Strengths and weaknesses:
- Ride & handling
- Build quality
- Quiet ride
- No AWD option
When the first Impalas arrived in 1958, as a trim line in the Bel Air series of full-size Chevrolets, the smallest engine on the Chevy roster was a 3.9L inline 6. People would have laughed if the Bowtie brand had said it was going to sell a full-size car powered by a 4-cylinder engine.
Indeed, Chevrolet had not had a 4-cylinder in its line-up since 1928 and wouldn’t have another until the base Chevy Nova in 1962.
The fact the new 2014 Impala can be ordered with a 4-cylinder engine shows how much our thinking has changed in 55 years. And the fact four cylinders are all you need - even in a car weighing 1,670 kg - tells you how far engine technology has come in that same time period.
In 1958 the Impala was offered with a choice of inline 6 or V8 engines producing from 136 to 250 hp.
Today’s 2.5L Ecotec 4 with direct injection makes 196 hp and is much more efficient in putting power to the pavement. Its acceleration would have been outstanding in 1958 - 0-100 km/h in less than 9.0 seconds - but is modest by today’s standards.
The 16-valve engine is mated to GM’s proven 6-speed automatic and fuel economy is aided by intake-valve lift control that can switch between two cam profiles, providing low lift for light driving and high lift at greater engine speeds and loads.
When the new 2014 Impala first went on sale earlier this year, the car was not available with the aluminum 2.5L engine. I kind of feel sorry for all those customers who rushed out and bought the 3.6L 6. They should have waited. The 4-cylinder, costs less, delivers better fuel economy and really is all the engine you need.
My First Drive of the new 3.6L Impala back in January showed just how far GM has come in making cars that handle, deliver good fuel economy and provide pleasant, spacious interiors.
GM says this is the quietest Chevrolet ever thanks to noise-reducing laminated glass in windshield and front side windows, triple-sealed doors, acoustic perimeter water deflectors, body cavities that are filled with foam baffles and sound deadener that’s applied to the floor pan and trunk. The 4-cylinder models may be the quietest of all because they get active noise cancellation as standard equipment. (Ceiling-mounted microphones detect engine noise frequencies, which are then processed by a computer that directs counteracting sound waves through the audio system’s speakers and subwoofer.)
With the original 1958 Impala getting full carpeting and an AM radio was a big deal, but the 2014 version comes standard with 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, automatic headlamps, heated power front seats, MyLink media connectivity, automatic dual zone climate control, OnStar with turn by turn navigation, etc.
This is the essence of a family car - a big back seat with lots of legroom and a monster 532L trunk. Unlike back in 1958, the 60/40 split rear seat folds forward for handling longer items.
Impala has attractive new exterior styling that’s light years ahead of the previous generation, which was a big lump with no personality. None. Not a scrap.
Impala also has an attractive interior, but I’m wondering about the soil resistance of the suede inserts in the leather seats and the cleaning problems that will be caused by the busy multi-layered dashboard with its mix of materials.
But those are minor worries.
The annual Car of the Year competition conducted by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada is almost upon us. I don’t need to drive any of the other eligible vehicles to predict that Impala will be a serious contender for 2014 Canadian Car of the Year.
The new Impalas are assembled by GM of Canada in Oshawa, Ont..
Year/make/model: 2014 Chevrolet Impala
Trim level: LT
As tested before taxes: $37,910
Freight & PDI: $1,550
Options on test car: Premium audio and sport wheels ($1,555); Navigation Package with MyLink, keyless access and push button starts ($1,310); Convenience Package ($1,305) includes rear park assist, rear camera, remote start, auto dimming rear-view mirror; Premium Seating Package ($945) includes heated front seats, 8-way power front passenger seat, cargo net; Advanced Safety Package ($935) includes forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, blind zone alert; Crystal Red tintcoat ($415)
Configuration: front engine/FWD
Engine: 2.5L I4
Transmission: 6-spd automatic
Power/torque: 196 hp/186 lb.-ft.
Fuel economy ratings: 9.9L/100 km city/6.3 highway
Observed fuel economy: 8.0L/100 km over 489 km
Warranties: 3 years/60,000 km comprehensive; 5 years/160,000 km powertrain
Competitors: Dodge Charger; Ford Taurus; Honda Accord; Hyundai Azera; Kia Cadenza; Nissan Maxima; Toyota Avalon