Chevrolet: An Impala You’d Be Proud To Own
Back in 2008 I had an Impala as a rental for three weeks. The mouse fur fabric of the seats combined with the awful instrument panel and wheezing powertrain left a lasting impression with me. In 2008, it was clear that the Impala was developed during a dark time at GM where profits came before product. Can GM shake off that awful stigma Impala has had for years?
For 2014, the Impala has shed every ounce of that rental car stigma and can easily hang with the kings of the front-wheel drive flagships, such as the Avalon. The exterior is edgy but unoffensive. The interior looks well-thought out and has a premium feel. Could this really be an Impala?
For 2014, Chevy started with a clean sheet of paper for the Impala. With a direction of moving the Impala back to a flagship car instead of the fleet queen of Thrifty, Hertz, and Enterprise. The Impala shares some underpinnings with the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XTS but manages to not look or feel like either of them. People stopped me on the street and neighbors came to ask what it was. No, this was not some exotic German sports car. This is a product that has done a complete 180 degree turn from where it was, and people are noticing.
The exterior starts with a powerful hood, some LED daytime running lights, and a generous helping of bright chrome bits. Not too much chrome, though. The 19-inch wheels on the LTZ trim even look down right sporty. There is a pretty big booty in the back but the Impala designers did well with shaping it to be easy on the eyes.
The interior is well trimmed in nicely grained plastics with a generous amount of stitching throughout the cabin. The centerstack and cluster show off GM’s latest infotainment system and it is a lot smoother than Cadillac’s CUE. There is pleasant LED lighting throughout the cabin at night, which was a welcome surprise. The steering wheel looks like it was borrowed from Mercedes-Benz and shows some of the lengths GM is going to differentiate their cars from one another.
In the past, GM would have used the same steering wheel with the same switches but change the color of the lighting, based on the brand. GMC is red, Cadillac is white, etc. The Impala does not share a wheel with the XTS or the LaCrosse. It even has unique steering wheel switches. I happen to be a fan of them, too. There are some switches located on the rear of the wheel, just as Chrysler has done for years, except Chevy perfected it. The switches feel high quality, just like the steering wheel itself. Well done, GM, well done.
The interior is quiet, like library quiet. Double-paned front glass adds to a well-executed interior that keeps wind noise out. Even the 19-inch tires didn’t emit much of a peep on Michigan’s rough roads. Looking for a car to take on a road trip? This is it. The trunk is absolutely massive, too.
Living not too far from Toyota’s tech center in Michigan, it is fairly common to see Toyota employees driving the newest vehicles. Right now, the Avalon is the popular employee vehicle. Every Toyota employee seemed to rubberneck when the Impala passed them on the road. Yeah, this Impala should have Toyota looking over their shoulder now.
My tester was equipped with GM’s 3.6L V6. With the V6, the Impala feels quick, especially for such a large sedan. Torque steer is well-managed and not at all intrusive. The transmission felt a bit lost at times, especially when driving in traffic.
I’d easily recommend the Impala over a Taurus any day of the week. The Impala has far better rear visibility, a roomier rear seat, and an infotainment system that, well, just works. The Impala might be my favorite vehicle in all of GM’s current current lineup. It certainly was the biggest surprise. If this is a sign of what GM is capable of, it might be time to buy some GM stock.