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July 16, 2013 > Auto Review: Chevrolet Impala

Auto Review: Chevrolet Impala

Once Again, a True Flagship

By Steve Schaefer

The Chevrolet Impala debuted in 1958 as the top model of the full-size Bel Air, in coupe or convertible form. Flash forward to 1965. The Impala, likely the most beautiful version ever, sold more than a million units. It still stands as a record for a single model.

In the 1990s the Impala became less important as midsize sedans, such as the Oldsmobile Cutlass, took over as mainstream favorites. After a brief hiatus, Impala reappeared in a 2000 model, but as an anonymous midsize, front-wheel-drive sedan.

With GM's post-bankruptcy rebirth, the corporation has finally delivered the first Impala, in a long time, worthy of the name. It shares its platform with the full-size Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XTS. The sensuous body wears many evocative lines and forms. An intelligent face peers intently forward with slightly angled eyes and a bold chrome mouth. Sides feature strong shoulders, the waist tucks in, and the rear fenders carry a curve that goes back to the gorgeous '65 - and even to the original '58. Surprisingly, the tail lamps are not the traditional three circles but form a single, segmented chunk that looks more like something off a Toyota.

The 1958 Impala was eight inches longer than the 2014, on a nearly nine-inch-longer wheelbase, and was nearly five inches wider. The huge 1976 Impala was more than a foot longer than the '58 - and almost two inches wider! The new Impala is today's full size, generously proportioned throughout, and the rear seating is just like a limo.

Inside, the styling is just as exuberant as outside. The theme is a take on the twin cowl dashboard from the original 1950's Corvette. It flows aggressively off the doors and forward, around a sharply delineated and graphically stylish instrument pod, pulling back to provide a well-equipped and lavishly decorated center stack, then looping back in front of the passenger. Materials are attractive and with one tiny exception in my car, met in perfect joins.

Firm and adjustable leather seats feature heating and cooling. In my tester they wore sporty contrasting piping. There was stitching on the dash and doors, but I discovered that it was cosmetic! One surprising detail - the display screen on the center dash rises up to provide a secret hiding place to plug in your iPod.

The engine - a 3.6-liter direct-injection V6 with 305-horsepower and 264 lb.-ft. of torque uses as its sole transmission, a six-speed automatic with manual selection through a button on top of the shift knob. In manual, it automatically downshifts as you slow down, and of course, in the name of fuel efficiency, up-shifts at the first opportunity. Fourth gear is good in town, but when I tried shifting into fifth while going about 30 miles per hour, a "Shift Denied" message appeared on the information screen in the instrument panel.

Impala is rated at 18 City and 28 Highway by the EPA. I averaged just 19 miles per gallon. Maybe I was getting too lead-footed because it was so fun to do it. Green numbers are a 6 for Greenhouse Gas. A Smog score is not available.

I took the car on some of my favorite back roads and it stuck well in the corners and delivered a very satisfying performance. Getting up to speed was no problem since the Impala can do zero to 60 in just 6.8 seconds.

High tech abounds. All the usual stuff is standard, of course, including things like satellite radio, OnStar, and blind spot warning. But this car also featured Collision Alert. If you approach another car quickly and haven't touched the brake pedal, it flashes a red light in your face. It can be deactivated.

Every time I parked the car, it would pull the seat forward and upward when I restarted it. How annoying! Then, I discovered that there is a separate "Set Exit Position" setting, and I turned that feature off.

I received periodic alerts from the car, including "Weather Watch - Fire Danger," and "Caution, I880 Accident." Then, sure enough, a half mile ahead was two stopped cars and a pile of broken glass.

Not much to pick on. The fuel economy could be better, the sun blinded me when it reflected off the chrome Chevy logo on the steering wheel, the door handle pinched my finger once and the rear view through the high backlight showed only the windshield of the car behind me.

Prices start at $27,535 for the LS model. There is a midlevel LT, and the LTZ, like my Silver Ice Metallic tester at the top. Mine came to $36,580.

The Impala is another reason to celebrate the rebirth of GM, and to feel good about buying American.

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