the doors aren’t so wide as to cause a struggle trying to get out of the car in tight parking places. However, I found myself parking away from the crowd, as I wanted to show it off. The Impala SS is available only in black, and the aluminum wheels add to its distinctive appearance. The body lines are smooth and the rear end has an attractive spoiler plus bright, shiny stainless-steel exhaust pipes. This car weighs in at $27,335. The test car had a load of options, bringing the total to $30,540. The options included six-way power seats and heat for both front seats. OnStar was another option, plus a 200-watt sound system that made XM Satellite radio very enjoyable listening.

Soft gray leather bucket seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel provide a contrast to the black exterior. The rear has a 60/40 split folding back rest to allow carrying extralong objects in its huge trunk.

There are numerous thoughtful features, including dual-zone air conditioning, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, extenders on the sun visors and a large center console. It also has a remote keyless entry and, of course, power windows and door locks.

Chevrolet also boasts that the Impala has received five-star ratings by the National Highway Safety Administration. Safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes and side-impact air bags.

This car has come a long way in 43 years and I have no doubt that 43 years from now it will still be Chevrolet’s big seller.

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