- A redefined look we'd like to see more of
- 21st-century infotainment systems
- Strong V-6, even without the SS initials
- Balanced ride and handling
- Manual-shift switch is almost useless
- Cockpit needs some chamomile
- Back seat's flat, and headroom isn't amazing
- Overall fuel economy is down, minus the Eco
The 2015 Chevrolet Impala is loaded with technology and handles better previous models, and it's better looking, too.
Stylish and, at finally, completely modern, the 2015 Chevrolet Impala brings the Chevy's traditional large sedan squarely into the modern era. Now in its second year, the new Impala is a completely new vehicle, replacing older versions that dated back to some of the very oldest hardware in the General Motors lineup. With an up-to-date complement of features and options, the 2015 Impala is very competitive in the shrinking segment of full-size four-door sedans that don't come from luxury brands. It's surprisingly fuel-efficient too, not to mention desirable, handsome, and well equipped.
Since the Impala was relaunched last year, Chevy's made very few changes. Aside from a standard start-stop feature to improve its fuel-economy ratings, this year's model is unchanged from the car that debuted last year. That vehicle shares underpinnings--but no sheet metal at all--with the recent Cadillac XTS and the older but equally large Buick Lacrosse.
The Impala's crisply themed sheetmetal is something we'd like to see more of on the smaller and less fortunate Malibu mid-size sedan. The Impala's cues and details hit the high points the Malibu misses. There's a bit of Mercedes CLS in the big Chevy's rear quarters, and unusually, it's the rear of the car where the design stands out most. Most cars are best approached from the front, but the elegance and sophistication of the Impala is best appreciated from the rear--and, we would note, it looks better in person than in most photographs.
Once inside, while the cabin concept is ambitious--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 perhaps fewer accent lines. As a large sedan by the Feds' yardsticks, though, 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.
In its most common guise, fitted with a V-6 engine, the Impala is a sleek, athletic performer. Handling and comfort are balanced well, and the big sedan offers a myriad of safety features, too. Base versions of the Impala carry a 2.5-liter four rated at 196 horsepower. The Impala Eco version is gone after just a single year--in its place, stop/start has been added to the four-cylinder only. Combined ratings for the four-cylinder are 25 mpg, down from the Eco's 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.
The old-school Impala lagged in safety gear and crash-test scores, but the 2015 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 comes in LS, LT and LTZ trims. Prices range from $27,735 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.