2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ: Quick drive

After being stuck on hold while other products have received competitive upgrades, the Chevy Impala finally jumps out of the last decade to take on the new world order of full-size sedans.

The Chevy Impala finally jumps out of the last decade to take on the new world order of full-size sedans.

The previous edition was based on the “W” body (which predated the Dubya administration) while the new Impala is based on the Epsilon platform, the salt water taffy of the GM lineup which gets stretched and pulled to fit under a myriad of products for every outlet except GMC. Entering the market with GM’s ubiquitous 3.6L DOHC V-6 as the only available choice (2.4L e-Assisted and 2.5L I-4’s will make the scene shortly) means that the small motors weren’t in the sample fleet of various Impalas to drive. In the transition to Impala from LaCrosse and XTS, the engineers looked to remove some weight from the foundation. They succeeded to the tune of a couple hundred pounds by thinning structures that needn’t be so robust for the Impala’s FWD only layout. That means a new Impala weighs in at barely over a hundred pounds more than the previous version with the same V-6 driveline, all while raising the bar on equipment, materials and refinement.

2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ

Gone are the crinkle finish dash and door panel surfaces, pseudo-retro inspired interior design and wide flat seats.

The view, inside and out, has been improved, too. Gone are the crinkle finish dash and door panel surfaces, pseudo-retro inspired interior design and wide flat seats. All have been replaced with soft touch materials where appropriate, a modern design that flows from doors to dash and into the new MyLink screen, and well bolstered and better detailed seats. One unique element is the blue ambient lighting that shines through the chrome trim strip that accents the interior as opposed to indirectly lighting the interior from behind various trim panels. It looks like an electric pinstripe. Gone, also, are the upper and lower grilles and flat hood and body sides. Outside, the update includes a Camaro inspired grille and lighting, stylish new sheet metal with depth and shape and a bit more brightwork. The hood has two coves stamped into it that look suspiciously like classic rally stripes that adorned the hoods of muscle car era Camaros and Chevelles, and the added sculpturing also reduces flexing in the hood and trunk lid. The metal trim surrounding the side glass thickens as it sweeps down and around the Impala’s signature window shape in front of a redesigned emblem.

As an owner of a 2006 Impala SS, I can tell you that these improvements are as dramatic now as the improvements over the early century Impala was then. If you’re trading up to a new Impala, you’ll be pleased with the changes.

If you’re trading up to a new Impala, you’ll be pleased with the changes.

2014 Chevrolet Impala

Braking was uneventful and hardly memorable, which in this case should be considered high praise.

You’ll also be pleased with the changes under the skin. On the drive north from Manhattan, most was on two-lane highways with some interstate blasts. On the somewhat uneven Henry Hudson Parkway the Impala swallowed up all but the worst road imperfections comfortably and quietly. The EPAS system was tuned for comfort in the Impala with minimal feedback and an over assisted feel but turn in was good and the ratio seemed well matched for around town driving when I took a short stint off the interstate. Braking was uneventful and hardly memorable, which in this case should be considered high praise.

One complaint about my current Impala is an excessive amount of wind noise around the A-pillar and mirror. That has been eliminated in the redesign. Whether it’s because of better insulation, glass thickness or wind tunnel testing, I don’t know, but the silence from outside noise at speed is impressive. There’s still some tire noise, especially on rougher surfaces, but it isn’t intrusive. I was able to speak at normal volume levels with my drive partners at all speeds and conditions. Suspension noises are minimized also, including rear suspension noises that tend to be amplified by the cavernous trunk space. In fact, it seemed quieter than the XTS I drove this past winter.

2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ

There are some good noises allowed into the cabin of the Impala from the V-6 engine. Under full throttle, the growl of the intake tract and some exhaust burble is clearly perceptible from the drivers seat as is the slight amount of wheelspin you can generate from a standing start. The two person weight advantage the FWD Impala has on the AWD Cadillac is evident in the seat of the pants feel. I would still like to see more torque feel from the HF V-6, though. It generates 264 lb.-ft. at a sky high 5300 rpm on the way to 305 hp @ 6800 which seem like good numbers but don’t result in a powerful sensation. With a 2.77 final drive, it’s clearly tuned for long legged highway driving where the powerband is well matched, with passing maneuvers that are effortless thanks to a six-speed slushbox that is quick to drop a few gears to put the engine at that rpm level when you want it.

In the few hours I spent with the Impala, it proved to be more than competent in every aspect of the driving experience. This new Impala has emphatically reclaimed its position as Chevrolet’s luxury flagship and deserves well more than a cursory consideration if you’re in the market for a family sized sedan.

This new Impala has emphatically reclaimed its position as Chevrolet’s luxury flagship.

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