- Roomy interior, with plenty of backseat and trunk space
- SS’s V-8 gives the Impala impressive performance
- Very comfortable ride
- Tepid, ubiquitous styling inside and out
- Unsupportive seat design for long trips
- V-6 engines can sound coarse
Sporty SS aside, the 2008 Chevrolet Impala is a practical—but not exciting—choice if you’re on a tight budget and need a sedan with a lot of space.
The Impala is Chevrolet's large, front-wheel-drive sedan, redesigned for 2006. The 2008 Chevrolet Impala gets a new 1LT Luxury Edition, and flex-fuel capability has been added for the optional 3.9-liter V-6. The standard 3.5-liter V-6 in base models already offered the fuel feature. SS models continue to come with a 5.3-liter V-8 producing 303 horsepower. All engines are mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.
The 2008 Chevrolet Impala blends in rather than stands out with its ubiquitous exterior styling, but there's a large and accommodating passenger cabin, with a flip-and-fold rear seat in which the cushions flip forward to reveal a covered storage area. They can also fold flat to maximize cargo volume via a large pass-through opening to the trunk. Front seats are soft and cushy, though not as supportive as they should be for long trips. The instrument panel and interior trim feels plain and a bit behind the curve in styling and materials, but it's cleanly designed and does the job.
The Impala's ride definitely skews toward comfort, but the tighter tuning of the SS model's FE3 suspension--and the FE1 suspension that's included with the 3.9-liter engine--brings crisp handling without much of a ride sacrifice. And in both 2008 Chevrolet Impala V-6 models especially, the interior is quite hushed and well isolated from road noise.
The base 3.5-liter engine powers the 2008 Chevrolet Impala with enough authority for most buyers' needs, while the 3.9-liter offers noticeably more torque off the line, which may be more useful with a full load. Both engines are smooth when cruising but coarse under acceleration. The SS's 5.3-liter V-8 transforms the Impala to a more sophisticated performance sedan--capable of reaching 60 mph in well under 6 seconds--with an ever-torquey character and responsiveness at any speed. The only downside is that torque steer (a pull to the side) can be an issue coming fast out of tight corners. All three engines run smoothly through four-speed automatic transmissions. To aid fuel economy, the V-8 has GM's Active Fuel Management system to produce figures almost as good as those for the V-6.
At an attractively low price, the 2008 Chevrolet Impala LS comes with keyless entry, cruise control, air conditioning, and a CD sound system. The LT model is next up and adds more popular comfort and convenience equipment, but especially noteworthy for 2008 is a 50th Anniversary Edition that includes larger wheels and performance tires, upgraded heated leather seats, a remote start system, steering-wheel audio controls, and special badges throughout. The top LTZ comes with many of those same features, plus dual-zone climate control, upgraded Bose speakers, and an alarm system. The LTZ also gets a standard FE3 suspension package. Almost all versions get more attractive new wheels for 2008: 17-inchers on some LTs and 18-inchers on LTZ and SS models. XM Satellite Radio and OnStar turn-by-turn navigation are standard on all models for 2008, but a screen-based navigation system is not offered.
Anti-lock brakes are standard on all versions but the base model, and stability control is now standard on 2LT, LTZ, and SS Impalas. All models include side curtain airbags, though side airbags aren't offered. The 2008 Chevrolet Impala is neither at the top or bottom of its class for crash-test protection, with five-star frontal ratings and a mix of four- and five-star ratings in side protection from the federal government, plus an "acceptable" frontal rating, a "good" side-impact rating, and a "marginal" rear-impact rating.