New & Used Chevrolet Impala: In Depth
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The Impala is Chevrolet's flagship sedan, the top front-drive model in its lineup aimed at providing comfort and space. It's also the largest mainstream model the brand sells, although Chevy also offers the SS sedan, which is a low-volume performance car that has a V-8 and rear-wheel drive. In some ways, the SS sedan picks up where previous sporty Impalas left off.
The Impala name has been in the Chevy lineup for more than fifty years. Today's version is a large four-door that shares its underpinnings with the Cadillac XTS and Buick LaCrosse.
MORE: Read our 2015 Chevrolet Impala review
With a range of four- and six-cylinder engines, excellent handling, a comfortable ride, and a well-fitted interior, the front-drive Impala is a rival for the Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus, and Hyundai Azera in the full-size and mid-size segments.
The new Chevy Impala
The 2014 Chevrolet Impala, shown for the first time at the 2012 New York Auto Show, went on sale in spring of 2013. This model is related mechanically to the Cadillac XTS and Buick LaCrosse, and it makes a tremendous leap on all fronts versus the Chevy sedan it replaced.
In its first year on the market, the new Impala offered a choice of three powertrains. The base version was a 2.5-liter four rated at 195 horsepower, teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission sending power to the front wheels. GM's eAssist mild-hybrid technology appeared in a gas-saving Eco model, with a 182-hp, 2.4-liter gas four-cylinder that added electrical assist in some operating conditions. The most powerful Impala featured the carryover, 303-hp, 3.6-liter V-6.
Chevrolet trimmed the engine lineup for 2015, removing the mild-hybrid Eco model from the options list. To compensate somewhat, engine stop/start functionality was added to the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The base four-cylinder scores 25 mpg in combined EPA testing, which is lower than the departed Eco's 29 mpg.
The current Impala is one of our highest-rated four-doors. It's a spacious, sleek, athletic performer when equipped with the V-6. Handling and comfort are balanced well, and the new Impala has earned some great crash-test scores thus far, including a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA. And it should, with all the safety gear it has on board: ten airbags in all, standard OnStar, and a suite of available advanced features like blind-spot monitors; a lane-departure warning system; adaptive cruise control; a rearview camera; rear parking assists; and a forward-collision alert system.
Chevy has also paid extra attention to infotainment with this generation of the Impala. The Chevy MyLink system uses an eight-inch central LCD touchscreen and steering-wheel controls to interact with Bluetooth audio streaming, available navigation, and smartphone-linked apps. For 2015, the also includes GM's new 4G LTE system, which speeds up the connection to OnStar and also brings quick WiFi to devices in the car for an extra monthly fee.
Chevy Impala: The early years
Originally introduced in 1958, the Chevrolet Impala has seen ten generations over its lifespan. From finned land yacht to clean rectilinear cruiser, wire wheels to steel hubcaps, the Impala was at the leading edge of sedan design through the late 1950s and all through the 1960s—with some of the most memorable, timeless designs—while the 1970s and 1980s were some of the more forgettable.
The seventh-generation car—which was basically just the high-performance variant of the Caprice sedan—was sold as the Impala SS and remains one of the most easily recognized cars of its era, its smooth and rounded shape at once unassuming and unique. (It has recently been succeeded by the simply named SS sedan, a rear-drive high-performance four-door.) The Impala name took a brief hiatus when the seventh generation went out of production in 1996; the name was revived for an eighth-generation standalone model for 2000–2005, bringing with it a front-wheel-drive layout and a more restrained look.
Chevrolet Impala, 2006–2013
The ninth-generation Impala first hit the roads in 2006, offering a 211-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine in the standard car and a 5.3-liter V-8 engine in the Impala SS. Later in the 2006 model year, a new 3.9-liter V-6 was added to the range. In 2007, flex-fuel capability was added for the 3.5-liter engine, and in 2009, the Impala SS was discontinued.
In its waning years, three trim levels were available: LS, LT and LTZ. The LS and LT came standard with a six-speaker audio system, cruise control, OnStar, power driver's seat, sixteen-inch steel (LS) or alloy (LT) wheels, and more. The LTZ added 18-inch alloy wheels, power heated front seats, auto dimming rearview mirror, universal home remote and more. Through 2011, the Impala used a four-speed automatic transmission, with the LS and LT getting power from the 3.5-liter V-6 standard (the LT could be upgraded to the 3.9-liter V-6 engine, which was standard on the LTZ).
Standard safety features included front and side-impact, curtain and rear side airbags, plus front safety belt pretensioners, stability control, and four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes.
For 2012, the Impala soldiered along with the same underpinnings and configuration, but received a number of minor cosmetic improvements, newly standard alloy wheels, and Bluetooth. The bigger news was its new 302-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission, with much improved performance, paired with EPA ratings of 18 mpg city, 30 highway. It's this model that lived on in fleet sales even as Chevy prepared to launch its tenth-generation Impala.