C/D - 2006 LS4 Chevrolet Impala SS

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, May 24, 2006.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Powerful impulses from a car with a split personality.

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    BY TONY QUIROGA
    PHOTOGRAPHY BY AARON KILEY
    June 2006

    There’s an internal fight going on in the Impala SS, an existential struggle between the car’s performance and family duties that is glaringly apparent with the first turn of the wheel. Neither personality emerges as the dominant one, and the result is a car that feels unfinished and confused as to its purpose.

    After stepping out from behind the wheel, the driver can’t help being impressed by the SS’s power and its ability to generate astonishing numbers — 0 to 60 in 5.6 seconds, for one. The SS seems to have been created to produce impressive numbers on paper with little regard to driver enjoyment.

    Redesigned inside and out for 2006, the Impala rides on GM’s front-drive W-body platform that is the basis for the Buick LaCrosse, Pontiac Grand Prix, and Chevy Monte Carlo. Substantial tweaks and engineering sweat have been poured into the platform since it debuted 18 years ago as the GM10. This year’s biggest news would have to be the availability of a small-block V-8 in the Impala SS, Monte Carlo SS, and Grand Prix GXP (C/D, October 2005). The current front-drive Impala SS is not to be confused with the rear-drive body-on-frame beasty that was sold for three years in the mid-’90s.

    Keeping an 18-year-old platform competitive is not an insubstantial task.
    The many adjustments and changes are, for the most part, well placed and largely successful. For example, GM engineers worked hard to exorcise torque steer, and despite being hamstrung by a front-drive platform with unequal-length driveshafts and a small-block 5.3-liter aluminum V-8 with 303 horsepower and 323 pound-feet of torque (43 more horses than the mid-’90s rear-drive Impala SS and 63 more horses than last year’s supercharged SS), they put up a good fight.

    However, they didn’t repeal any laws of front-drive physics. The SS has so much power going to its front tires that when the traction control is engaged, the tires hunt for grip and the steering wheel tugs sharply to the left or right. The culprit is the traction control. As it engages each front brake to combat slip, torque is sent back and forth between the tires. We thought it was torque steer until Mark Clawson, the Impala’s marketing manager, pointed out that if you switch off the traction control, the car will spin the front tires with nary a twitch from the leather-wrapped wheel. However, this only occurs on billiard-table-smooth roads with the car pointed straight ahead; the slightest imperfection or steering input sets the tires on different missions, and the car gives the feeling that it’s waging war with itself.

    Despite the antics of the overwhelmed tires, hard acceleration still leaves the driver giddy — at least for the first few runs. We certainly can’t argue with this kind of performance from a family sedan that starts at $26,990 — there’s that 0-to-60 time of 5.6 seconds, the quarter-mile turns in 14.2 seconds at 101 mph, and the ungoverned top speed is 154 mph. Much to our surprise, the SS turned out to be 0.1 second faster from 0 to 60 and in the quarter-mile than the identically powered but 132-pounds-lighter Grand Prix GXP we tested last fall.

    The SS’s quicker acceleration can likely be traced to its shorter final-drive ratio (3.29:1 vs. 2.93). It’s also interesting to note that this level of acceleration is accomplished with a four-speed automatic — that’s called making the most of what you’ve got. But despite this performance, the Impala isn’t convincing as a sports sedan.

    Part of the reason the Impala SS feels so uncomfortable with the V-8’s power is that it doesn’t benefit from all the chassis tweaks bestowed on the Grand Prix GXP. Opt for the Chevy, and you don’t get the Pontiac’s wider front wheels and sticky Bridgestone tires, Bilstein shocks, and larger brakes. Although the SS’s chassis gets its own special anti-roll bars, bushings, and shock and spring rates, the suspension simply monkeys around too much. Any sporting input is foiled by a mess of undamped and uncontrolled body motions. Dive, squat, and roll control could be described as nautical. Hit the firm, easily modulated brake pedal hard, and the SS’s nose dives toward the pavement. A stop from 70 mph used up only 172 feet, a couple of feet better than the larger-braked GXP could muster.

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    On the skidpad, the SS clung to the tune of 0.81 g — only 0.01 g less than the summer-tire-equipped GXP. Reality: The Impala leaned over far enough to be included in Who’s Who in Body Roll. Making the roll feel even more pronounced are flat, unsupportive, and slippery leather seats that require the driver to brace against the door.

    One upside of the flabbiness is that the highway ride is compliant and never jarring; unfortunately, the Jell-O–like suspension keeps the body moving, and speed only exacerbates the problem. Impressed by the 154-mph top speed? Driving the SS at that speed is scary enough to be a stunt on NBC’s Fear Factor. Judged by the numbers, the SS looks like high performance, but experience tells another story.

    Even at slower speeds, and despite the soft tuning, the front-strut suspension crashes over pavement imperfections as if someone had overlooked the advantages of bushings. It’s admittedly a minor annoyance but one that makes the car feel unrefined and crude and demonstrates the limitations of the old platform. The SS’s fraternal twin, the Grand Prix GXP, makes the same noises, but the competition doesn’t.

    There are other limitations to the W-body platform that simply can’t be ignored or tuned out without major reworking. Those liver spots include the huge 40-foot turning circle that makes parking a chore — back up and try again. Also missing from the menu are a telescoping steering wheel, stability control, communicative steering, and equal-length driveshafts. The unequal-length shafts the Impala is saddled with would likely lead to into-the-ditch torque steer if the engineers hadn’t come up with ingenious ways of working with what they’ve been handed.

    Fortunately, the car is capable of making some very satisfying sounds. Fire up the SS with the standard remote starter, and you’ll have the pleasure of walking up to an unmistakable V-8 beat emanating from the dual exhaust and entering a warm car (or a cool one). Inside, the rumble is kept to a dull roar by some well-placed insulation and a fire wall made of Quiet Steel that reduces unwanted noise. On the highway, road and tire noise barely make it into the cabin; most of the 70 dBA of noise at 70 mph is likely attributable to the wind.

    Opt for the SS trim level, and you get subtle SS badges, 18-inch five-spoke wheels that are dead ringers for the wheels on a Mercedes S600, unique gauges, and metallic trim instead of imitation wood. The exterior differences between a lesser Impala and the SS are so subtle that no one will suspect its bawdy character. Refreshed for 2006, the Impala now looks like a cohesive design that benefits from tight and consistent panel fits and a clean look.

    Keep the dynamic challenges to a minimum, and one begins to notice the well-laid-out and uncluttered interior. Although the plastics aren’t of the soft variety, the interior appears bolted together nicely, and all the controls are easy to use.

    Our test car came equipped with only a few options — the $1125 black-leather interior with heated, power front seats; and a Bose stereo system with an in-dash six-CD changer and XM-satellite-radio capability. We appreciated the auxiliary port on the radio that allows one to plug in an MP3 player. It’s a standard feature on the Impala, one that GM is putting into all its vehicles. There’s plenty of headroom and legroom in the back seat, and the cushion offers more thigh support than in the previous Impala.

    Since we love the idea of a family car coming with a major dose of power and performance, we had great expectations for the Impala SS. We also understand that many buyers want something a bit more rambunctious, more invigorating than a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry or Ford Five Hundred. But as noted, the V-8 transplant wasn’t as successful in the Impala as it was in the Grand Prix. Try to exploit the SS’s extra oomph, and there is little reward. It’s as if GM product planners had taken a look at the Dodge Charger R/T and Chrysler 300C and said, “Well, we can put a V-8 in our family cars, too.” They sure did, but if the Impala is far happier when equipped with a 242-hp, 3.9-liter V-6, what’s the point?

    THE VERDICT

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    Highs: V-8 rumble, 0 to 60 in 5.6 seconds, commodious interior, low base price.

    Lows: Unsatisfying to drive aggressively, flaccid chassis, flat front seats, too much power and not enough control.

    The Verdict: Chevy builds a car that looks great on paper but fails to satisfy in reality.


    COUNTERPOINT

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    JOHN PHILLIPS
    Last fall, I drove the Impala SS and the Pontiac GXP back-to-back. The latter evinced greater discipline over its front wheels, by virtue of bigger contact patches and Bilstein shocks. But I preferred the Chevy’s ride, gentler sticker, and stealth. Only the SS badges give away the Chevy, whereas the Pontiac is all vents and swollen fenders and overwrought interior shapes that scream, “Look at me!” Any 303-hp sedan selling for as little as $26,990 is hugely attractive, and this one is solid, forgiving, and capable. But that V-8 oughta be twistin’ the rear wheels, which leaves me muttering two words: “Dodge Charger.”

    TONY SWAN
    American carmakers worked hard to make torque junkies of us all in the ’60s, and the campaign certainly hooked me. So the primal thrust of a small-block V-8 still ignites those youthful passions, and the menacing baritone that goes with it is still the sweetest music ever issued by a tailpipe — to my ears, at least. But that concludes my list of positive responses to this car. The Impala SS doesn’t get the suspension tweaks and tire setup that make the Pontiac Grand Prix GXP such a treat to drive. As a consequence, what we have here is torque steer abetted by flabby responses and an austere interior. If you like the V-8 idea, do your shopping at the Pontiac store.

    PATTI MAKI
    When I was in high school, back in the Dark Ages, my boyfriend had a sleek black ’63 327 Impala SS, Hurst four-speed on the floor. I sat right next to my beau over the hard console, and at appropriate moments, he’d yell out, “Shift, Patti, shift!” A friend repeatedly reminds me of this silly stuff. But, boy, was that car fun! Can I say that about the ’06 SS I drove this past weekend? Hardly. Blame it on torque steer or traction control, on the numb steering or the bum suspension — the driving experience is not fun, other than the thrust of 323 pound-feet of good ol’ American V-8. Where’s the manual transmission, for gawd’s sake? And what the heck happened to the styling?

    CHEVROLET IMPALA SS

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    Vehicle type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
    Price as tested: $29,230
    Price and option breakdown: base Chevrolet Impala SS (includes $660 freight), $26,990; leather interior with heated, power front seats, $1125; Bose premium sound system, $495; XM-satellite-radio capability, $325; 18-inch polished aluminum wheels, $295
    Major standard accessories: power windows, seats, and locks; remote locking; A/C; cruise control; tilting steering wheel; rear defroster
    Sound system: Bose AM-FM-satellite radio/CD changer, 8 speakers

    ENGINE
    Type: V-8, aluminum block and heads
    Bore x stroke: 3.78 x 3.62 in, 96.0 x 92.0mm
    Displacement: 325 cu in, 5327cc
    Compression ratio: 10.0:1
    Fuel-delivery system: port injection
    Valve gear: pushrods, 2 valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters
    Power (SAE net): 303 bhp @ 5600 rpm
    Torque (SAE net): 323 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
    Redline: 6000 rpm


    DRIVETRAIN
    Transmission: 4-speed automatic
    Final-drive ratio: 3.29:1

    Gear, Ratio, Mph/1000 rpm, Max test speed
    I, 2.92, 8.2, 49 mph (6000 rpm)
    II, 1.56, 15.3, 92 mph (6000 rpm)
    III, 1.00, 23.8, 143 mph (6000 rpm)
    IV, 0.70, 34.0, 154 mph (4500 rpm)

    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 110.5 in
    Track, front/rear: 62.4/61.5 in
    Length/width/height: 200.4/72.9/58.5 in
    Ground clearance: 6.1 in
    Drag area, Cd (0.33) x frontal area (26.5 sq ft, est): 8.7 sq ft
    Curb weight: 3764 lb
    Weight distribution, F/R: 61.5/38.5%
    Curb weight per horsepower: 12.4 lb
    Fuel capacity: 17.5 gal

    CHASSIS/BODY
    Type: unit construction
    Body material: welded steel stampings

    INTERIOR
    SAE volume, front seat: 57 cu ft
    rear seat: 48 cu ft
    luggage: 19 cu ft
    Front-seat adjustments: fore-and-aft, seatback angle, front height, rear height; driver
    only: lumbar support
    Restraint systems, front: manual 3-point belts, driver and passenger front and curtain airbags
    rear: manual 3-point belts, curtain airbags

    SUSPENSION
    Front: ind, strut located by a control arm, coil springs, anti-roll bar
    Rear: ind, strut located by 1 trailing link and 2 lateral links, coil springs, anti-roll bar

    STEERING
    Type: rack-and-pinion with hydraulic power assist
    Steering ratio: 13.3:1
    Turns lock-to-lock: 2.3
    Turning circle curb-to-curb: 40.0 ft

    BRAKES
    Type: hydraulic with vacuum power assist and anti-lock control
    Front: 11.9 x 1.2-in vented disc
    Rear: 10.9 x 0.4-in disc

    WHEELS AND TIRES
    Wheel size/type: 7.0 x 18 in/cast aluminum
    Tires: Goodyear Eagle RS-A M+S, P235/50R-18 97W
    Test inflation pressures, F/R: 32/32 psi
    Spare: high-pressure compact

    C/D test results
    ACCELERATION: Seconds
    Zero to 30 mph: 2.2
    40 mph: 3.1
    50 mph: 4.2
    60 mph: 5.6
    70 mph: 7.3
    80 mph: 9.2
    90 mph: 11.3
    100 mph: 13.9
    110 mph: 17.7
    120 mph: 22.4
    130 mph: 28.5
    Street start, 5–60 mph: 5.8
    Top-gear acceleration, 30–50 mph: 2.6
    50–70 mph: 3.7
    Standing ¼-mile: 14.2 sec @ 101 mph
    Top speed (drag limited): 154 mph


    BRAKING
    70–0 mph @ impending lockup: 172 ft

    HANDLING
    Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.81 g
    Understeer: excessive


    FUEL ECONOMY
    EPA city driving: 18 mpg
    EPA highway driving: 28 mpg
    C/D-observed: 16 mpg

    INTERIOR SOUND LEVEL
    Idle: 43 dBA
    Full-throttle acceleration: 74 dBA
    70-mph cruising: 70 dBA

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    [​IMG]
     
  2. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    What a total disgrace to the Impala name and Chevrolet brand. GM cannot kill this platform and do these names justice fast enough.
     
  3. SCirone

    SCirone Moderator

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    FWD still FTL
     
  4. Quagmire

    Quagmire New Member

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    :roflImpala:
     
  5. clog

    clog NO SOUP FOR YOU!!!!11

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    FWD :greddy: ugly as fucking sin :greddy: GM :greddy:
     
  6. clog

    clog NO SOUP FOR YOU!!!!11

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    cliffs: :greddy:
     
  7. t1h

    t1h Guest

    does it matter? the car is built on a 10 year old chassis :ugh: and with that redesign that means they'll be selling it as is for another 5 years or so. :ugh:
     
  8. JohnnyBeagle

    JohnnyBeagle OT Supporter

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    fucking gay car

    they're everywhere here though
     
  9. 1fastz28

    1fastz28 OT Supporter

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    god damnit, fucking GM makes my heart hurt
     
  10. MrRyan

    MrRyan Gary Johnson 2016 OT Supporter

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    I predicted this review two years ago. :hs:
     
  11. MrRyan

    MrRyan Gary Johnson 2016 OT Supporter

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    :werd: :hs:
     
  12. Uncle Ruckus

    Uncle Ruckus hey y'all

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    how could they do it? they learned nothing from their much better vehicles past big mistakes.
     
  13. Basic

    Basic OT Supporter

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    no RWD no care
     
  14. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Meanwhile GM sells these contemporary, LS1, right-wheel-drive, goodies at Chevrolet showrooms elsewhere.

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  15. t1h

    t1h Guest

    also :wtfinterior: looks like the transplanted the colbalt interior into the Impala.
     
  16. MrRyan

    MrRyan Gary Johnson 2016 OT Supporter

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    GM gives us a 154mph sedan and we're all going to bitch about it. :hs:
     
  17. clog

    clog NO SOUP FOR YOU!!!!11

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    :wtf: Lumina??
     
  18. 1fastz28

    1fastz28 OT Supporter

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    why in the bloody blue fuck dont they sell that lumina in the US, are they trying to fail?
     
  19. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    And Dodge sells this bad boy.

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    Just how far is GM's collective head tucked? Do they like pissing all over their famous names and die-hard fans?
     
  20. JohnnyBeagle

    JohnnyBeagle OT Supporter

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    GM exec's HAVE to be betting on how fast they can ruin the company here, it's impossible for them to think not selling that Lumina here and selling a FWD 300hp Impala here is good.

    where is that lumina sold?
     
  21. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    It's a rebadged Holden Commodore SS sold in the Middle East and Africa.
     
  22. MrRyan

    MrRyan Gary Johnson 2016 OT Supporter

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  23. Ratstink

    Ratstink Ink & Iron

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    my Impala > new Impala. I hate the new Impalas

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  24. Dr.Smasher

    Dr.Smasher .

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    I can't believe the W-body platform is still around.

    For fuck's sake, GM, it's ancient. MOVE ON.
     
  25. guest

    guest 

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    I think GM builds great motors but horrible cars. They should just build motors for all of the other automakers
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2006

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