2011 Chevrolet Impala Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
February 14, 2011

It's big and reasonably priced, but the 2011 Chevrolet Impala can't match other full-sizers on sex appeal or high-tech features.

Chevrolet’s front-wheel-drive Impala brings a classically comfortable ride and big value to the table, but the 2011 model can't compete with the likes of the Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon or Hyundai Azera in refinement.

The Impala sends a message, with bland styling inside and out. The outdated appearance plays through its street performance, too--it's reasonably quick and a comfortable ride, but excitement is completely off the menu.

The biggest asset in the Impala's portfolio is the copious interior and cargo room to be found inside. Five adults can really be comfortable inside, so long as you don't tackle aggressive roads, and the trunk's almost as big as the largest one in its class. Fuel economy is a credit, too--despite a four-speed transmission, the Impala can pull 29 mpg in highway driving, according to the EPA.

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You may miss all the luxury features that can turn a Taurus into a $45,000 sport sedan, or the options that can spin an Avalon's pricetag into the high $30,000 range. So long as you're fine with the Impala's existential drabness, you can always bring along your own music and GPS, right?
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2011 Chevrolet Impala

Styling

The 2011 Chevrolet Impala is inoffensive to the nth degree.

If you're out to offend with dashing, slashing sheetmetal and a crazy-quilt cabin...the 2011 Chevrolet Impala is decidedly not what you're looking for.

The Impala is inoffensive to the point of blandness, a diabetic diet compared to the relatively high-cholesterol looks of the latest Ford Taurus or the Chrysler 300. The shape's been around for more than a decade, and with infrequent updates, it's simply grown too old to register among today's crop of big family sedans. The shape does have some strong details, like the generous headlights that sweep back along the sides of the hood, and it's by no means unattractive. It's just that the Hyundai Azera seems risky, in comparison.

Inside, the Impala doesn't muster the anonymously handsome look the Azera pulls off, and it's nowhere near as blingy as the newest Taurus or the current Avalon. It's drab and dull. The gauges and controls are quite clearly laid out and nothing is off-putting, but there's a utilitarian feel to the cabin that overwhelms its functional layout. Woodgrain trim tries to liven things up, and doesn't quite nail it, while the center stack swims in flat black plastic. The swankiest detail might be the optional leather seats, which get French-stitched seams, an ooh-la-la moment lost on most of the Impala's users, we bet.

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2011 Chevrolet Impala

Performance

The 2011 Chevrolet Impala is a competent performer, but real driving excitement is off the menu, now that the SS is gone.

With only a pair of V-6 engines and an outdated transmission at its beck and call, the 2011 Chevy Impala doesn't come off the spec sheet with much excitement. It's amply quick, though, and rides pretty plushly, so long as you don't turn the wheel too much in either direction.

The base engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 211 horsepower and 216 pound-feet of torque. It's intended primarily for the least-expensive cars to come off the line, but performance estimates still put it at under 10 seconds to 60 mph. Tracking down an Impala with this engine on the showroom lot might be more difficult than finding a unicorn that knows how to drive stick--and nowhere near as worthwhile.

Most every new Impala you'll find for sale will be fitted with a 3.9-liter V-6 making 230 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. Like the smaller six, it's teamed with a four-speed automatic--behind the times when this year's Chrysler 300 will soon be available with twice as many forward gears. In truth, this Impala drivetrain works pretty well. It's nowhere near as feisty as the old V-8 SS, but it will run to 60 mph in about eight seconds, with a strong-sounding engine note at full press.

The transmission's probably the reason the front-drive Impala doesn't beat 30 mpg on the EPA highway cycle, by the way. A new drivetrain with a 3.6-liter V-6 and a six-speed automatic may be introduced next year, so caveat emptor.

When it comes to handling, the Impala has built on a quiet, nicely damped ride, but it's still the kind of fluffy American-made sedan that prefers long-distance interstate cruising to anything resembling a turn or a tight corner. Steering feel isn't half-bad, but the Impala has body roll on tap for every situation. None of the old SS's tighter tuning carried over to the rest of the range. If you're in the market for cushy ride quality, though, the Impala satisfies.

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2011 Chevrolet Impala

Comfort & Quality

It's spacious and comfortable enough, but the 2011 Chevrolet Impala's not as refined or as pleasant to ride in as some other full-size sedans.

The 2011 Chevrolet Impala has ample space for people and their bring-along stuff, but it's nowhere near as sophisticated or as well-tailored as its American and Asian competition.

The Impala does offer plenty of interior room, along with a generally quiet interior. The front seats are of the wide, flat variety--perfect for fleet duty but because they lack good bolsters, they're only truly cozy for long-haul interstate driving. And while headroom and shoulder room are plentiful, there's not as much leg room inside as you might find in the Toyota Avalon or the Hyundai Azera. It's the same story in the back seat of the Impala, though the back bench is one of the lower ones in its market segment.

All the retail versions of the Impala have folding rear seats that open up the trunk to the cabin. It's already 18.6 cubic feet back there--not quite up to the Ford Taurus' 20 cubes, but large--though the Impala's trunklid cut-out makes it a little less cargo-friendly than it could be. 

A few years ago, GM revamped the Impala's interior. It made the leap from commercial-grade to retail-grade, but it's still one of the less nice places to be, particularly compared to the Azera and the Taurus. The plastics are more plasticky; the cloth seats can be swapped out for leather, but the hides are of the shiny variety. To its credit, the Impala allows almost no road noise to permeate the cabin, just a little tire and wind noise at extra-legal speeds.

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2011 Chevrolet Impala

Safety

The 2011 Chevrolet Impala lags in safety scores, with mediocre crash-test results for its class.

With revisions to the scoring from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the safety picture for the 2011 Chevrolet Impala has improved a bit.

The NHTSA is changing its ratings this year to reflect a new weighting of front, side and rollover impacts. It hasn't finished scoring all cars yet, and as a result, the Impala is not yet rated by the feds. We'll update this review when the final scores are in.

The IIHS, though, has upgraded the Impala from its previous "acceptable" rating for front-impact protection, to "good"--the same rating it's also given to the Impala's side-impact protection.

The Impala has standard dual front, side and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; and tire-pressure monitors. However, it's completely lacking in options for features such as a rearview camera, blind-spot detectors and parking sensors. It does come with OnStar hardware for emergency assistance.

6

2011 Chevrolet Impala

Features

The basics are covered, but the 2011 Chevrolet Impala falls behind the competition with its meager entertainment and luxury features.

While it's fitted with the basic amenities you'll find in all cars in its class, the 2011 Chevrolet Impala hasn't gone out of its way to stay up to date.

The base Impala LS is relatively well equipped. It bundles in power windows and locks; cruise control; keyless entry; air conditioning; an AM/FM/CD sound system; and Bluetooth connectivity. This version is sold widely to fleets, so some features like a fold-down rear seat and power side mirrors are omitted to keep cost down.

Stepping up through higher trims and available packages, the Impala can be equipped with an eight-speaker Bose audio system; dual-zone climate control; remote start; XM satellite radio (which is standard on retail models, not on fleet versions); a split-folding rear seat; and heated power side mirrors.

The LTZ is the sporty Impala, and it has a slightly firmer suspension, leather upholstery, sport seats, and a premium audio system. The old Impala SS and its V-8 engine are long gone.

The Impala does have plenty of power points, and you'll need them if you're putting it into regular family-hauling duty. Features you'd order on a Ford Taurus--DVD entertainment systems, USB ports and game jacks, GPS--aren't available on any Impala. Neither are all-wheel drive or a panoramic sunroof. The Impala does have OnStar hardware and comes with a six-month subscription to basic services, but beyond that initial term, you'll pay a monthly fee for directions and other adds-ons.

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2011 Chevrolet Impala

Fuel Economy

The EPA ratings are better than you might expect in the 2011 Chevrolet Impala

The 2011 Chevrolet Impala may not have the most up-to-date engines, but in terms of fuel efficiency, they're still competitive.

The EPA rates the base Impala's 3.5-liter V-6 at 19/29 mpg, a surprisingly high figure given the sedan's outdated four-speed automatic transmission. Even with the bigger-displacement 3.9-liter V-6, the Impala can hit 17/27 mpg. The best-in-class Toyota Avalon musters 20/29 mpg.

The Impala's mileage may improve significantly next year, as Chevrolet may replace both drivetrains with a newer V-6 coupled to a six-speed automatic.

The Impala does offer one alternative for drivers looking for other fuel sources: it's E85 compatible, meaning it can run on ethanol blended with gasoline as well as gasoline alone.

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April 14, 2015
For 2011 Chevrolet Impala

The only theing wrong with it is the head rests

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I do not know what IDIOT designed the head rest, but they sure as hell did not know what they were doing. They decrease the visibility out the back about 50 percent. They were also designed for people that are... + More »
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Styling 6.0
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