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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
stable with good steering feel
suspension firm enough to encourage enthusiastic
Kelley Blue Book
With only a pair of V-6 engines and an outdated transmission at its beck and call, the 2011 Chevy Impala doesn't come off the spec sheet with much excitement.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.
The 2011 Chevrolet Impala is a competent performer, but real driving excitement is off the menu, now that the SS is gone.