After spending a week in an Impala, I have to admit it softened my cynicism to the point of almost buying the hype…
The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is the best domestic sedan ever, really?
That was the question front of mind when I heard such a boast from a General Motors executive recently. Well, he’s paid to say that I thought, but then he backed up the assertion with something that surprised me more.
The hypercritical Consumer Reports organization had just given the full-size sedan a 95-point score: No other domestic car had ever topped the sedans ratings in 20 years of rating cars by segment and style. And, just to offer a bit more perspective to this remarkable score: the four-door was just behind the expensive Tesla Model S ultra-luxury hatchback with 99 points and the BMW 1 Series coupe at 97.
After spending a week in an Impala, I have to admit it softened my cynicism to the point of almost buying the hype. Explanation of my continued reservations to follow.
It wouldn’t take much imagination for designers to turn out a more handsome Impala than its predecessor. But this long-looking car manages to look sharp and streamlined but not so overly aggressive in stance, which is more often the contemporary style favoured by many competitors. Its lines actually lean closer towards classy rather than sporty.
Let’s open the driver’s door. As its outward appearance suggests, it is roomy inside with Business Class legroom in the rear! And the business class theme continues with the use of quality materials throughout.
Controls are logically placed and easy to operate with one exception. The standard infotainment system, which features an eight-inch touch screen, is not nearly as intuitive as I would like. I would need to spend an hour with the manual to get it to perform for me. The reason I don’t do that ahead of time is because I want to test these systems against my iPad/iPod. Apple is the benchmark. Get over it, guys, mimic Apple rather than try to reinvent the wheel and come up with a pale imitation. There’s a nifty security feature offered though that I must praise. The screen emerges from the dash revealing a small storage bin that can be secured with a four-digit code!
Let’s roll. The tester was equipped with a 3.6-litre V6 DI with FlexFuel capability, including variable valve timing, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The two base engines available are a solid 2.4-litre four-cylinder and a 2.5 version, both of which are likely adequate for commuter use.
I headed straight for Highway One and it positively purred along the long, clear stretches open to the daytime driver. Great acceleration in take-off and passing with limited lean and sway when cornering at speed.
Back in urban madness, it offered a good view of fast encroaching vehicles from side streets and the rear. I mention this because I expected the sleek window profiles might hinder views, especially to the rear. Hence, it was also not as much of a beast to park at the supermarket as I had feared. Light steering also assisted in that manouevre.
On the urban performance front, the transmission took the annoyance out of stop-go traffic. Have to think it was gulping gas though in smoothing out the urban trek.
The Impala with the V6 starts at $32,945 (around $3,000 more than the 4-cylinder-equipped versions) but the test car options, which included rear park assist, rear vision camera, collision and lane departure alerts, premium audio, sunroof, added another $7,000. It will compete with the Dodge Charger and Ford Taurus domestically and a host of imports.
Now to my reservations: the fuel economy for the V6 is 11.1/6.9L 100km (city/highway) and while that is not bad for a large car, it’s not the best in its segment. The four-cylinder eco version is impressive at 8.7/5.8L 100km (city/highway).
That said, I don’t think fuel economy will be a deal breaker for most people.
My continued reservations really boil down to reliability. It’s a brand new car and we should wait a couple or three years before anointing this car as the best domestic sedan ever.
That caution should not stop you from taking one for a spin.