A Picture Paints a Thousand Words. Sometimes less.
In hindsight, my expectations where unrealistic but not without good reason. I knew the new for 2014 Chevrolet Impala was based on the Opel designed, "Epsilon" platform that underpins the Buick LaCrosse. Having spent considerable time with the LaCrosse, I knew that the new Impala would at least be big, bold, stylish and very solid. Sneak peaks of it by GM on Facebook left me with high hopes as I signed up for the online debut of the next, great Chevrolet. The buffering seemed endless as the press conference struggled to load. C'mon, already!
A picture says a thousand words. Sometimes, as is the case of the new Impala, they say less. A lot less. And that's a good thing because the new Impala looks much better "in person" than in pictures or on line. In pictures, the new Impala looks lumpy, frumpy, dense (not that it's not even in person) and heavy in a way that's hardly flattering. Does this trunk lid make my rear end look gigantic? The rear detailing is derivative, retro. Dare I say, passe. C'mon, guys. Retro is so...2000. The front end is chunky, heavy. The sides are tall; this car looks like a rolling bathtub. Then again, so does the LaCrosse. The Impala, again, in pictures, looks like several designs cobbled together in an attempt to make one. Once more, a GM car designed by committee.
However, in the flesh, or sheet metal, the design has more cohesion than it appears to have in pictures. This is a pretty good looking car with, yeah, some retro design cues. The "shoulders" at the top of the rear quarter panels are Impala/Caprice circa 1967. Handsome as they are, they flow awkardly into the rear doors. I'd just as soon they not have put those bulges up there but then perhaps the car would look like nothing more than a big Malibu. The dog legged "C" pillar, something GM dropped a peak a boo photo of on Facebook in the days leading up to the press release, while handsome as well, appears as though it came from another car. Yet somehow, taken as a sum of its various design elements, at the end of the assembly line day, this new Impala is a better looking and driving car (based on its Epsilon genes) than the generic rental lot blob it replaces.
I found this loaded, LTZ model in the parking lot of the Harry Buffalo in Parma Heights last Friday Night. Being an LTZ, it's powered by GM's magnificent, 3.6 liter, direct injection, three hundred and five horsepower, DOHC V-6. Car and Driver tested this model and found while it provides brisk acceleration (0-60 mph in 6.0 seconds is plenty fast for a family sedan), it returned a middling 19.4 miles per gallon. Most buyers of this car, I have to assume, will opt for the base engine, the 2.5 liter, direct injection, in-line 4. The 2.5 makes an impressive 196 horsepower however, just 186 foot pounds of torque at a lofty 4400 rpm. "Pickup", while adequate, will be far from sporty. This bathtub car weighs 3650 pounds; 186 foot pounds of torque, peaking all that way up north, is not a lot of twist. Passing 18 wheelers on the Turnpike will take planning. The 2.5 liter Impala has an EPA highway rating of 31 mpg so you're rewarded somewhat for your frugality.
There is a hybird offering. Sorry, I have no data on that greenie but look for that car to have better acceleration than the base 4 with better overall economy. However, get set to pay a premium to "save money".
Although based on that global 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.
This more demanding than that less-demanding crowd lead foot can't wait to test drive your new Impala. You've got an LTZ, right?
Photos: Charley Connolly