- 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.
2016 Chevrolet Impala
With the Impala, Chevy has penned one of its best big sedans; the interior gets a little busy.
You're excused if you've ignored the Impala for the last decade or so. The last version of the big General Motors sedan was such a boring shape, it did the automotive equivalent of going straight to DVD—GM sent it packing to rental and police fleets very early in its life. In part, we're sure it was due to its relentlessly bland shape.
The new Impala wipes the slate clean. It's really a gorgeous set of sheet metal stampings, in almost every color we've seen. The lines are crisp and attractive, getting right what vehicles before it—Malibu, Traverse—had gotten wrong. The grille evokes a Honda's front end; the headlights should wear Saab trademarks. Despite all the ribs and lines stamped into the hood, it looks exciting and even clean.
The shape catapults into overdrive at the rear door, where a complex, Mercedes CLS-like intersection of surfaces echoes the rear quarters on the Buick LaCrosse, until it darts off at the shoulder line into a new and smartly pressed crease. It's one of GM's best efforts at mingling looks while keeping the brands distinct.
Meanwhile, when last we left Chevy's hyperactive interior design squad, they'd rendered the Impala sedan in about a dozen textures and eroded inlets into the dash cowl, giving it a Nicholson-esque shoreline hairline. At some level, the ebb and flow works—your eyes move constantly around the cabin's perimeter.
They're actually looking for a place to rest, before they get tired and give up. There's nowhere near as much glitz as in the Avalon, still, but the Impala makes up for it in its sheer number of finishes and cutlines. The controls work fine, especially the big gauges and their nested LCD screen (it's an option), or the sealed switches on the steering wheel that run cruise control and media. We just believe, in our heart of hearts, there's a way to pull off a look as dramatic as this one, with less drama.
2016 Chevrolet Impala
This Impala erases all memories of the last one, with great V-6 acceleration, quick steering, and a well-controlled ride.
With the latest Impala, Chevy has some of the best road manners of all the big family sedans that don't wear a luxury badge.
Power ranges from adequate to healthy, depending on whether the Impala's fitted with a 4- or a 6-cylinder engine. With its old Eco model dropped, the base Impala now sports a 2.5-liter inline-4 with 196 horsepower. It's coupled to a 6-speed automatic, and pushes its power to the front wheels. With this basic setup, the Impala's a middling performer, more eager at city speeds than in pulling through interstate passes. It's quieter than you'd think, since GM fits active noise cancellation to this model; engineers set the engine to run at very low speeds and use the noise-cancellation system to drown out engine noises that might sound iffy to drivers.
We drove the latest Impala on a variety of roads in both California and Georgia, and only found it lacking in mid-range passing. Pulling from, say, 30 mph to 60 mph, we found ourselves looking for downshifts into an even lower gear. The inline-4 revved nicely as high as 6,500 rpm, but the car simply didn’t gather speed as swiftly as we would have liked.
For smooth, strong power with a 0-60 mph time in about 6.8 seconds, plus a nice raspy exhaust note as a bonus, turn to GM's latest 3.6-liter V-6. It's rated in the Impala LT and LTZ at 305 hp, with a big flat torque band and throttle response that avoids the overzealous, hair-trigger responses of some of the other big sedans in its class. It's as energetic as any Impala we've driven over the past decade, though not quite the muscle car rival that is Chevy's rear-drive SS sedan.
All Impalas get a 6-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.
The slight powertrain issues are smothered by admiration for the Impala's handling. It wasn't too long ago that full-size sedans touted plush over perky, with a focus in floating their passengers down the road in soft, smothering, velour-wrapped comfort. Since then, we've seen these big cars take a step toward driving with a slightly more engaging demeanor. The Taurus is available as the SHO, the Azera offers multiple steering modes, and even the Avalon has a sport setting.
Count the Impala among the converts. It'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.
2016 Chevrolet Impala
Comfort & Quality
Rear-seat head room is skimpy for tall passengers, but the front seats are swell, and the cabin is quiet.
By the numbers, the Feds call the Impala a large sedan, but it doesn't feel that big in every dimension. It's a fantastically comfortable sedan for up to four adults, and leg room is very good all around, but in the back seat there's a bit of skimping.
The Impala isn't much larger than the Passat, Avalon, or Azera, but it's nominally in the next-largest size class. There's not much difference in the interior space available on the spec sheet, but the Impala does feel exceptionally roomy and less claustrophobic than a couple of those competitive sedans.
The Impala's overall length of 201.3 inches draws down to 111.7 inches between the wheels—compared to 106.3 inches of wheelbase on, say, a three-row Kia Sorento crossover. It's 73 inches wide, too. Compared to the last Impala—now the fleet-only Limited—the latest version has about 3.5 inches more front-seat leg room and 2.2 inches more in the back seat.
Open the wide, tall doors, and the Impala V-6's nicely shaped seats aren't too deep a knee-bend away. At least five different seats are specified across the lineup, but that's mostly because of optional seat heating and ventilation—only the base versions are cloth. Leather-clad versions on the LTZ have a middle grade of hides covering them, better than the cloth/vinyl seats in look and just slightly, in feel, since lumbar adjustment comes with them standard. Head room and leg room are more than enough for even 99th-percentile types; the Impala's one of the rare new cars where you can power the driver seat too low and too high.
The rear seats aren't quite as close to premium, but leg room is only an inch or two short of limousine status. The bottom cushion lays almost flat, and it's a bit short for the car's size—and still, head room isn't extraordinary. Our 6-foot-tall editor made contact with the headliner, and that's not entirely abnormal. Two adults will have enough space for a pre-teen between, though, and the seats can be fitted with bite-sized head rests shaped like old-school car bumpers. Score one for visibility.
Even with five passengers, filling the Impala's cargo bins will take some work. The trunk's 18.8 cubic feet, second only to the Taurus' 20-cubic-foot whopper. It's a little shallow, but the trunk floor is flat and extends deeply beneath the rear glass. The doors all have long bins with bottle holders; the center console can swallow a shoe box, a smartphone in either a rubberized tray or a bin hidden under a lid, and two drinks. If you're in an LT or an LTZ, there's a hidden chamber behind the MyLink LCD touchscreen, too—tap a button and the screen rises so you can stow goodies, then lock it out in a valet mode with a code you can enter and change.
In terms of fit and finish, the Impala will benefit from a mid-life update in a year or so. The busy-looking cockpit has a lot going on, visually. The twin-cowl dash is a Waffle House order waiting to happen: it's covered, studded, paneled, and draped in so many different materials and textures, it's almost a parlor game to find and name them all. The seat-heater surround is a glitzy, flecked black plastic; the door caps are soft to the touch but openly grained. Consistent, not insistent—that's all that's keeping the Impala from fully connecting with the elusive quality genome.
Chevy has tuned the Impala's interior for quieter rolling ambiance. Four-cylinder models sport active noise cancellation, like Chevy's Equinox, and the plusher versions get thicker glass and more sound deadening. The impression of noise control is a good one.
2016 Chevrolet Impala
The Impala's scored well in crash tests so far, and advanced safety technology is on the options list.
The 2016 Chevrolet Impala has 10 airbags, GM's OnStar system, and quite a long list of safety options to go with its very good crash-test scores.
Not all tests have been completed on the current-generation Impala, but so far, the sedan has earned five stars overall from federal officials, including five-star ratings in front- and side-impact tests.
The insurance-funded IIHS has only released its basic frontal and side-impact test results for the Impala so far—both "Good."
We don't have many complaints about the Impala's basic safety package, except in two small omissions. Bluetooth is standard on the V-6 car, but not on the base LS; likewise, a rearview camera's an option on the Impala LT, and only standard once you've moved up to the LTZ. It's well past time when a $30,000 sedan buyer should have to pay extra for either of those features. Visibility's fine, but side-view and surround cameras are becoming the norm on cars like the less expensive Honda Accord.
Beyond the basics, the Impala's been brought up to speed with a suite of standard or available features like blind-spot monitors; lane-departure warning system; adaptive cruise control; a rearview camera and rear parking sensors; and a forward-collision warning system.
The Impala is also the first Chevrolet model to get adaptive cruise control, as well as radar-based automatic braking, which intervenes and applies the brakes to help avoid a crash or lessen its severity.
2016 Chevrolet Impala
With leather, ventilated seats, and Chevy's MyLink smartphone connectivity and Apple CarPlay, this is the best-equipped Impala ever.
The 2016 Chevy Impala comes in LS, LT, and LTZ trims. Only the latter of those trims offer the V-6.
Every Impala comes with power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; air conditioning; and 18-inch wheels. Options are few on the Impala LS, which is priced just below $30,000: the add-ons include rear parking sensors, a cargo net, and rear headrests.
The Impala LT adds a combination of cloth and vinyl upholstery; a fully powered driver seat and a passenger seat with power height (but manual fore-aft) adjustment; and an AM/FM/XM/CD player with hidden storage behind the LCD audio screen. Major options include 19-inch wheels; microfiber/vinyl seats; a power passenger seat; rear parking sensors and a rearview camera; keyless ignition; Bose audio with 11 speakers; remote start; a sunroof; and navigation.
At the top of the Impala range, the LTZ brings with it standard 19-inch wheels; leather seats; a power passenger seat; ambient lighting; parking sensors and a rearview camera; keyless ignition; a sunroof; and a bundle of safety features optional on the LT, including forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitors, and a lane-departure warning system. With all the options—power tilt/telescoping steering; navigation; 20-inch wheels; Bose audio; adaptive cruise control; and ventilated seats—an Impala LTZ can cost more than $40,000.
The LT and LTZ come standard with MyLink, Chevy's infotainment controller, essentially a version of the Cadillac CUE system without the haptic feedback. The touchscreen's brightly colored icons are gateways to a range of connectivity and streaming features that might be out of the Impala's demographic ballpark. Voice-to-text is one of the least-used capabilities, Chevy tells us—but there's a valet mode that locks the storage bin behind the touchscreen for safe phone storage, while it also locks out contact and navigation information from prying eyes parking your car. MyLink has more than 60 slots for favorites, so you can program one-touch access to anything from a radio station to a destination, and it can connect to up to 10 different devices via Bluetooth while streaming audio.
New for 2016, the MyLink system adds Apple CarPlay functionality—it can mirror some iPhone functions on the car's touchscreen display—and wireless charging for cell phones, as an option.
2016 Chevrolet Impala
Fuel economy isn't class-leading, but it's in the hunt.
The Chevy Impala is almost a large sedan according to the EPA, but its fuel economy doesn't suffer the usual big-car fate. It doesn't lead its class—not with the Avalon Hybrid's amazing 40-mpg combined numbers—but the Impala is at least competitive.
When it was first introduced in 2014, the new Impala offered a mild-hybrid system that had special aerodynamic body pieces to earn a 29-mpg combined EPA rating. That model was deleted for 2015, when the Impala received a 4-cylinder with stop-start.
For 2016, the fuel-economy numbers for the 4-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.
The combined rating for the V-6 falls below the Toyota Avalon's 25 mpg, the V-6 Taurus' 23 mpg combined, and the 23-mpg figure posted by the Hyundai Azera and the Dodge Charger with its 8-speed automatic.
And as a reminder, Chevy still sells the last-generation Impala as the Limited, and it's rated at 18/30/22 mpg—but only fleet purchasers have access to them.
In our first-drive test loop set up by Chevy, the V-6 Impala's indicated economy checked in at 20.3 mpg, tallied after lots of canyon runs and a few stretches of 75-mph interstate.
We logged 25.1 mpg—right on the nose—for the base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder Impala, albeit over a short 20-minute drive covering about 12 miles.