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2014 Chevrolet Impala - Most Improved Player?

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2014 Chevrolet Impala

2014 Chevrolet Impala Review
By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

Few cars have needed an update more than the bread-and-butter Chevy Impala, and few have done a better job of reinventing itself. In its last years it had become an anachronism in the main-stream full-size sedan market having to compete with the likes of a bold Taurus, a sexy Avalon and domestically cool, rear-wheel drive Chrysler 300. Add to that crowd fresh versions of the Hyundai Azera and Kia Cadenza and you’re looking at a mighty tough field. This new Impala, though, holds its own. We predict it will compete head-to-head with all these great cars.

The new Impala shares a front-wheel drive platform with the Buick LaCrosse and the new Cadillac XTS. Neither of those have been big sellers but both are in the more expensive near-luxury and luxury classes. That adds another level of competence and competitiveness. The old Impala platform dated back to the dark ages and for the past few years dealers were nearly giving them away. The last six months or more of production wasn’t even available to the public. Those cars all went only into fleet use.

I had a couple of very brief, ‘round the block’ sort of driving experiences with the new Impala earlier in the year and I was not particularly impressed. It took a recent full-week loan and a good road trip to really appreciate the car. We made the 3- hour trip to Chicago plus lots of local driving, after which I found myself raving about the car when asked by friends what I thought about it.

Our test car was a well-equipped 2LT, the mid-level trim (of three) version with V6 engine in a striking dark blue color. The sticker shows a base price of just under 30 grand, only a few grand more than the comparable last-generation car. If we compare these two just on that basis this new one is a bargain. This new one is way better in nearly every way. We have about 5 grand worth of optional equipment so our sticker shows $35,770. Options include rear park assist, auto-dimming inside mirror, remote start, special 19-inch sport wheels, an 11-speaker Bose premium audio system, navigation package with Chevy’s ‘MyLink,’ push-button start, premium leather seating, forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning and blind spot alert.

If you compare both model content and option pricing with the cars listed in the lead paragraph, which we encourage everyone to do, you’ll find it is close to them all. You’ll also find the powertrain and performance details very close. So, there will be plenty of other criteria upon which to base your buying decision.

Speaking of powertrain, this Impala 2LT comes with a sophisticated 3.6-liter, direct injected V6 making 305 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of torque mated to a smooth six-speed automatic transmission. That’s good for 22 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway using regular fuel according to EPA testing. Our experience got us close to those numbers.

Exterior design of the new Impala impressed us initially because it is so much more modern and aesthetically interesting than its predecessor. As we see them more and more on the road, though, the design is less striking but still modern and pleasing. Swoopy character lines combine with squinty headlight assemblies and crisply shaped taillights give it an up-to-date look much like the new Avalon. The 19-inch wheels on our test car give it an added load of panache.

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Inside, though, is where the new Impala really shines. I was initially struck by the number of individual pieces of stitched leather, metal, plastic and wood making up the dash. There must be at least three dozen pieces in all. They all fit beautifully. (The dash on the old Impala was one big molded piece of plastic.) All those bits and pieces together combine for a good, high-quality look and feel. And, while perhaps a bit busy, the overall design is not too chaotic. Controls are good, mostly intuitive and easily managed. The seating is generous and comfortable front and rear. And the cabin is quiet as summer night.

Most surprisingly good about the new Impala, I thought, are the driving dynamics. Having spent a good deal of time on the road in a variety of driving environments I was mightily impressed with the steering, suspension and powertrain feel. Steering is tight and predictable with a good on-center feel. Suspension is compliant and comfortable no matter the road conditions or how hard we’re pushing it. And this V6 powertrain has all the power we need under any normal circumstances with a transmission willing to downshift whenever we ask. The dual exhaust makes a wonderfully throaty roar on full acceleration as well.

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The bench front seat that was available as an option in the previous generation Impala is gone so no more three abreast up there. Rear seat legroom is much enhanced so even big people will fit easily. An 18.8 cubic foot truck will swallow plenty of luggage or other cargo and a 60/40 fold-down rear seat back will add to the utility.

All Impalas are built in North America – Detroit and Ontario – with U.S./Canadian content at a class-leading 66%. If you’re one who wants to “buy American” the Impala is a good choice.

It’s also a good choice for all those other reasons detailed above.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights reserved