For 2012, the Chevrolet Impala will finally throw the pushrod V-6s and ancient four-speed automatics to the wayside. Chevy's large sedan—and the Malibu's more anonymous big brother—gets an upgrade to GM's 3.6-liter DOHC engine and a six-speed automatic, plus a number of appearance and equipment improvements.
Flip-and-fold back seats are also coming back for 2012, according to posts at GM Inside News, and the interior gets new woodgrain trim in some versions. On the outside, the grille and fog lamps are new, dual exhaust outlets are now standard, and there's a slightly different look to the tail overall.
Retail versions of the Impala can now be had with a leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls, plus Bluetooth hands-free calling, and a Bluetooth package and OnStar are newly offered in especially budget-minded fleet LS versions.
The more modern powertrain, plus some new features, should give the Impala a better chance at competing with the likes of the base Ford Taurus and Dodge Charger—as well as the Toyota Avalon and Kia Amanti.
In recent years, the Impala has primarily been a fleet car, quietly filling rental-car fleets, as well as the lots of agencies and companies, as a budget-priced large sedan. To its credit, according to our full review of the 2011 model, the Impala's interior space, trunk space, and ride quality are still impressive, though it's woefully behind in refinement, driving excitement, or even features. On the 2011, you won't find those folding rear seats, a trunk pass-through, or even a USB plug in the Impala.
While the new powertrain and features probably will go a long way toward making the Impala feel more up-to-date, rather than moving the Impala to the Epsilon II platform, which now underpins the Buick LaCrosse, GM is keeping it on old bones—very old bones, in fact, when you consider that its W-body platform (albeit updated many times) dates back to the 1980s.