In the years before trucks and sport-utility vehicles came to dominate the Chevrolet lineup, the Impala was regarded as Chevy’s flagship since the Corvette was in a class all by itself.
The big sedan has lost much of its luster over the years, General Motors’ largest brand shifting focus to those higher-profit trucks, SUVs and newer crossovers. But the surge in fuel prices over the last few years has many motorists shifting back to the passenger car side of the market and now Chevy is hoping to rebuild Impala’s reputation, which has been diminished by years of neglect.
The maker generated plenty of buzz with the unveiling of the all-new 2014 Chevrolet Impala, which adopts a sleek new, coupe-like shape and introduces a variety of new features long absent from Chevy’s full-size offering.
But the question is how it stacks up against some tough new competitors, notably including an equally all-new Avalon sedan from Toyota. For that, TheDetroitBureau.com headed to San Diego to take our first drive in the new Chevy flagship.
The 2014 Impala we found waiting for us was stylish both inside and out, well-equipped and designed to take on a full-size segment where cars such as the Nissan Maxima, Ford Taurus and Toyota Avalon have their own solid fan bases.
The exterior is one of the stronger designs GM has brought to market in recent years, a b it reminiscent of the updated version of the Camaro that has proven so popular. The new Impala has a low-profile, coupe-like roofline accentuated by horizontal lines that suggest strength.
The front fascia on the new Impala is also one of the very best iterations of Cheverolet’s new global face with the unmistakable bowtie logo anchoring the grille. The Impala’s face is further strengthened by the tailored use of low-profile projector-beam headlamps – or optional HID headlamps — and LED daytime running lights, which flow around the corners and frame the wide grille.
Besides adding to the car’s visual appeal, the new face also helps the new Impala stand out in traffic, while the range of 18-, 19- and 20-inch wheels and tires give the car a bold stance both on the road and when the Impala is parked curbside.
The themes from the front are carried over to the distinctive rear fascia, which clearly adds to the Impala’s character and overall visual appeal. The car’s long greenhouse and short decklid not only improve the look of the new model but have been shaped for aerodynamic efficiency.
GM has put a lot of effort into upgrading the interiors of it passenger car lines and the Impala clearly benefits from the effort. The driver’s space, with its wraparound instrument panel, is comfortable while the controls are easy to reach and the gauges are easy to read at a glance. Overall, the Impala also offers excellent visibility.
The Impala delivers the sort of spacious cabin that full-size buyers expect. Indeed any passengers riding in the rear seat might think the car is actually a limousine. That’s all the more surprising when you realize the 2014 Chevrolet Impala actually is shorter than the older version of the sedan, which GM intends to continue selling to rental fleets.
Another pleasant surprise is just how quiet the cabin can be, even while out on the highway. Give credit to the use of acoustic laminated glass and triple-sealed doors.
The 2014 Impala is equipped with the latest version of the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system, which includes Bluetooth connectivity, voice recognition, links to Pandora and storage space for up to 1,000 contacts as well as an easy-to-use interface. An eight-inch touch screen with concealed storage behind it is matched with MyLink on LT and LTZ models.
The safety equipment includes 10 air bags, four-wheel-disc brakes and electronic stability controls. Features such as a rear camera, rear park assist, forward collision alert and lane departure warning are all available on the Impala.
Comfort, space and features like MyLink are high priorities in the full-size segment. But while Impala drivers aren’t likely to challenge another Boomer in an Avalon when the light turns green performance still matters.
The good news is that the 2014 Chevrolet Impala comes with a peppy 3.6-liter V-6 turning out 305 horsepower and 264 pound-feet through a 6-speed automatic. Considering the 3,800-pound mass, that’s a lot to move but the new sedan did perform well out on the highway as got up to passing speed without much effort.
The Impala drives like a much smaller car than it is. The ride and handling proved quite pleasing, while the brakes delivered both excellent stopping distance and very good pedal feel.
The Impala I drove also benefited from the new electric power steering system found on the 2014 model and the enhanced suspension that held the vehicle flat through curves. The electric power steering system delivered just enough feedback to offer the driver a good sense of the road, which helped fortify the driver’s confidence in the car.
The 2014 Impala’s comfort and refinement are rooted in a stronger body structure. The stiffer architecture also enabled engineers to tune the ride and handling more precisely, for a greater feeling of control and comfort, according to GM’s engineers.
GM has decided the V-6 version of the Impala, which is price at an eye-popping $30,760, will reach showrooms first. But Chevrolet is also planning to add a 196-hp 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine, along with a 182-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with the mild hybrid eAssist system later in the model-year. Both should deliver significantly better mileage than the V-6’s 18 City/30 Highway rating. Prices for a 4-cylinder Impala will start at $27,535.
While Americans continue to downsize their choices as gas nudges up towards the $4-a-gallon mark, reports of the death of the full-size sedan have been greatly exaggerated. A little time in the 2014 Chevrolet Impala shows it has plenty of life left and enormous appeal.