Cars

Redesigned Impala conquers full-size market

 SEDAN HO! It’s been eight years since the last redesign of the Impala and it’s been worth the wait. This new full-size sedan is attractive, efficient, and ahead of the pack.
SEDAN HO! It’s been eight years since the last redesign of the Impala and it’s been worth the wait. This new full-size sedan is attractive, efficient, and ahead of the pack. GEORGE KENNEDY

Seldom in the automotive world does a redesign so effectively improve a model like the 2014 Chevrolet Impala. The tenth-generation 2014 Impala sprints to the head of the full-size family sedan pack with the latest infotainment technology and a ride-quality that is otherwise hard to find in this segment.

The previous Impala had gotten quite long in the tooth, spanning eight years. You can blame that on the fact that these beamy, full-size, four-doors are sometimes the last vehicles to be overhauled in a brand’s redesign campaign. The mid-size family sedans need to be reworked first, followed by compact cars, crossovers, trucks, and so on. The big sedan set moves a lot of vehicles, but it is nowhere near as large as the family sedan and crossover market.

Large, floaty sedans were once the go-to cars for the older set, but these vehicles are now purchased by a younger buyer. The bold, angular exterior appearance of the 2014 Chevrolet Impala sets itself apart from more staid competitors like the Hyundai Azera and Toyota Avalon. Though this market was created by the Americans, the imports seemed to have been the only brands to truly carry the torch, and Chevrolet seeks to put an end to that with the 2014 Impala.

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Though the front end is rather sharp, one must take a step back to see how much the Impala, and every other large sedan in this segment, are designed like amorphous blobs. It is the only way you can get the most out of all the space, but without clever design tricks, these cars would look like a Russian Akula-Class submarine.

Its long, low profile allows the Impala to achieve 18.8 cubic feet of trunk space and 39.8 inches of rear leg room, besting the cargo and leg room of the Avalon and Azera. That impressive space is only rivaled by the interior styling, which is eons beyond the model it replaces. The dash features an elegant, flowing design and is rife with technology and safety features.

Base MSRP for the Impala is $26,860. Trims for the Impala are LS, 1LT, 2LT, 1LTZ, and 2LTZ. We drove a fully loaded 2LTZ model, starting at $35,770. Options include adaptive cruise control, which matches the speed of the car in front of it, the comfort package, navigation package, and Bose premium stereo. With all these packages selected, the price tops out at $41,800 and represents nearly the top of the line for the Impala.

Chevrolet’s MyLink system is among the best on the market when it comes to pairing a smartphone and accessing its phone book and music. The phone’s music and calls can be operated by a digital display in the instrument panel, which also features an advanced trip computer. This display is controlled by a directional pad on the steering wheel, which we should also point out is heated when selecting the LTZ Comfort and Convenience package, a $1,035 option.

With the available navigation system, the Impala can understand complex voice commands, allowing you to press the voice control button and say an entire address, rather than plod through several menu prompts just to get the right town in the Nav. It is an exemplary navigation system, and important directional information also appears in that instrument panel digital display.

The base engine is a 195-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline-4. The LS ECO trim features an anemic, 2.4-liter inline-4, making a scant 182 horsepower. Our 2LTZ test model features the 3.6-liter V6, the same one found in the Chevrolet Camaro. Though not tuned to be as potent as the version in the Camaro, it makes an impressive 305 horsepower, more potent than the 303-horsepower V8 offered in the previous generation. Power with all models is sent to the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission.

The ECO trim returns the best fuel economy, at 25 mpg city, 35 highway, but the engine is not enough to move the 3,800 pound Impala anywhere fast. Our V6 test model put up EPA numbers of 18 city, 28 highway, though our time with the car yielded a combined mileage of 21.3 mpg. Most will opt for the 2.5-liter, which returns 21 city, 31 highway.

Where the Impala truly stands out from the competition is the ride quality. The standard in this market segment has always been a floaty ride that requires a ship’s tiller more than a steering wheel. The Impala changes all that, with a ride quality that errs on the sporty side. Steering is linear and responsive. In turns the car remains level, which is quite a feat for this market.

The Impala excels not just on the styling, or the ride quality, or the straight-line performance. It is the combination of these elements that yields a vehicle that is far more compelling than its competition. The Impala actually has more character than its rivals and shows that General Motors finally understands that a large family sedan can deliver both quality and quantity.

2014 Chevrolet Impala 2LTZ

THE BASICS

Price: $26,860. As tested: $41,800. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 18/28. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 21.3 mpg. Drivetrain: 3.6L V6, 6AT, front-wheel drive. Body: Full-size, four-door sedan.

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 306. Overall length: 201.3 in. Wheelbase: 111.7 in. Height: 58.9 in. Width: 62 in. Curb weight: 3,800 lbs.

THE GOOD

Sharp looks, sharp handling, plenty of space.

THE BAD

Anonymous appearance from behind.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The car to own in the full-size sedan market.

ALSO CONSIDER

Toyota Avalon, Hyundai Azera, Kia Cadenza.

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