What Is It?
The 2014 Impala is Chevy's all-new flagship sedan. It's nice looking, has a good ride and it's loaded with connectivity. Chevy's goal is to make you forget the bland fleet-sales plodder-of-a-car that this one replaces -- maybe even make the new Impala something you would want to buy. The old car was selling 70 percent to fleets, 30 percent to retail customers. Chevy hopes to flip those numbers around.
With more high-strength steel and extensive use of computer modeling, the body structure is stiffer which, along with internal rebound springs in front and a new four-link rear, increases ride and handling levels. With an all-new wind-sculpted exterior the Impala slips through the atmosphere with a less-than 0.30 co-efficient of drag, a 14 percent improvement over the old Impala. Even though the drivetrains are largely carryover, Chevy points out that peak power in the V6 leads the class (it considers the class to be the Ford Taurus, Hyundai Azera, Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima).
The first Impalas will launch in mid-April with the 305-hp, 264-lb-ft direct injection 3.6-liter V6 driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic. A few months after launch the 196-hp 2.5-liter four will enter showrooms, followed a few months after that by the 182-hp 2.4-liter four with eAssist at the end of the year.
By pushing the dashboard forward and lengthening the wheelbase, engineers were able to add legroom front and back and even increase trunk room by two-tenths of a cubic foot. Strategic application of sound baffles and sound deadening coating aim to make it quiet, while 10 standard airbags and a host of optional electronic monitors like lane departure warning and forward collision alert help make it safe.
What's It's Like To Drive?
Buyers in this class aren't looking for an M5 to lap the Nordschliefe. They want a large, quiet, comfortable sedan at a reasonable price. They get all that and a little more with the Impala. Front and back seats have plenty of room in all directions -- especially impressive was the rear-seat legroom. And quiet? At one point we thrilled the chief engineer by asking if the engine was on. He may still be smiling. The only noise we noticed was a little bit from the rear suspension when we were sitting in the back seat. Otherwise, this thing is as quiet as a well-insulated mouse.
Connectivity is increasingly important to car buyers in all segments. The Impala is the first car to get this new version of GM's MyLink, which now offers Pandora, satellite radio and Bluetooth connectivity for up to 10 devices. It also has natural voice recognition, 3D mapping and a valet mode so the kid parking your car doesn't have access to your contact list and home address. We tried out the voice recognition and found that it was more versatile than other systems. Tell it “Mott the Hoople” and it will search through your connected devices, your stash of favorites and the satellite radio to find a song by the greatest blues pop band ever. You can also communicate via steering wheel controls or by touching the screen. It is a more efficient and nonirritating infotainment system.
The actual driving part is more insular than involving which, again, is what people here want. The rebound springs do indeed set the car back down easier after medium- to large whoopdeedoos. We were restricted to semi-slow-speed hauls during our day behind the wheel and the car didn't seem to encourage hooniganism, as the kids are calling it nowadays, but we did ask the chief engineer, who was riding contentedly in the back seat, what happens to this car when flailed hard on a skid pad at Black Lake in Milford. Steady and progressive understeeer at the limit, he said, “To give our customers the safe, stable ride they deserve.” Or something like that. He had been thoroughly media trained.
Ultimately it is quiet, comfortable and commodious, an mid-level American Lexus of sorts.
Do I Want It?
After several hours' drive in an Impala LTZ it sure felt like there is more room and less wind- and road noise in the Impala than in competitors, while ride is nicely controlled and handling is demure and somewhat sedate. In many ways, including by the standards of the class and the demands of its buyers, this car has all the right stuff.
Pricing starts right now at $30,760 because the only engine at launch is the V6. In a few months when the 2.5-liter four comes out the base price for an Impala will drop to $27,535. Chevy says a fully loaded Impala will be about $41,000. That's right around the same as the competition, although you can juggle spec sheets around a lot and get different ideas of a bargain. The new Impala can match the competition quite well.
2014 Chevrolet Impala
Base Price: $30,760 (LT w/ 3.6 base vehicle at launch; LTZ as-tested $38,710; $27,535 LS w/ 2.5 due in a few months)
Drivetrain: 3.6-liter VVT DI V6; 305 hp at 6800 rpm, 264 lb-ft at 5300 rpm; fwd, six-speed automatic
Curb Weight: 3800 pounds (mfg est)
0-60: 6.8 seconds (mfg est)
Mileage: 19 city/29 hwy (mfg est)
Chevrolet says that four-cylinder engines power roughly 60 percent of its models sold here. With its 2014 redesign, the Impala joins the ranks of four-banger Chevys. The Impala’s 2.5-liter four, which is the car’s base engine, is related to the 2.5-liter four in the Malibu and the 2.0-liter turbo-four in the Cadillac ATS. It is rated at 196 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque, which is not a lot given the sedan’s estimated 3800-lb curb weight. And indeed, the engine often sounds strained and quite vocal despite the engineers’ attempts to quell NVH. In the quest to keep the racket to a minimum, Chevy has employed active noise cancelation, which nets the added bonus of a subwoofer for the stereo. The bow-tie brand has also taken a page from Buick and used copious amounts of liquid-applied sound deadener, sound-absorbing carpet, an isolated engine cradle, and an acoustically laminated windshield and front-door glass — all of which are a first for any Chevrolet sedan. The six-speed automatic is good at keeping the four-cylinder within its power band, but with peak horsepower at 6300 rpm and peak torque coming in at 4400 rpm, that means keeping the revs up. The six-speed often needs to shuffle gears to stay in the meat of the power curve, and its shifts are less than smooth.
Among the Impala’s competitors, only the Ford Taurus also offers a four-cylinder (turbo); the rest of the segment — made up of the Toyota Avalon, the Hyundai Azera, and the Kia Cadenza — offer V-6 engines only. While the turbo-four Taurus feels more balanced than its six-cylinder siblings, the Impala’s I-4 does nothing to aid the big Chevy’s handling. Granted, the Ford’s four-banger has a different mission than the Chevrolet’s. The Taurus’ 2.0-liter turbo-four is a standalone option offering higher fuel economy that also happens to drive better, while the Impala’s 2.5-liter I-4 is simply the entry-level engine. Buyers seeking the best fuel possible economy from an Impala will want the mild-hybrid eAssist model, which will be available later this year and is expected to achieve 25/35 mpg.
That leaves us wondering whether buyers save enough money at the pump and at the dealership to make up for the Impala 2.5’s 109-hp deficiency versus the optional 3.6-liter V-6. The larger engine is rated at 19/29 mpg, just two mpg fewer than the four-cylinder’s 21/31 mpg. On the Impala LT, the V-6 adds only $975 over the four-banger’s $29,785 price tag; the top-spec LTZ model sees the $34,555 base price swell by $2025 moving from the four to the V-6. Base Impala LS models, which start at $27,535, are four-cylinder only.
Chevrolet expects the majority of Impala buyers to opt for the V-6, namely the mid-level 2LT model. With most people going for the V-6, Chevy might be better off with just the six-cylinder and the eAssist, similar to what Toyota offers with the Avalon and Avalon Hybrid, and losing the 2.5-liter altogether.
2014 Chevrolet Impala 2.5 1LT
- Base Price (with destination): $29,785
- Price as tested: $32,560
- On Sale: Now
- Engine: 2.5-liter I-4
- Power: 196 hp @ 6300 rpm
- Torque: 186 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Drive: Front-wheel
- Wheels and tires: 18-inch aluminum wheels and P235/50R18 all-season tires
- Fuel Economy: 21/31 mpg city/highway
- Curb Weight: 3800 lbs (est.)
- Doors/Passengers: 4/5
- Cargo: 18.8 cu ft
- Legroom (front/rear): 45.8/39.8 in
- Headroom(front/rear): 39.9/37.4 in
- Towing: N/A