2014 Chevrolet Impala 2LTZ Review By Carey Russ


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Chevrolet Impala 2LTZ


DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2014 Chevrolet Impala 2LTZ

The Chevrolet Impala nameplate is anything but new, as it was first used back in model year 1958. It was the Chevy flagship when full-sized sedans ruled the roads, but all things have a finite lifespan, and the Impala was retired after 1985. The badge returned between 1994 and 1996, as the Caprice-based Impala SS, a muscle car for the day. The Impala name was retired again with the discontinuation of the Caprice platform.

But there was enough heritage in the name that it was brought back yet again for model year 2000. That version was the first that was V6, front-wheel drive, and lasted through 2005. The 2006 update saw the return of (optional) V8 power, the first such in a front-drive Chevy, alongside the regular V6es.

2006 was long ago, and Chevy's competition has been busy. So there is a new Impala out to fight that competition, be it domestic or foreign. The tenth-generation Impala is the most-changed ever. Gone is the bland look best-suited to the rental lot (where the previous generation continues), replaced by a distinctive interpretation of all that is new in Chevrolet styling. Gone, too, is the V8 -- but it won't be missed as the V6 is now GM's direct-injected 305-horsepower 3.6-liter V6, which bests not only all previous V6es but the last V8 as well.

With far better fuel economy, as that's what both consumers and the government want at this point in time. The V6 Impala is rated by the EPA at 19 mpg city, 29 highway, and my results were close enough. That's with 305 horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque, capable of going from 0-60 in under seven seconds. Want less thirst? That would be the 2.5-liter "Ecotec" four-cylinder, also now with direct injection. 196 hp, 21/31 mpg. By the end of calendar year 2013 a semi-hybrid "eAssist" version will be available.

Currently there are five different trim levels in the Impala lineup. The base LS gets the 2.5 four, as does the 1LT, which does have the V6 optional. 2LT, 1LTZ, and 2LTZ all get the V6, and both engines are matched to a six-speed automatic.

My test car for the past week was a 2LTZ with some key options and packages that made it the most luxurious Chevrolet I've ever driven. With the best build quality, too. At nearly $40,000 as equipped (minus tax, license, and all that) it was also likely the most expensive that wasn't a Corvette but that is competitive with its competitors Ford Taurus and Chrysler 300 in equivalent trim. Unlike its immediate predecessor, the 2014 Impala compares very well with those two cars, and with the newest Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima and Altima as well. It has taken some work to turn General Motors around, but that is happening and the new Chevy Impala is fine evidence. If you're interested in a comfortable, luxurious, yet unostentatious large sedan, the 2014 Chevy Impala is worth a good, long look.

APPEARANCE: The Impala name graced some stylish cars back in the late 1950s through mid-60s. After that, boring conformity was more often the order of the day. The immediately-previous version was about as anonymous as a car could get. The new one couldn't be more different. With sculpted lines from its Camaro-inspired grille to the twin chromed exhaust finishers of the LTZ, the 2014 Impala stands out, in a tasteful way. Its passenger cabin is long and has a near-fastback shape, like expensive European "four-door coupes". The grille, hood styling, and strong shoulder lines say "power", with sophistication. The short front overhang is driveway-friendly, and the long rear overhang promises rear-seat and trunk space -- which the car has. Its most distinctive styling feature is the curved character line in each rear fender -- a pleasant, and subtle, nod to the late 1960s that plays on nostalgia not at all.

COMFORT: The interior space promised by that long roof is delivered, and with distinctive Chevrolet style. The "dual-cockpit" motif dates to Corvettes of the 1950s, and has been much-copied. Here, it looks right, and looks above the Impala's price point. In LTZ trim, leather seating and steering wheel rim, textured soft-touch materials on the dash and upper doors, trimmed with chrome and "woodgrain" plastic, and a stitched material on the top of the dash that looks very much like leather are all standard, as is a long, dual-pane sunroof. Instruments are of the bright and easily-visible electroluminescent variety, with a useful information display between the tach and speedometer. The "Comfort and Convenience Package" added cooling to the LTZ's standard heated front seats, very useful during a week that saw temperatures vary from 55 to 95 degrees, plus a power tilt and telescope steering column, heated steering wheel rim, ground lights in the outside mirrors and other useful features. Power-adjustable front seats for all trim levels, and the comfort package adds memory for the driver's seat, steering wheel, and outside mirrors.

The MyLink« touchscreen/hard button interface is refreshingly simple, and here controlled audio (AM/FM/XM radio, CD, USB, SD, and jack inputs, and Pandora streaming audio), phone, navigation, weather, and OnStar systems. I could tell that the Impala wasn't a "real" luxury car -- there was storage and a drink bottle holder in all doors. I have yet to see a bottle holder in a "real" (premium brand) luxury car.

Rear passengers, outboard at least, will love the new Impala. Legroom is not likely to be a problem, and headroom and width are very good as well. As is usual in sedans, the seat is contoured for two, with a higher center and central tunnel making the center position a short-term proposition. HVAC vents at the end of the console add comfort, and storage is found in the door and front-seatback pockets and under the rear seat cushions. If the 18.8 cubic foot trunk isn't large enough, the rear seatback folds 60/40.

SAFETY: Standard safety equipment in the 2014 Impala LTZ includes 10 airbags, side blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts, rear ultrasonic park assist, a backup camera, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, OnStar telematics, a strong, crashworthy structure, and four-wheel antilock disc brakes with the latest Stabilitrak electronic stability management system.

RIDE AND HANDLING: New car, new (for Chevy) platform, now the Epsilon II. Its design and rigidity, and strategic use of soundproofing materials, helps make the new Impala the quietest yet. Suspension is fully-independent, with MacPherson struts in front and a multilink design in the rear. It's tuned for comfort and a good ride quality, even over poorly-surfaced roads, and strikes a good balance between compliance and responsiveness to driver inputs. It's no sports sedan, but is a fine example of how far domestic sedans have come since the days of the "Yank Tank" of the `50s and `60s. Assist for the electric power steering is high at parking speeds, so feels more than a little numb. Less assist at higher speeds improves that significantly, and you do want assist at low speeds, especially with the optional P245/40 R20 tires.

PERFORMANCE: Read the specs, and 305 horsepower (at 6800 rpm) and 264 lb-ft of torque (at 5300 rpm) sound impressive. Note, however, the revs at which those figures are developed. The six-speed automatic is programmed for fuel efficiency, with revs in sixth at highway speeds under 2000 rpm. If quick acceleration is desired at that time, the transmission will shift down a gear or three. Relatively little power is needed to maintain a steady speed; acceleration is a different story. Under hard acceleration, there is no great feeling of torque, as there would have been from a big V8 of the past. That's deceptive, as Chevy claims a 0-60 time of 6.8 seconds, likely better than most muscle cars of the past. (Researching for a test of the Impala SS back in 1995, I found 0-60 figures of 7.1 seconds for it, and 8.0 for a `65 409. Isn't modern rubber wonderful!) Direct fuel injection allows a high compression ratio (11.5:1 here), and that with unleaded regular. Higher compression means more torque, which translates to more power. Add a multi-valve, dual overhead cam architecture with continuously-variable cam timing and match that to a six-speed automatic and the result is quick acceleration when needed, economical highway cruising (I got between 26 and 33 mpg) and 18 to 21 mpg in surface-street driving.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2014 Chevrolet Impala points to a good future for the bowtie brand.

SPECIFICATIONS
2014 Chevrolet Impala 2LTZ

Base Price			$ 35,770
Price As Tested			$ 39,700
Engine Type			DOHC aluminum alloy 24-valve V6 with
				 direct fuel injection and variable
				 valve timing
Engine Size			3.6 liters / 217 cu. in.
Horsepower			305 @ 6800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			264 @ 5300 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic with manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		111.7 in. / 201.3 in.
Curb Weight			est 3950 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		13.0
Fuel Capacity			18.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P245/40 R20 96V Bridgestone
				 Potenza RE97as
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multi-link
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		19 / 29 / 22
0 to 60 mph				6.8  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Comfort and Convenience Package -- includes:
  ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, power tilt
  and telescope steering column, memory settings for driver's
  seat, outside mirrors, and steering wheel, universal home
  remote, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, 
  outside heated power mirrors with turn signal indicators,
  ground illumination, and driver-side auto-dimming		$ 1,035
20-inch aluminum alloy wheels					$   400
Premium Audio Package -- includes:
  Bose® 11-speaker surround-sound system, 
  120VAC power outlet						$   700
Chevrolet MyLink® Radio with Navigation, AM/FM stereo,
  and CD Player							$   795
Premium All-Weather Floor Mats					$   140
Cargo Net							$    50
Destination Charge						$   810

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