Can the Impala rise again as the Chevrolet flagship?
Is it too late for the Impala? Chevrolet is betting it’s not. After years of benign neglect, the Impala – once the stylish, powerful flagship of the Chevy fleet – is emerging from years spent as a staple in rental-car lots. Chevrolet went all in on the 2014 Impala, restyling the car from stem to stern and offering a variety of power, comfort and economy options.
In recent years, Chevrolet has been doing exciting things with many of its models and adding some daring new ones, such as the retro-styled Camaro, the diminutive Spark and the one-of-a-kind gasoline-electric hybrid, the Volt. For 2014, the Impala joins the parade.
Our test car was a high-end Impala 2LZ with a sticker price of $39,510. The Impala arrives in the showroom with liberal doses of DNA from two of General Motors’ most highly regarded sedans, the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XTS.
The exterior styling is pleasing, though we would have liked to have seen a nod to the six-taillight design of the Impalas of long ago. But the real excitement lurks under the hood and in the car’s passenger compartment.
Powering this front-wheel-drive sedan is a fuel-efficient, 305-horsepower V-6 bolted to a smooth-shifting, predictable 6-speed automatic transmission. It’s rated at 28 mpg on the highway, and we came close to that on a 650-mile round trip from Connecticut to upstate New York.
The interior appointments are of exceptionally high quality, with lots of elaborate stitching amid the yards of leather. The Impala is a good choice for very tall drivers; our 6-foot driver positioned the seat well short of its limit. The Impala’s back seat accommodates tall passengers well despite its low roofline, and the cavernous trunk swallows 18.8 cubic feet of cargo.
Rather than testing the waters with a one-size-fits-all Impala, Chevrolet has provided a setup for every preference. Available engines include a 4-cylinder, 195-horsepower unit and a mild-hybrid system that should deliver about 35 mpg on the highway. This fall will see the introduction of a rear-drive Impala SS with a 6.2-liter, 415-horsepower V-8 engine.
The redesigned Impala also plays catch-up on the technology front. MyLink interconnectivity, navigation and advanced safety features, including rear-view camera, forward collision alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and side-blind-zone alert, are available as options – or, in higher trim levels, provided as standard equipment.
The list of features we didn’t like is commendably short. While driving east during a sunny afternoon, the front-seat passenger was bothered by reflections from a curved, decorative chrome band running horizontally in front of her. And the car’s response to sharp bumps in the road was a little harsh. Reviews we’ve read suggest the culprit may have been the 20-inch tires on our Impala; 18- and 19-inch tires may suppress this tendency.
The new Impala is by no means retro, but it may remind some drivers of the stylish, high-performance Impalas they drove in their youth.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, 305 horsepower, 268 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,800 lb. (est.)
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 20-in. aluminum
Tires: P245/40R20 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 18.8 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons
Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 29 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular/flex fuel