SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide
SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide
The name is familiar, but the face is new. "Impala" was the name of the leading Chevrolet sedan from 1958 through 1986, when it was retired to make way for the Caprice. It made a slight comeback with the Impala SS of 1994 to 1996, a modern-day muscle car based on the police-package Caprice. But extra-large sedans lost out to sport- utilities, and the Caprice was discontinued to make way for more Tahoes and Suburbans. That left the mid-sized Lumina as the top Chevy sedan.
The new Impala fits in the Chevy lineup above the Lumina, which continues for the 2000 model year. Although both are made on the same assembly line, they share only a few minor parts. The Impala is only slightly larger than the Lumina outside, but the interior dimensions have increased enough for it to be in the EPA ``large car'' category. Don't expect anything quite as big as a Caprice, though. The new Impala's ``RoomFirst'' (tm) interior design stresses efficiency in packaging, not brute size, for space.
Efficiency is the watchword in the chassis and engine departments as well. ``Total Performance System'' is what Chevy calls its blend of rigid modern front-wheel drive, unibody platform with fully-independent suspension and well-developed V6 engines. The base Impala has the 180-horsepower 3400 V6. Optional in the base model and standard in the LS is the 3800 Series II in 200-hp trim. Both are designed for longevity, and feature lightweight internal components, sequential fuel injection, extended-life coolant, and coolant loss protection for efficient and economical operation. The only transmission is the 4T65-E four-speed electronically-controlled automatic.
I've just finished a week with a new Impala LS. It's a much more modern car than either the Lumina or Caprice, and fits between them in interior space. The LS has a balance of handling, comfort, and performance that helps make it a very good example of a modern mainstream sedan. It compares favorably with any domestic or foreign competitor, and should give Chevy a presence in the midsized sedan class.
APPEARANCE: It's not 1962 any more. Large size no longer works for sedans. The newest Impala is a contemporary sedan of medium size outside. Its styling is distinctive but conservative, much in the vein of the boxy Impalas of the early 1960s. Its basic slightly-rounded shape looks a bit like a larger version of the Malibu, but the Impala is has more definition thanks to edgy character lines. The front and rear treatments are unique. The grille's chrome crossbar and bowtie leave little doubt as to the car's manufacturer, and the downward curve of the hood front gives the top of the grille an interesting shape. The headlights are faired under plastic covers. At the rear, a full-width applique covers four round taillights. The 5-spoke alloy wheels of the LS are the only similarity to the late Impala SS.
COMFORT: The new Impala is designed for people who spend a large amount of time inside in their car. Comfortable bucket seats (or a contoured split bench in the base model), conveniently-placed and usefully-large storage areas, and easily-readable instruments in a well- designed instrument panel that places all controls within easy reach help make the 2000 Impala a good portable office. Despite the practicality, the Impala is not austere. The base model is well- appointed, with power locks, windows, and mirrors, and other often- optional features as standard equipment. My test LS had an upscale- looking two-tone interior motif with leather upholstery and woodgrain trim. Dual-zone climate control, visor extensions, remote keyless entry, and a driver information panel are all standard on the LS. A comprehensive option list allows custom tailoring of both models. The rear seat holds three people, and the large trunk has external struts to prevent crushed cargo.
SAFETY: The 2000 Chevy Impala has safety cage construction, three-point harnesses and headrests for all occupants, dual front airbags (with side bags in uplevel front seats), and automatic headlamp control.
ROADABILITY: The 2000 Impala illustrates just how far mainstream American family sedans have come in ride and handling. It has no pretensions toward sportiness or luxury but nonetheless combines a smooth ride with reasonably nimble handling. It's quiet inside, with minimal road, wind, and mechanical noise. The standard four-wheel disc brakes -- antilock on the LS -- stop quickly and surely. It works well on the Interstate, around town, and on scenic back roads. Room and comfort need not be boring.
PERFORMANCE: Although it has only a V6, not a muscular V8 like the late Impala SS, guess what -- the new one isn't all that much slower. It does zero-to-sixty in 7.6 seconds versus 7.4 despite a considerable horsepower and torque deficiency due to the nearly 800- lb. weight advantage of a smaller, lighter engine and lighter unibody construction. And the 3800 V6's 200 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque aren't particularly deficient, particularly compared to any of its foreign or domestic competitors. The efficiency implied in the ``Total Performance System'' integration of chassis and engine components is real. Driving through fast highways, commute traffic, and city streets my test car averaged 24 mpg, not bad at all for a car of its size.
CONCLUSIONS: The new 2000 Chevrolet Impala is a well-designed contemporary sedan with plenty of high-value features.
SPECIFICATIONS Base Price $ 22,365 Price As Tested $ 25,415 Engine Type 12-valve pushrod overhead valve V6 Engine Size 3.8 liters / 231 cu. in. Horsepower 200 @ 5200 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 225 @ 4000 rpm Transmission 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 110.5 in. / 200.0 in. Curb Weight 3466 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 17.3 Fuel Capacity 17.0 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded regular, 87 octane Tires P225/60 SR16 Goodyear Eagle GA Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc,antilock standard on LS Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent MacPherson strut Drivetrain front engine, front wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 20 / 29 / 24 0 to 60 mph 7.6 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 15.8 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Leather accent bucket seats $ 625 Electric sunroof $ 700 AM/FM stereo with cassette and CD $ 223 Comfort seating package -- includes 6-way power passenger seat, heated passenger and driver seats $ 425 Impala LS Preferred Equipment Group 1SB -- includes: Driver information center, universal garage opener, alarm system, electrochromic interior rear-view mirror, steering wheel radio controls $ 517 Destination charge $ 560