Originally I thought Chevrolet’s Cruze signaled that the giant automaker was back, back to its 1960s world of innovative, high-value, handsomely styled vehicles. Cruze may have been the beginning, but Impala really says that Chevy has arrived.
Since 1958 Impala has told folks that their neighbors have arrived, financially. It was pretty much the top of the line Chevy for a family. Oh sure, there was the Corvette, but that was for single guys or mid-life crisis guys. Impala was a loaded family sedan with a bit of styling flair, and sometimes even a sporty edge.
The 2014 Impala is all that in today’s crowded large sedan marketplace, but unlike many previous attempts to catch the competition, this Impala is top-shelf and maybe even a step or two ahead of some competitors.
Styling is crisp and attractive with a fastback style rear window and C pillar to give the car’s profile a swept back look. Folks noticed, and that’s not something Chevy has heard often in the past four decades. People weren’t sure what it was, asking if it were a Lexus and one suggested a Jaguar. Well, it does look inviting and muscular in profile with a clean nose and tail.
Under the hood? The tested 2LT model packs a 3.6-liter, direct-injection V6 that provides 305 horsepower and is linked to a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic. Torque is strong and the car will dance up to highway speeds quickly and efficiently. There is a tad of engine noise, just enough to let you know Impala means business.
Base Impala 1LS models offer a 2.5-liter I4 that creates 197 horses. That would do, but the V6 is more stout and definitely the more entertaining way to go.
Ride? Baby, this is a sweet ride, controlled and smooth over even some crumbling Northwest side street wanna-bes. Forget about the seams in our cement byways. And railroad tracks? Heck, they only require you to slow down as not to scare your passengers who might anticipate being jarred. They won’t, thanks to the independent suspension at each wheel, and Impala’s 111.7-inch wheelbase along with the test car’s 19-inch tires. 18-inchers are standard on most models. Chevy uses MacPherson struts in the front suspension and a four-link rear system with rebound springs to further improve the ride.
Handling is fairly responsive with variable assist electric power steering. Wheel feel is good without the usual vagueness that so many larger cars exhibit. Steering effort is moderate.
Braking comes from four-wheel discs, plus stability and traction control are standard in this front-drive sedan. My only performance concern is the tire or tranny whine that I heard, especially in the 20-40 mph range. I suspect the tires were the culprit.
Inside, Impala’s styling hints at Chevy’s 1960s twin cockpit look with the dash featuring two indented rounded areas. It’s tasteful and a nice reminder of Chevy’s past glories, but the rest here is mostly modern neat, tidy and comfortable, with one exception, the fake GM wood trim. That looks old. I’d lose it for some lacquered black gloss trim, or fake carbon fiber, both appealing to a younger demographic.
But I don’t want to dwell on that because everything else is so well executed. Seats are black leather with suede backs and brown piping. Likewise the dash is a black soft-touch textured material with brown stitching that gives the car a luxurious, refined look and feel.
All around the front cockpit is a blue trim that lights up dimly at night to give some ambient light to the interior. GM has done this on several of its other models and it’s a welcome styling and lighting touch.
The dash is clean and easy to understand with a giant 8-inch touch screen that features Chevy’s MyLink system to coordinate all your musical and electronic wishes. For those of us happy to just press buttons and listen to the radio, the Bose sound system here is fine and the touch screen easy to use. The Bose is part of a $1,140 premium audio and sport wheel package that also adds a rear spoiler and 19-inch wheels.
Gauges are easy to see and manage, the steering wheel is tilt/telescope, radio knobs and dual climate control knobs and buttons are big and simple to use.
Seats feature well contoured bottom cushions and mildly contoured backs. Both the driver and front passenger’s seat are powered with the driver’s having a power lumbar control. The test car added a $945 option that provides three-level seat heat too, but no heated steering wheel.
Head and legroom is plentiful front and rear, enough so that you cold haul five adults cross country in comfort. Likewise, the trunk is Tony Soprano approved, a 2-body affair, good for at least five folks’ luggage. It’s a monster at 18.8 cubic feet, plus the rear seats fold down, further expanding its capacity.Overhead is an OnStar system and Impala’s sun visors slide too.
The tested 2LT starts at $29,950 with an $810 destination charge. But it also added an LT convenience package for $940 that includes a rear-view camera and remote starter, among other items, plus the LT navigation package with MyLink, navigation and push-button start for $1,095. The advanced safety package adds forward collision and rear cross traffic alert, which beep and flash a light atop the dash. The value-priced $890 package also includes a side blind-spot warning system, which is helpful, and lane departure, which I find annoying. But you can turn it off.
With all that the test car hit $35,770, well within the pricing of other cars in this category, like Toyota’s Avalon, Dodge’s Charger and KIA’s new Cadenza. A base 1LS Impala with the smaller engine lists at $26,725 and the top-level 2LZ goes for $35,770 without options.
Gas mileage is reasonable for a large sedan too. The EPA rates the V6 Impala at 19 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. I got 24.2 mpg in about an even split of city and highway driving.
How seriously do car designers take gas mileage and wind resistance of their new models. Chevy explained to us at a briefing earlier this year that there’s a little aero bump on the rear taillights, which is hardly noticeable, but was put there because it helped the Impala slip through the air more efficiently. Look for it!
Impala is a stylish, well appointed, comfortable family sedan that begins at high value pricing. It’s exactly what made Chevy the No. 1 car maker years ago, and it may well help restore that luster in the next few years, along with other new models from the bow-tie brigade.
FAST Stats: 2014 Chevrolet Impala 2LT
Hits: Sporty looks, good power, responsive handling, superior ride and handsome interior with comfortable seats. Seats five adults easily and offers monster trunk to carry all their luggage. Heated front seats, blind-spot warning system and rearview camera, plus the visors have extenders. Decent gas mileage too.
Misses: Tire or transmission hum a bit annoying, plus I’m no fan of GM’s fake wood trim, it looks old fashioned.
Made in: Oshawa, Ont.
Engine: 3.6-liter, DI V6, 305 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 111.7 in.
Cargo: 18.8 cu.ft.
Tow: 1,000 lbs.
Base Price: $29,950
Dealer’s Price: $28,602
LT convenience package (rear park assist w/camera, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, remote starter, universal remote, premium carpet floor mats, trunk mat), $940
Premium audio/sport wheel package (120-volt power outlet, 19-inch painted aluminum wheels, rear spoiler, Bose audio system w/11 speakers/surround sound), $1,140
LT navigation package (MyLink radio & nav, keyless entry, push-button start), $1,095
Premium seating package (heated front seats, 8-way power front passenger seat, trunk net), $945
Advanced safety package (forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning), $890
Test vehicle: $35,770
Sources: Chevrolet, www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Courtesy of Chevrolet