While Chevrolet’s full-size sedan has had a number of different names over the decades (Caprice, Lumina, Bel Air) Impala immediately sums up for many what the North American family car was and is.
GM has excelled in making brand names household words. When it comes to Chevrolet, say Impala or Stingray and people know immediately what you are talking about.
As this is being read, the 2014 Impala is rolling off the assembly lines in Oshawa and Detroit-Hamtramck in Michigan ready to go head-to-head with Ford Taurus and Dodge Charger in a competition triangle that has been going on for longer that many of us have been alive.
What consumers will notice is Impala’s chic new styling with a long hood and sculptured flanks that mask the long wheelbase of what is, when you get inside, a truly large car.
The Impala will come with three engines, all with direct injection and driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic. There is no plan for an all-wheel-drive version.
Available first is a 3.6-litre V6 with 303 hp and 264 lb/ft of torque. By summer there will also be a new, 2.5-litre four-cylinder with 195 hp and 187 lb/ft of torque. And by the end of the year, a 2.4-litre four-cylinder with battery eAssist will be available.
Fuel consumption rating for the V6 is 11.1/6.9/9.2L/100 km (25/41/31 mpg) city/highway/combined and 9.9/6.3/8.3L/100 km (29/45/34 mpg) for the 2.5-litre.
Chevrolet will offer the Impala in LS, LT and LTZ trim levels.
The 3.6-litre will hit showrooms first with a starting price of $32,945 for the LT and $39,645 for the LTZ. The 2.5-litre is priced at $28,445 for the LS, $31,445 for the LT and $36,445 for the LTZ. Pricing for the 2.4-litre engine with eAssist will be announced at a later date. Destination charge on all models is $1,550.
Chevrolet notes the starting price of the 2014 LS is only $145 more than the 2013 model.
Cargo volume is 532 litres (18.8 cu ft) which is actually larger than the topline Cadillac XTS, which rolls down the same assembly line in Oshawa.
Passenger volume is up over the outgoing model at 2,973 litres (105 cu ft).
To put that into perspective, the wheelbase on the 2014 Impala is 1.2 inches longer but that results in 3.5 inches more front legroom and 2.2 inches more rear legroom.
Towing is allowed but only when properly equipped at 454 kg or 1,000 lb.
The Impala now comes with standard 18-inch wheels but the big story is the brakes. They use new technology to extend rotor life, in this case to 120,000 km—double the life of rotors on the outgoing model. Larger 19- and 20-inch wheels are also available.
Starting with “Quiet Tuning” introduced on the Buick Verano, GM has upped its noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) game, resulting in some of the quietest cars on the road.
On the Impala you will find acoustic windshield and side glass, triple sealed doors with an acoustic perimeter rain deflector, acoustic baffled baffles between the inner and outer body panels, cavities filled with foam and sound deadener on the cargo floor.
Aiding all this is 12 per cent better aerodynamics through a number of things such as wind tunnel tuned side mirrors and wind blockers in front of the tires. The four-cylinder models also gets under body panels and a shuttered radiator grille.
Safety begins with 10 standard airbags plus optional rear cross traffic alert, front and back collision warning, adaptive cruise control, side blind sport warning, lane department alert, and OnStar which is still the best navigation/emergency/connectivity system on the market in my estimation. The reason is live people are there to assist you, it never goes out of date and the turn-by-turn route guidance has never, ever, been wrong when I have used it.
Which brings me to MyLink, the latest version of Chevrolet’s infotainment system.
Centred on an eight-inch screen with natural voice recognition (a first for Chevrolet), icons depict various functions such as phone, audio, weather, satellite radio, map (navigation), settings, OnStar and video. The latter allows movies to be playing on the screen when the Impala is not moving.
Basically you can control this by touch but the idea is to use voice commands wherever possible so both hands on are the wheel and your focus is straight ahead.
With my usual driving companion, we were let loose in the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario headed for the town of Haliburton.
I suggested going over to the village of Dwight where there is wonderful little pier with a gazebo epitomizing “cottage country”. I punched in “Dwight” without a street address or postal code and it took us right to the heart of the hamlet. But when we tried to talk to the system, it would shut down.
We learned later that day the Impala LTZ we drove had a glitch in the voice recognition. On the second day we had a LT and the system worked as advertised.
Call me a Luddite, but I still prefer turning knobs and pushing buttons.
Suspension is MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link independent system at the rear with the front strut tower reinforced for 2014 with rebound springs in the coils to make the ride feel more solid.
Throughout our drive over two days, we discussed just what could be said about the ride and handling to add some colour to the story.
We concluded that Chevrolet had accomplished what it set up to do and that is to offer a full-size sedan that meets the expectations of people in the market. That means being smooth and predictable on the road, spacious, well equipped, easy to operate and maintain, good on fuel and with a strong resale value at the end of the owner experience.
After all, that has been the cornerstone of the Chevrolet brand since GM acquired it in 1918 to compete against Ford’s Model T and those core values still hold true today.
Chevrolet Impala 2014
Body Style: Full-size five-passenger sedan
Drive Method: Front-wheel-drive
Engine: 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (303 hp, 264 lb/ft of torque); 2.5-litre four-cylinder (195 hp and 187 lb/ft); 2.4-litre four-cylinder with battery eAssist (NA).
Fuel Economy: (Regular) 3.6-litre, 11.1/6.9/9.2L/100 km (25/41/31 mpg) city/highway/combined; 2.5-litre, 9.9/6.3/8.3L/100 km (29/45/34 mpg).
Cargo: 532 litres (18.8 cu ft)
Tow Rating: 454 kg (1,000 lb)
Price: 3.6-litre LT $32,945, LTZ, $39,645 for the LTZ; 2.5-litre LS $28,445, LT $31,445, LTZ $36,445 for the LTZ; 2.4-litre NA, shipping fee, $1.550