Performance » 7
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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
the steering, brake, and throttle all help make this an easy car to drive smoothly.
the slightly firm suspension gives the car a real "light-on-it's-feet" feel; this Impala is actually fun to drive.
The steering is untroubled, and I liked the brakes.
Not too long ago, the full-size sedan was still an unflattering imitation of the land yachts of the Seventies. Even if it hailed from South Korea or Japan (via Kentucky), the average dreadnought put plush ahead of perky, bobbing and floating in the most matronly, smothering way possible.
Now, the Azera's found its light, the Taurus is back as an SHO, and even Toyota's Avalon has a sport steering mode. Count the 2014 Impala in with the converts. It's latched on to the trend, emerging with the best front-drive dynamics of the lot.
We've only driven the six-cylinder Impala, but two four-cylinder models are coming later this year. Performance will not be their angle. Base versions will carry a 2.5-liter four rated at 195 horsepower, and will be teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission sending power to the front wheels. A version of GM's eAssist mild-hybrid package will make its way into an Impala Eco, too--and with its 182-hp, 2.4-liter gas four-cylinder and electrical assist in some operating conditions, Chevy expects it will earn a 35-mpg highway rating.
For a nicely raspy exhaust note, smooth and strong power, and a 0-60 mph time in about 6.8 seconds, you'll turn to GM's latest 3.6-liter V-6. The carryover powertrain is rated in the Impala LT and LTZ at 305 horsepower, with a big flat torque band and throttle response that avoids the overzealous, hair-trigger responses of some of its brethren. It's as energetic as any Impala we've driven over the past decade--and nothing is likely to pass it by, since an Impala SS is less likely with the arrival of the rear-drive Chevy SS sedan imminent.
All Impalas get a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode activated by a click switch on the shift lever--where no one will use it, since the tall console makes it an awkward motion. It's also not a "sport" mode, in that the timing of the shift doesn't change. The transmission isn't as seamless as the GM benchmarks of the past. Because the torque converter's set up to lock up more often in the name of fuel economy, a jumpy foot can trigger what feels like half-shifts as the converter unlocks. It's still ready to react quickly to the right amount of pedal.
With the V-6, fuel economy's a bit off the pace set by the best full-size sedans. At 19/29 mpg, or 22 mpg combined, it's a digit or two lower than the Azera and Avalon, and eAssist models will be well off the Avalon Hybrid's 40-mpg rating.
The Impala's built from the same body structure and suspension design as the Buick LaCrosse, and it shows. The premium setup lays out front struts and a multi-link rear end with digressive damping that's stiffer against small bumps, more relaxed against larger ones, with body lean put on a leash through rebound springs. The body's stiffer, from passenger cell to shock towers, to neutralize unwanted shimmy.
What that means is an Impala completely unlike the one just before it. The control over ride motions is subtle and exceptional given where it's come from, whether you're on the stock 18-inch wheels and tires or the optional, more noisy 20-inchers shod with Bridgestone Potenzas. Belt-driven electric steering complements the ride with accurate tracking and without gratuitous, artificial weight. The Impala has balance and all-around composure that the Taurus, Avalon and Azera miss by a factor here and there. It's comfortable, without lapsing into lazy.
Brisk acceleration, quick steering and a near-perfect ride give the Impala a way to forget its past.