2008 Chevrolet Impala Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 22, 2008

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.

To pull together this exhaustive review of the Chevrolet Impala, the car experts at TheCarConnection.com looked to many different review sources to bring you the best information. TheCarConnection.com's editors have also driven the Impala and incorporate their impressions of the sedan.

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.

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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.

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2008 Chevrolet Impala

Styling

The 2008 Chevrolet Impala is inoffensive in all directions.

The 2008 Chevrolet Impala’s ubiquitous, nondescript styling is noted by reviewers across the Web.

The Impala’s "anonymous styling," as Car and Driver calls it, might have been overlooked in recent years. Today, though, sedans like the Honda Accord, the Ford Fusion, and Chevrolet’s own Malibu have set a new standard for family sedans--one the Impala can’t match. That said, the generous headlights that sweep back along the sides of the hood and its unique twin grille openings lend the Impala a hint of modernity. Edmunds says the Impala received a “classy exterior freshening” two years ago, discarding the “old electric-stove taillamps that looked more GE than GM.” For a bit more visual excitement, there’s an SS version; Kelley Blue Book says this model sports a rear spoiler and five-spoke aluminum wheel covers for those who appreciate a racier appearance. Cars.com says the SS "exhibits a distinct front-end look, led by a dual-split grille that contains a black-diamond crosshatch pattern."

The cabin is less inspiring. Edmunds calls the interior "functional and straightforward," with "all the visual pizzazz of The Wall Street Journal." Car and Driver says that the "overall look is pleasing enough, with a dark gray upper and lighter lower dash separated by faux wood, and the control layout is wonderfully simple and logical," but adds that "the featureless black plastic on the center stack and instrument cluster is almost insulting." Cars.com reports "nuance sandstone leather seating with French seams on the center cushions."

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2008 Chevrolet Impala

Performance

The 2008 Chevrolet Impala comes in competent LTZ and sporting SS trims, but neither will remind you of the street-shredding Impalas of the 1960s.

If you're looking for power and performance in the 2008 Chevrolet Impala, you'll need to go for the SS version--the others are lackluster at best.

The base 3.5-liter engine powers the 2008 Chevrolet Impala with enough authority for most buyers' needs, while the 233-horsepower 3.9-liter V-6 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. Car and Driver says "the idea of the base 211-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 would drop our eyelids, [but] the 3.9-liter V-6 is not a bad choice in this car...it feels strong, even at higher rpm and speed, and never sounds labored," adding that its "233 horsepower is enough to giddyap to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds." Edmunds proclaims it’s “plenty powerful.” ConsumerGuide notes that "3.5 and 3.9-liter V6s provide similar acceleration in around-town driving, but the 3.9 has better passing response in the 35-55-mph range." All Impala engines are capable of running on E85 ethanol fuel.

The SS's 5.3-liter V-8 makes 303 hp and 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. In comparison to the larger V-6, the V-8 propelled the Impala SS from 0-60 in just 6.5 seconds, and ran the quarter-mile in 14.5 seconds, offering what Edmunds describes as "serious thrust." ConsumerGuide notes the "SS's V8 furnishes ample power at any speed."

"A four-speed automatic is standard on all Impalas," says Car and Driver, and Cars.com tells us it "works with all three engines." Edmunds notes, “All models employ front-wheel drive and a responsive four-speed automatic transmission.” Many competitors offer six-speed automatics in the class.

This Impala Chevrolet's 3.9-liter V-6 uses Chevrolet 2008 Active Fuel Management technology to shut down one bank of cylinders when coasting or cruising at freeway speeds, which "increases gas mileage by as much as 8 percent," according to Cars.com; the same technology shows up on the V-8 as well. ConsumerGuide tests find that "an LT 3.5 averaged 24.2 mpg on conventional gasoline in mostly highway driving," which drops significantly using E85. They also report that "an SS averaged 20.3 mpg in mostly highway driving." Edmunds cautions that though the SS “may be tempting to power-hungry buyers, be forewarned that sampling its formidable reserves quickly brings fuel mileage down to the high teens, with official 2008 EPA ratings of 16 city and 24 highway.”

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. ConsumerGuide reports the Impala is "stable with good steering feel," especially the SS model, adding "stopping control is good." Edmunds feels the "cushy suspension hurts handling dynamics.” According to Car and Driver, "the Impala soaks up bumps well" when traveling in a straight line, but "once the road starts to wind, the Impala dips, leans, and squats as though the road were one big yoga mat." Kelley Blue Book notes "the top-level Impala SS has a suspension firm enough to encourage enthusiastic driving on curvier public roads." It’s a “forgettable driving experience” in all but the SS versions, Car and Driver concludes.

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2008 Chevrolet Impala

Comfort & Quality

It’s roomy, but the cabin of the 2008 Chevrolet Impala isn’t the most refined place to sit.

With a large cabin and a much improved interior, the 2008 Chevrolet Impala seats up to six adults in reasonable comfort, though materials are still not up to the levels seen in a Honda Accord.

Car and Driver compares the front seats with their "favorite recliner," but says "the slightest hint of aggression will rock you out of your comfort zone." Cars.com reports "firmer cushions and increased lumbar support" in the SS. Edmunds feels “occupants will find hip- and shoulder room plentiful, but legroom is mediocre for a car of this size.”

The vast room leads to a trunk that’s equally useful. Cars.com states "trunk space totals 18.6 cubic feet." ConsumerGuide reports that this Chevrolet 2008 model's "trunk is roomy, with a usefully flat floor," but "an oddly shaped opening hampers loading bulky objects"; in addition, they note, "cabin storage is merely adequate."

The wide-open spaces inside are styled and finished better than in the previous Impala, but the Chevy sedan still runs behind the class leaders. Car and Driver is not particularly impressed with the interior materials and assembly, especially when it comes to driver controls: "Although the redesign for 2005 greatly improved the interior, the Impala’s cabin materials still pale next to those of the Honda Accord, Toyota Avalon, and Hyundai Azera." ConsumerGuide expresses similar sentiments: "cabin materials are serviceable, but Impala trails most like-priced rivals for quality feel...hard plastic expanses dominate the cabin, giving it a budget look and feel." Edmunds says "the Impala's interior is a huge improvement over its predecessor and a nice enough place to spend time, but competitors score higher style and quality points."

In both 2008 Chevrolet Impala V-6 models especially, the interior is quite hushed and well isolated from road noise. ConsumerGuide feels "wind rush and tire roar both intrude slightly... in rapid acceleration, the V6s emit prominent growl," while "the V8 is subdued at cruise but has muscle-car rumble under throttle."

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2008 Chevrolet Impala

Safety

Crash-test scores are respectable, but the Impala should carry anti-lock brakes on its standard equipment list.

In general, the 2008 Chevrolet Impala gets strong, if not stellar marks for safety.

Crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration resulted in the Impala Chevrolet getting five stars for front-occupant safety in head-on and side impacts for models equipped with side airbags. Rear seat occupants fared slightly worse in this respect; the NHTSA awarded the Impala Chevrolet four out of five stars here.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was less impressed with this Chevrolet 2008 model. In frontal offset crash testing, the Impala was given an "acceptable" rating, while side impact ratings were "good."

All 2008 Chevrolet Impala models come with dual front and side-impact airbags, as well as tire-pressure monitoring and OnStar emergency monitoring services. Every one of these Chevrolet 2008 vehicles also includes front seat belt pre-tensioners and latch child-safety seat attachments for the backseats. Car and Driver reports that "airbags [and] tire-pressure monitoring [are] standard across the lineup," but anti-lock brakes are not. All-disc anti-lock brakes and traction and stability control are standard on the higher trim levels, but cost extra on the entry-level LS and 1LT models.

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2008 Chevrolet Impala

Features

The 2008 Chevrolet Impala is missing some of the latest features that draw buyers to cars like the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.

The set of standard features in the 2008 Chevrolet Impala seems adequate, but don’t look long for high-tech gadgets—they’re not on any options list.

Four Impala trim levels are offered: LS, LT, LTZ, and SS. The base car has power features, air conditioning, tilt steering, a power driver seat, a CD player with an MP3-player input, and keyless entry, Edmunds reports. LT versions get remote start and dual-zone climate control, while the LTZ adds a tauter suspension, leather bucket seats, and a Bose audio system. The SS edition pick up a spoiler and special 18-inch wheels.

Kelley Blue Book reports "clever features, such as the auxiliary audio input jack, go a long way toward satisfying the kids on long trips." For those Impala Chevrolet passengers wishing to work on a laptop during extended road trips, Car and Driver reports that one will find "three power points" in the Impala Chevrolet cabin; "two are tucked out of sight at the base of the center stack in the bottom of a deep storage tray, and a third is in the center console, so you can power the cell-phone charger, the radar detector, and the iPod."

Options include anti-lock brakes for the base car, satellite radio, leather seats, a CD changer, and a sunroof.  "A new luxury package on 1LT trims combines popular options into one package," according to Cars.com; these include "leather-trimmed interior, antilock brakes, traction control, a rear spoiler and GM's OnStar communication system with Turn-By-Turn navigation." A DVD- or hard-drive-based navigation system is unavailable, as is Bluetooth connectivity, a panoramic sunroof, all-wheel drive, or some other features found in the class leaders.

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April 29, 2015
2008 Chevrolet Impala 4-Door Sedan LTZ

I love this car but my dream is to get a jeep

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I like the many alert features, the smooth ride , heated seats, trunk space, style, shape and the fast acceleration of this car.
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April 13, 2015
For 2008 Chevrolet Impala

Good road car and good mileage on the highway.

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Although the new Impala is better, this is still a good car.
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