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2006 Chevrolet HHR by Gary Witzenburg
Copycatting gets its due.
Few who saw Chevy’s new Impala at the Detroit North American International Auto Show realized how new it really was. The car it replaces has been quietly competent and successful -- outselling Chrysler’s hot 300 by more than 50,000 units during the first half of this year – but bland in looks, moderate in performance and about as exciting as yesterday’s beer. All it did was offer good build quality and interior room and terrific value for dollar and sell in substantial numbers year after year.
Now comes this new Impala looking better (though not that different) than the old one and surpassing it (and most everything else in its class) in virtually every way. Comparing roominess (for six), cargo capacity, base and V-8 performance, V-6 and V-8 fuel economy, and V-6 and V-8 base price, Chevy says it beats Camry, Accord, Altima, Five Hundred and 300 in everything except the Five Hundred’s bigger trunk and the 300C HEMI’s bigger performance.
Yet critics and enthusiasts will diss it for at least four valid reasons: 1) its new look is handsome but hardy exciting, 2) it’s front-wheel-driven, 3) there’s not an overhead cam among its three available engines, and 4) its only transmission is a four-speed automatic.
Three new powerplants
subscribeThe new 60-degree 3.5-liter V-6
standard on base LS and LT models generates a very respectable 211 hp and 214
lb-ft of torque (at 4000 rpm) and features a forged steel crankshaft, electronic
throttle control and – a first in any OHV (pushrod) engine -- variable valve
timing. It pulls the 3553-lb LS from rest to 60 mph in 8.4 sec., offers E85
ethanol-blend fuel capability and scores 21 mpg city and 31 highway on unleaded
regular in EPA testing. Compared to the previous GM V-6 of the same 3.5-liter
displacement, “there are maybe a half-dozen parts carried over,” says Asst.
Chief Engineer Gary Horvat. “This is pretty much a ground-up new