2014 Chevrolet ImpalaPosted on August 21st, 2013
A greatly improved flagship sedan
By Bob Golfen
For people of a certain age, the name Impala resonates, recalling a time when Chevy ruled the roost among popular cars and Impala was its most-flamboyant version, named for a fleet-footed African antelope.
But nowadays, Impala is more likely associated with sodden rental sedans. There was that brief flash of brilliance during the mid-90s when Impala SS was the performance version of the big rear-drive Caprice. But that’s largely forgotten.
For 2014, Chevy designers and engineers have done their best to resurrect Impala, bringing us a flagship sedan that is much updated and improved, lifting Impala into a more premium plain with expressive styling, bigger interior, a ride that is quiet and refined, and loads of upscale features.
A better car in nearly every way, Impala now offers the roomy comfort that large-sedan buyers crave while not growing too much on the outside. This was accomplished by pushing the dashboard forward and making the wheelbase longer to provide better legroom front and rear, and to create a slightly bigger trunk.
The styling is aggressively chiseled with sparkling chrome accents, bulging hood and a low, couple-like silhouette. Quite nice. The interior also gets a bright new look, though still appealingly Chevrolet with a friendly and familiar feel.
The base price is a reasonable $26,860, plus shipping. The test Impala 2LT had a starting price of about $30,000, and even loaded up with desirable options including premium audio and 19-inch alloy wheels, it came to $35,770, all in. That compares well with competing full-size sedans such as Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon and Hyundai Azera.
Three drivetrains are available for the front-wheel-drive Impala. The 3.6-liter V6 in the base-model 2LT test car produces 305 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of torque, which provides strong acceleration for the 3,800-pound Impala. Although the engine is a carryover from previous years, it’s smooth and quiet, and it feels right up to date in this cushy sedan.
There’s also a 2.5-liter inline-four with 196 horsepower, which should be more than adequate, and a ‘mild-hybrid’ 2.4-liter inline four with eAssist electric motor that generates a combined 184 horsepower, with improved fuel mileage. All three drivetrains are hooked up with six-speed automatic transmissions.
Impala’s highway mileage with the V6 is a decent 28 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA. But that drops off to an 18 mpg estimate for city driving. The combined rating is a mediocre 21 mpg.
Drivability and handling benefit from the new body structure being stiffened with high-strength steel and from better suspension components. But don’t mistake Impala for any kind of sport sedan; the boulevard ride is soft and sedate, designed to pamper passengers rather than impress drivers.
One drivability clinker is the steering, which is way over-boosted, numb and twitchy. This is an unwanted remnant of Impala history from decades ago, when power-steering systems were designed to eliminate any effort or sensation. There are those in this mainstream market who still prefer such light-touch steering, but most driving fans want more weight and feedback.
One of the test Impala’s options packages included GM MyLink, with an eight-inch video display for audio and connectivity functions, including navigation, Bluetooth, computer aps, Pandora radio, music storage and a host of other customizable features. It’s fairly well-organized and not difficult to master, once you get attuned to it.
A thoughtful touch on the dashboard is a hidden cubby at the top of the center stack, revealed when the video-screen panel lifts electrically. Inside, there are several plugs and stowage for audio devices, phones and other integrated gadgets, which then remain hidden and secure when the panel powers back in position.
The test car also included an Advanced Safety Package, priced at a bargain $890, that includes forward collision alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and side blind-zone alert.
Chevy’s new flagship sedan may not excite driving fans, but it should appeal to those who want a comfortable, accessible passenger car that includes a good measure of style and presence. Plus, it’s great to see the revival of Impala.
Likes: Expressive new styling, upgraded interior, premium features.
Dislikes: Over-boosted steering, soft ride, modest fuel mileage.
Base price: $29,950
As tested: $35,770
Engine: 3.6-liter V6
Horsepower: 305 horsepower at 6,800 rpm
Torque: 264 pound-feet of torque at 5,300 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Zero to 60: 6.8 seconds (GM)
Wheelbase: 111.7 inches
Curb weight: 3,800 pounds
Side-curtain airbags: Yes
First-aid kit: NA
Bicycle friendly: No
Towing: 1,000 pounds
EPA fuel economy: 18 city, 28 highway, 21 combined
Bob Golfen is a veteran automotive writer and editor, formerly with The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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