Once among the best-selling cars in the country, the Chevrolet Impala has been reduced in recent years to a fleet car, bought mainly by rental companies and driven by vacationers and business travellers.
But Chevy is talking a big game when it comes to the latest incarnation of the flagship sedan. To see if the fully revamped 2014 Impala can compete with cars like the Ford Taurus and Toyota Avalon, I spent a weekend with the new ride.
I was very impressed. The front-wheel drive Impala is a nice-looking, if not dazzling car. It’s comfortable, has a ton of room, and is full of excellent details (like an actual 12 volt outlet!).
It’s not a car meant for people with young kids, or for those who want a sporty ride. But for those who just want to get around in comfort and relative style, it’s an excellent option.
The 2014 Impala starts for $35,770. Our well-equipped model cost $39,510.
Let's start with a quick look at the past glory of the Impala. Here's the 1958 Bel Air Sport Coupe version. It's gorgeous.
Cars like the 1964 convertible are the reason my grandmother was impressed when I told her I had an Impala for the weekend.
Buyers can choose between 18-, 19-, and 20-inch wheels. Impala Chief Engineer Todd Pawlik is right to say the car looks good with any of the three. These are the 19-inch tires, and there's no big gap between the rubber and the car's body.
From inside the car, they're great. The upper right corner is higher than usual, and makes visibility noticeably better.
Under the hood is a 3.6-liter V6 engine that provides 305 horsepower. That's enough to go from 0 to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. That's fine, since this is not a car for sporty driving.
This little screen that pops up when the sunroof is open is a necessary evil. It looks stupid, but limits annoying wind noise inside the car.
The interior of the 2014 model is actually more impressive than the outside. It's full of nice, curving lines.
I wasn't crazy about the light blue trim in the Impala I had for the weekend, though thankfully, that's the kind of detail a car buyer has control over.
It's a well designed car, full of nice little touches. For one thing, there's just the right number of buttons. Too many is confusing. Too few is annoying.
I suspect that most drivers whose cars have paddle shifters never use them. I was happy to see Chevy ditched them in the Impala, and used the valuable button real estate for radio controls.
The armrest is angled, which Pawlik says makes the buttons easier to see and use. I didn't notice the difference, but the look is different and interesting.
To the left of the steering wheel is this little compartment, a good spot to store a wallet or cell phone.
And in the back, a regular 12 volt outlet. Why isn't this in every car? It eliminates the need for chargers to connect to USB ports or the cigarette lighter.
Speaking of USB ports, there's one behind the centre screen. This is also another handy compartment for valuables.
The MyChevy infotainment system is above par, but not spectacular. It shares a lot of DNA with Cadillac's CUE system.
And satellite radio. MyChevy can play Pandora through a Bluetooth-connected phone. This is a great way to burn through your data plan.
Overall, Chevy has made a very nice car. It's nothing to go crazy about, but it's a huge step up from recent Impala models, and sure to be a pleasure for drivers who just want to get around in comfort.
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