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The Chevrolet Impala has been caught in a time warp. New in 2004, but even then a revamp of an existing platform, it's been riding on fleet sales for more than a decade, while the competition--Azera, Avalon, Taurus, and 300--have been getting stronger, and growing their followings.
For 2013, the Impala keeps its pace unchanged, prepping instead for a new sedan due in the 2014 model year. As the final version of a model that's long since passed its prime, the Impala still provides good interior space and a low price, which is why it sells well to fleet buyers.
Last year's updated powertrain helps press its case, too. The new 303-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 is an expensively engineered piece of hardware that's also used in Cadillac's lineup, and it pairs well with a new six-speed transmission. While we haven't yet driven the Impala since this powertrain transplant, we expect performance and responsiveness to be much-improved.
Unfortunately, not enough has changed regarding the Impala's interior, or handling, or features to steer shoppers back to the fold. The large front-wheel-drive sedan looks bland from the outside, and inside, the plain, plasticky dash isn't any better--a reminder of how the company's interiors used to be, before the much more stylish Malibu and Cruze hit the market.The Impala's plentiful interior space and huge trunk are hard to argue with, but the front seats are wide, flat, soft, and springy, in the way that seats used to be--good for Interstate drives but not corners. Most models get folding rear seats that bring out impressive cargo versatility.
All Impala models include Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, plus satellite radio, steering-wheel controls, a trip computer, and keyless entry. That's basically a feature set designed to make fleets happy (they're still a big portion of Impala customers). You can get things like Bose sound, remote start, fancier wheels, leather seats, and dual-zone climate control in upper trims, but you won't find a USB port or iPod interface, let alone a navigation system or media hub.
From what we've already seen, these shortcomings have been addressed with the 2014 Chevy Impala that's due early next year. Until then, the '13 model's mostly hanging around for continuity's sake, and for the folks who buy cars by the dozen.