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The new Chevrolet Impala was worth the wait. For more than a decade, GM let the hallowed nameplate lapse, leaving it attached to a car that was no more than a fleet special even when it was new.
For 2014, the Impala does a massive about-face. It's one of the best-looking sedans GM builds now, has excellent handling and interior room, and makes a convincing case to be Chevy's flagship--even with the rear-wheel-drive SS in the mix. It's so different from the previous sedan that the new Impala might be advised to retain counsel and sever all family ties with its namesakes.
The outdated last-generation Impala is still available for fleets--but the new 2014 Impala you'll find in showrooms is sleek, a strong performer in V-6 trim, and commodious even for big adults. It's a sea change in style, in feature and safety content, and most convincingly, in the way it nails the balance of comfort and handling without getting too lazy or harsh.
Now made from the same gear as the Buick LaCrosse, and built alongside the Chevy Volt in Hamtramck, Michigan, the 2014 Impala wears some crisply themed sheetmetal that we'd like to see more of on the smaller, less fortunate Malibu. The Impala's cues and details hit the high points the Malibu misses, without the misguided Camaro references in back and with assertiveness all over its front end. There's some CLS in its rear quarters, where the design really gels, even if it's fairly close to the same passages on the LaCrosse. The cabin? Give it some chamomile. The concept is high--like the Maxima, the Impala shaves away unneeded dash below a beltline--but the chorus of lines and textures and materials needs a more muted approach, or at least fewer cutlines.
We've driven only the Impala with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and the more powerful version with the V-6. Base versions will carry a 2.5-liter four rated at 196 horsepower. The Impala Eco version, with GM's eAssist mild-hybrid technology fitted to a 182-hp, 2.4-liter gas four-cylinder, uses battery power to add torque to the engine for a combined EPA rating of 29 mpg.
The base four moves the car along smartly enough under most circumstances, and will even spin the inside front wheel accelerating out of curves. But under the hardest acceleration--a short uphill freeway on-ramp, for example--there's just not quite the reserve of power you'd expect in a car this big. It's the V-6 that lets the Impala justify its animal name. It's GM's latest 3.6-liter V-6, rated at 305 horsepower, coupled to a six-speed automatic with an aggressive torque converter that judders on occasion while it tries to conserve fuel. That's a mild distraction from the V-6 Impala's strong acceleration--0-60 mph in about 6.8 seconds--and from its thoughtfully composed handling. The ride's damped extremely well, even on the biggest 20-inch wheels and tires, and the Impala's electric steering never feels overly heavy or slow to react.
As a large sedan by the Feds' yardsticks, the Impala offers up more space than the best-selling four-doors, and it tops the Azera and Avalon for usable space, too. On paper it reads smaller than the Taurus in some ways, but the net volume inside is larger. The front seats are very supportive in either leather or mixed media, and space is vast through the back seat, except in headroom. We expected a little more, to be honest, and we should have it, given the flatness of the back bench. The trunk almost makes up for it, and almost matches the Taurus cubic foot for cubic foot.
The old-school Impala lagged in safety gear and crash-test scores, but the 2014 model has ten airbags and can be fitted with adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and parking sensors. A rearview camera is still an option on all but the LTZ, though. It's already earned a top five-star overall rating from the federal government, including five-star ratings in frontal and side impact.
Along with the safety technology, the Impala's infotainment systems get a thorough upgrade. Bluetooth audio streaming is now offered, as is navigation. Chevy's MyLink system controls the secondary features via an eight-inch touchscreen LCD--features like space for 60 favorites (radio stations, destinations, whatever) and a thousand personal contacts, connections for up to 10 Bluetooth devices, and a swipey interface that lets you choose where the icons rest, or which of four graphic skins you want it to wear.
The Impala arrives in showrooms in LS, LT and LTZ trims. Prices range from $27,535 for the base model all the way to $41,000 if you're not careful--but a well-equipped V-6-powered Impala LT with a rearview camera and MyLink audio will run about $31,700.
- At long last, it's new
- A redefined look we'd like to see more of
- Strong V-6, even without the SS initials
- Balanced ride and handling
- 21st-century infotainment systems
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- Eco mild-hybrid model can be juddery
- Back seat's flat, and headroom isn't amazing
- Cockpit needs some chamomile
- Manual-shift switch is almost useless