2014 Chevrolet Impala 2.5
Chevrolet hasn’t built an Impala to warm up to for 20 years, unless, of course, you were a fan of the bruising 1994–96 Impala SS or a cop who loved a roomy squad car. In this latest example of how bankruptcy can occasionally be a good thing, Chevy has delivered a much-improved Impala. Our test of the 3.6-liter V-6 version of Chevy’s full-size sedan proved the car to offer spacious accommodations, quiet composure, and solid handling, but will the good feelings carry over to the version with the base engine, the direct-injected, 2.5-liter Ecotec four?
It turns out that in the first quarter of this year some two-thirds of all Chevrolets sold had four-cylinder engines, and the 2.5 likely will be the meat-and-potatoes motor for the Impala. We’ve explained how quiet the 2014 Impala is inside, thanks to acoustical laminated glass, cavity baffles, and triple door seals, and the engine team worked hard to quiet the four. This meant employing vibration-quelling balance shafts in the oil pan, a composite intake manifold with a sound-absorbing middle layer, and a more-hushed inverted-tooth camshaft drive chain. Chevrolet claims the 2.5 enjoys a 40-percent cut in engine-noise intensity, courtesy of moving the radiated noise to a “more pleasing” higher frequency range above 2000 Hz. The fuel rail and injectors are rubber-isolated. Inside, the cabin offers active noise canceling, with a system that counteracts low-frequency rumble sounds through the audio speakers.
Also used in the Malibu and Cadillac ATS, the Impala’s aluminum 2.5-liter four pumps out 196 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 186 lb-ft of torque at 4400. We’re estimating 0 to 60 mph in eight seconds, but the important numbers for four-banger buyers are 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway through the only available transmission, a six-speed automatic. Fitted to the engine is what Chevrolet calls intake-valve lift control, with intake rocker arms that can switch between two cam profiles, providing low lift for light driving and high lift at greater engine speeds and loads.
Never Rushed, Always Composed
Although based on the Opel-designed Global Epsilon platform, the Impala is not tuned to be a sports sedan. It’s in a large-car segment populated with the likes of the Ford Taurus, Dodge Charger, Toyota Avalon, Kia Cadenza, and Hyundai Azera—one that often attracts buyers from a less-demanding crowd when it comes to steering precision, handling, and off-the-line power. And yet the German DNA of this platform reveals itself in a stiff structure that’s largely free of squeaks and rattles. The electric, variable-boost steering has appropriately light effort at parking-lot speeds and weights up nicely on the highway, but serious wheel-patch communication is not a strength. Body motions are appropriately damped, and impact harshness is well muted, despite the fuel-economy-optimized tires. The four-wheel discs do a yeoman job of hauling the nearly two-ton Chevy down from the speeds four-cylinder drivers will see, and they do so without any discernible fade or hot roughness. Of course, 196 horsepower can only do so much with a sedan the size of the Impala, so acceleration is modest. Around-town performance is quite adequate, but overtaking on two-lane roads and merging into fast-moving freeway traffic require planning.
Big, popularly priced sedans have been part of the American automotive landscape for a long time. The new-generation Impala delivers in a way that does justice to that legacy, albeit more slowly when it’s fitted with the four-cylinder. We can’t help noticing the quietness, the roomy interior, the well-laid-out instrument panel, and the comfortable seats in this nicely sculpted sedan. And we think buyers will, too. They just might want to see the U.S.A. in this Chevrolet. It’s been a long time since you could say that about an Impala.
VEHICLE TYPE: front engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
BASE PRICE: LS, $27,535; LT, $29,785; LTZ, $34,555
ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 150 cu in, 2457 cc
Power: 196 hp @ 6300 rpm
Torque: 186 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 111.7 in
Length: 201.3 in
Width: 73.0 in Height: 58.9 in
Curb weight (C/D est): 3650 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: : 8.0 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 16.3 sec
Top speed: 115 mph
EPA city/highway driving: 21/31 mpg
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By JOHN LAMM