2014 Chevrolet Impala 2LZ
Unlike its namesake, the all-new 2014 Chevy Impala isn’t a svelte, agile creature able to dart and leap from point A to B. Rather, the full-size sedan from Oshawa, Ontario, Canada is more of a North American bruiser — substantial, solid, well-built, and more deliberate in its movements. By deliberate, I don’t mean slow or clumsy — the Impala is neither, thanks in part to an available 305-horsepower V-6 and 20-inch wheels wearing 40-series tires. But it is big (more than 201 inches in length), and, in the case of our 3855-pound 2LZ tester, a bit heavy. If the swirly antelope badge were a hulking elk with a 6×6 rack, it wouldn’t look out of place.
As mentioned, the Impala can be had with a robust V-6 (the base engines are a 196-hp 2.5-liter I-4 and a 182-hp 2.4 I-4 with eAssist), just as our 2LZ was equipped. Displacing 3.6 liters, the direct-injected 24-valve engine puts out 305 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of torque, giving it more grunt than the Taurus’ 3.5-liter and 300S’ 3.6. Mated to a six-speed automatic, the General’s 3.6 scoots the Impala from 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds and through the quarter mile in 14.8 seconds at 96.2 mph. For context, our long-term 300S needed 6.4 and 14.9 at 97.1, and the last Avalon we ran required 6.3 and 14.7 at 97.4. So, the Impala is quick and can hang with the competition — but what about when the road gets twisty?
Our 2LZ tester, fitted with front struts and a rear multilink suspension, wore 19-inch alloys shod with 245/45 Goodyear Eagle rubber. Around our figure-eight handling test, this setup was good for a time of 27.1 seconds at 0.68 g, with maximum lateral acceleration coming in at 0.83 g. Compared to the stats of the 300S (26.7 at 0.66, 0.85) and Avalon (27.2 at 0.66, 0.81), the Impala resides right in the middle. Suspension firmness falls on the softer side, but the Impala still manages to maintain its composure when pushed hard.
Away from the test track, in real-world settings — i.e., a twisty mountain road — the Impala feels able, what with 305 high-revving horses, but not especially willing. Drive the big Chevy aggressively and it responds with moderate understeer (to be expected and totally fine) and — here’s the frustrating part — a finicky automatic. First, the six-speed incessantly hunts for gears when the going gets brisk. The Impala is rated at 29 mpg highway, and achieves that by shifting into top gear ASAP. On curvy asphalt, though, that credo to upshift is unwelcome. (Under normal driving conditions, the search for sixth isn’t too bothersome.) Ah, but what about a manual mode, you ask? The Impala’s got one, but unlike the automatics in the 300S and Avalon, the Chevy’s isn’t operated via convenient steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, but rather a toggle on the center console-placed shifter. So to manually shift the Impala, you have to remove your right hand from the wheel, and there’s just something less satisfying about thumbing a numb toggle than clicking off tactilely pleasing paddle pulls with your fingertips. At least the electric power steering, while light in feel, relays satisfying sensations, and the brakes are reassuring, delivering a 60-0 stopping distance of 115 feet.
The upsides to the supple suspension and cruise-happy transmission are an especially cushy ride and quiet cabin. Even the harshest bumps are neutralized, and with an acoustically laminated windshield and front-door glass, the cabin is downright hushed and Cadillac-esque. Rear-seat passengers, who get treated to nearly 40 inches of legroom, will feel like they’re being chauffeured in giant Bose headphones. Too bad, then, that the seat cushions and backrests are flat and hard, a la a park bench.
Like the highly stylized exterior (I’m fond of the aggressive Camaro-like front end, but less enthused about the humpy rear profile, which accentuates the big overhang), the Impala’s cabin received the full design overhaul. In addition to contrast stitching, a two-tone color treatment, and soft-touch plastics, the upscale interior in our $39,505 tester boasted the full suite of modern conveniences — Chevrolet MyLink infotainment, navigation with 3-D imaging, Bluetooth phone and audio, heated/cooled front seats, passive entry and keyless start, power-adjustable heated steering wheel, and 11-speaker surround-sound audio — not to mention such nifty niceties and safety features as a passcode-protected dash cubby (it hides valuables behind the 8-inch infotainment screen and prevents valets from accessing personal nav settings), remote engine start, forward collision alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring.
While the previous-gen Impala proved a lackluster offering – fans can still experience the mediocrity via rental-car lots in the inaptly named “Impala Limited” — the all-new iteration brings some grandeur back to a once-glorious nameplate. The 2014 Impala is quick, powerful, eye-catching, and impressively appointed. Americans can once again be proud to say, “I bought an Impala.”
|2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$39,505|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||3.6L/305-hp/264-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3855 lb (59/41%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||201.3 x 73.0 x 58.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.8 sec @ 96.2 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||115 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.83 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.1 sec @ 0.68 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||19/29 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||177/116 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.86 lb/mile|
By Ron Kiino