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- A smashing redesign
- Infotainment is on point
- No SS badge, but the V-6 feels like it
- Ride and handling are top-notch
- Manual-shift mode is at arm's length
- Too many cooks in the cockpit design kitchen
- Back-seat head room and support need attention
- Gas mileage is middling
The 2016 Chevrolet Impala scores big wins in styling, handling, connectivity, and safety.
For the 2014 model year, GM broomed the ancient Chevrolet Impala war horse—sort of, since it can still be bought by fleets—and brought you today's Impala. It's the photographic inverse of the last-generation sedan: the current Impala is beautiful, well-equipped, engaging, fuel-efficient, comfortable, and well-connected, none of which were particularly true of its predecessor.
The Impala has a classic name, but until the current version emerged, we'd have called it anything but a classic. The badge limped along through the last decade on a tired-looking derivative of one of GM's oldest platforms.
The recipe's working well enough, so for 2016, GM's only added Apple CarPlay to the Impala's MyLink smartphone interface.
There's a simple reason we like the Impala so well—it shares a lot of its running gear with two other very well-executed GM sedans, the Cadillac XTS and the Buick LaCrosse. It bears a passing resemblance, too, to the LaCrosse, but GM's done a bang-up job distinguishing the two cars. The Impala's crisply themed sheet metal has a bit of Mercedes CLS in its rear quarters. 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.
Inside, the Impala's dash is equally ambitious, if not quite as successful or unified. The Impala's designers shaved 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.
Base versions of the Impala carry a 2.5-liter inline-4 rated at 196 horsepower. 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.
In its more 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 myriad safety features, too. 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 hp, coupled to a 6-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, 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 latest model has 10 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 earned a top five-star overall rating from the federal government, including five-star ratings in frontal- and side-impact tests.
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 8.0-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. This year, it adds Apple CarPlay and the Impala also gets an option for wireless smartphone charging.
The Impala comes in LS, LT and LTZ trims. Prices range from about $28,000 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 $32,000.
The Impala isn't tops among its class for fuel economy, but it manages respectable numbers. For 2016, the fuel-economy numbers for the four-cylinder were carried over from the previous year: 22 mpg city, 31 highway, 25 combined, according to the EPA. For the more powerful V-6 Impala, the EPA says it's good for 19/29/22 mpg on versions capable of flex-fuel operation, and 18/28/22 mpg for non-flex-fuel versions.