As a performance car, the 1996 Impala SS is awesome. Acceleration and handling is good, and the sound of that throaty 5.7L V8 turns heads. I bought the car used from a dealer as a two year lease return in 1998 and owned it until September of 2003 when I sold it to get something a little more reliable. Naturally I got it in classic black and left it stock because Chevy actually did something right for a change, putting all the options I could want in the base model. 1996 also was the only year they went back to analog gauges and a floor shifter. My own experience with American cars is that all digital displays will break after 5 years, and all printing on handles and displays you touch will wear off. Sure enough, they left the odometer as a digital display...and it burned out around 75,000 miles.
What I love about the car is the legroom, the leather interior, good stereo, and power. The trunk was one of the biggest I had ever seen and even WITH the spare tire taking up half of it, I could get every piece of luggage I owned into it with ease.
What I hated about the car is long list starting with the poor design. The distributorless system on the engine ensures that when you eventually have to change your spark plug wires, it is a major undertaking because you have to remove part of the engine. Some genius also decided to put the waterpump in front of the system, so when it fail and leaks water, momentum carries it backwards into the electrical system. The rear windows suck even when they do work, and both of mine stopped working around 50,000 miles. In general, even minor repairs on the car were expensive because Chevy treats everything on the car as a subsystem. So when my odometer light blew out, even though a $.50 bulb was all that was needed, the Chevy solution to that problem was $800 ($400 instrument cluster replacement +$400 labor). Around 75,000 miles, the car starts falling apart in a major way. I had transmission problems, window problems, power antenna problems, catalytic converter problems, fuel pump problems, water pump problems, thermostat problems and a host of other annoyances.
But, despite all this it was the only car I ever owned that I truly loved. I probably spent more than $5,000 on repairs for the car in its last year before I sold it, much to the benefit of the guy who bought it from me, but I felt it was too unreliable to take it anywhere far from civilization on a roadtrip and with 14mpg, who can afford to? Twice it broke down on me at really bad times, and once I realized I didn't trust my car any longer to go from point A to point B it was time to sell it.
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