Impala is an impressive new flagship for Chevrolet

  • Article by: LARRY PRINTZ , The Virginian-Pilot
  • Updated: April 6, 2013 - 5:06 PM

A redesign has given the former rental-fleet stalwart a premium feel.

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The 2014 Chevrolet Impala has a new design, although it rides atop General Motors' Epsilon platform, which is used for the midsize Buick Regal, Opel Insignia and Chevrolet Malibu, as well as the full-size Cadillac XTS and Buick LaCrosse. These cars share the same width, varying only in the length of their wheelbase.

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– My brother called me a few years ago from a rental car counter. He, along with four co-workers, was trying to figure out which car would hold them all, along with their luggage. Among the candidates offered, only one was a full-size car: a Chevrolet Impala.

I told him to go for it.

They were amazed that this unassuming, drab gray sedan swallowed them and their luggage so easily. What it lacked in glamour, it made up for in utility. But it never garnered their respect.

This might explain why 70 percent of all 2012 Chevrolet Impalas were sold to fleets, not consumers. If you don’t find an Impala waiting at the rental car counter, most likely you’ll see one with a business logo on its door.

But when the 2014 Chevrolet Impala goes on sale this month, Chevrolet is hoping to change that.

The tenth-generation Impala has a new design, although it rides atop GM’s Epsilon platform, which is used for the midsize Buick Regal, Opel Insignia and Chevrolet Malibu, as well as the full-size Cadillac XTS and Buick LaCrosse. These cars share the same width, varying only in the length of their wheelbase.

With the Impala, engineers worked to ensure that it was worthy of being Chevrolet’s flagship sedan.

First, company planners decided that unlike some other Epsilon models, which come with optional all-wheel drive, the Impala would be offered only with front-wheel drive. This saved weight, which was used in other parts of the vehicle to enhance performance.

Next, designers and engineers went to work on the sort of details you may never notice. The doors use laminated side glass and triple door seals to reduce noise. The rear-mounted brake light is integrated into the ceiling, not mounted on the rear parcel shelf where it would hinder rear visibility.

Finally, the company attacked the details you would notice, such as rear seat headrests that fold down when not in use to keep sight lines clear, or the navigation system with 3-D modeling of major cities rendered to scale.

Such minutiae are easily spotted once you open the door and sit inside the car.

For 2014, there’s a greater attention to detail, such as the stitching that accents the seats or the optional ambient lighting. Interior ambience does vary somewhat depending on model. Base LS Impalas get cloth seats and mid-level LT models receive cloth seats trimmed in vinyl, while the LTZ has perforated leather seats. It also has a stunning two-tone color scheme that lends a premium feel that’s lacking in the monochromatic cabin of lesser models.

The front seats are wide and flat, but prove comfortably supportive, even on long hauls. As you might expect, seats on lower-level models aren’t quite as comfortable as those on the LTZ, which can be heated and cooled — unusual for a Chevrolet.

The sizeable cabin is much more spacious than last year’s; so too is the enormous trunk, which has been enlarged.

While most of the Impala’s instrument panel is recessed to enhance cabin space, the center stack thrusts rearward toward the driver, making it easier to reach. It’s anchored by a standard 4.5-inch screen for audio functions. Many buyers, however, are expected to choose the optional Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system, which controls navigation and Bluetooth audio streaming, among other features. It comes with an 8-inch touch screen. Thankfully, MyLink is intuitive to use and features a valet mode that locks out strangers from accessing any information stored in the car’s systems. It also locks the storage bin hidden behind the screen. Thoughtfully, the bin is large enough to hold a smartphone and has a USB port.

While the new Impala’s details are impressive, especially when compared to the car it’s replacing, its driving feel is just as notable.

Initially, all Impalas will come with a 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 and a six-speed automatic transmission. It will be joined later in the year by a 196-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a mild hybrid with a 182-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and highway fuel economy of 35 mpg. That last model, dubbed eAssist by GM, uses a small electric motor to enhance performance without affecting fuel economy. But unlike a full hybrid, eAssist never runs solely on electric power.

  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala

    Engine: 3.6-liter DOHC V6 

    Wheelbase: 111.7 inches

    Length: 201.3 inches

    Weight: 3,800 pounds (estimated)

    Cargo space: 18.8 cubic feet

    Fuel type: Regular

    Base price, excluding destination charge: $26,725

    As tested: Not available

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