You know, there is just something inherently right about a small block V8 in a big American sedan. It conjures up images suits with skinny ties, smoking unfiltered cigarettes, and dying before you’re 50. The world is still black and white, and you like Ike. So driving one of these that was built in the post expensive gas, politically correct, polar bear friendly 2000s is kind of out of place — much like a member of PETA at a pig roast. However, the 2009 Chevrolet Impala SS is a small block sporting sedan built in these strange times, and it’s not terrible.
The Chevrolet Impala really is one of the best American nameplates out there. Its old, storied, they have sold an absolute sh*t ton of these cars. Introduced in 1958, the Impala is currently in its 10th generation. This is incredible considering it is an American car and the generations go on longer than the tenure of most Italian dictators. Statistically speaking, if you talk to someone born in America after the 20’s, they have owned one of these. In 1965 they sold over 1 million of them. To but that in perspective, it’s hard to sell a million of one brand in 2017, let alone one million of one make. They’re still selling the piss out of it, averaging well over 100,000 Impalas every year, like clockwork.
Not *Exactly* Your Grandma’s Impala
This one came off of a Canadian assembly line in 2009 and let’s get one thing clear — the proper color for an Impala is black. This SS is black on black, which is the proper color for anything with an SS badge — Camaro, Chevelle, Impala, Nova, Waffen, and so on. It looks great. The 9th generation Impala wasn’t terrible looking. It wasn’t as angular and inspired as the 10th generation which got us all to pay attention, but it wasn’t the bland sh*tshow of the 7th and 8th generations that literally everyone’s grandmother owned and put less than 50,000 miles on. Thankfully, if your grandmother is even decently cool, she will have dumped the old one and sprung for a bit of her youth, with the SS model — because she only takes it to Church and Wegmans.
The interior is classic pre-bailout GM: kinda bland, not very well refined, but big and roomy. It really feels like something from 2 decades earlier compared to similar Jaguars, BMW’s and Audi’s. However, it is a genuinely good sized car. You can easily move across country with all of your stuff to go to a liberal arts college (that your uncle says is a bad investment), and you won’t have to take a second trip. Any car that routinely gets used as a cop car is a good car for someone young. They are big, safe, and extremely cheap to fix and replace parts on. Think the Tahoe, the Crown Vic, or the Porsche 911 Targa (thanks, Copenhagen!).
However, the real party piece of this car is that powertrain. The LS V8 really is fantastic. The 5.3 liter LS4 produces 303 horsepower, and even though it’s almost 10 years old, all 303 of those horses are still firmly entrenched under the hood. This one was straight piped, and made a lovely warble as you try to keep things quiet for the village police officer. But when you find yourself alone on a country road — man, does that sound good. The V8 bellows out against the silence of the night with a baritone roar and lacking catalytic converters and mufflers it’s a very raw, throaty sound. It really is a spiritual throwback to the glory days of the Impala, where you could get one with a 454. I’m not comparing the two — the 454 SS’s of yesteryear are some of the baddest things on 4 wheels, making more torque than most countries. It doesn’t have the savagery of the 427, nor the charisma of the 396, but it does get 22 mpg.
Buying One Won’t Cost You Your Left Arm
The best part about this car though is that they are out there. A blacked out 1969 Impala SS with the top of the range engine is going to cost you your first born child, at least one kidney, and refinancing your house. The one that I drove: $7,000. It was the owner’s grandmother’s and it had only done 80,000 miles. The current owner had put 30,000 miles; which also saw the removal of all of the smog and sound dampening bits. It was in great shape. The only real drawback was that the guy’s grandmother was a chain smoking, Ike-liking octogenarian, and the car smelled like an ashtray. But for $7,000, I could have lived with it.
The service record on this car was detailed and impeccable (God bless old people). This car had not had a single problem, which is very typical of the Impala nameplate. One of the reasons that people buy these cars is that they are an American, low stress sedan. Combine this with the absolutely bomb proof LS powertrain, and this car is a winner. Better yet, because it’s a Chevy, the number of people who can work on it on Surfwrench is staggering. Combine this with cheap parts, and you’ve got a car you can put a lot of miles on, with a big smile on your face. Better yet, you don’t have to have it down for service very often, and when you do, it’s not going to be very expensive.
So if you’re looking for a large, reliable, cheap to get fixed sedan with a V8: the Impala is actually a great option. It’s not as good looking as the car that replaced it, and it’s not as sh*t as the car it replaced. The foreign competition is either more refined or less charismatic depending on which continent you go to. And if you’re loading it up and taking it to a small liberal arts college with lots of country roads around it: hack off the cats and muffler, throw the Rolling Stone’s Aftermath in the CD/stereo, queue up “Paint it Black,” and put a noticeable dent in the silence.