2014 Chevrolet Impala

Revitalizing a legendary automotive nameplate
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No one will mistake this 2014 Chevrolet Impala for the long-running 2013 model it replaces. There is no resemblance in any way, exactly as Chevy intended. First used to delineate Chevrolet's top-of-the-line 1958 model, the Impala badge was later affixed to the full-size Chevy line after smaller sizes came along. This all-new 10th-generation succeeds the outgoing model that sold more than 169,000 units in 2012 and - despite its age and boring looks - has been America's best-selling big sedan since 2004. However, 70 percent of those sales were to (company-car and rental) fleets and just 30 percent to individuals. Chevy plans to reverse that proportion with this new one.

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Exterior

"Forget any preconceived notion you may have about Impala or full-size Chevrolet," says GM North America passenger car exterior design director John Cafaro. "Our design team was challenged to create a new classic, but that didn't mean relying on nostalgia. This is very much a contemporary car."

Its profile is long and low, and a selection of 18-, 19- and 20-inch alloy wheels contribute to its athletic stance. Low-profile projector-beam headlamps (HID headlamps and LED daytime running lamps on LTZ models) flank the wide, horizontal bar grille and sweep around the fenders on either side of the "power dome" hood.

"Great Impalas have had expressive body-side themes," Cafaro adds, and this one certainly does. Sharp character creases run from the headlamps' trailing edges to the rear door handles, sculpted coves in the lower doors curve downward ahead of the rear wheels, and signature upward-sweeping lines in the rear fenders extend to the wrap-around taillamps. Its "greenhouse" is long and its rear deck short, yet the trunk offers a voluminous 18.8 cubic-feet of cargo space. Diagonal taillamps and (on LTZ) chrome-outlined exhaust outlets complete its rear appearance.

To our eyes, it's a beautiful car, especially for a large, 4-door sedan. Yet its front and rear designs seem a bit generic. Remove the big Chevy "bow tie" from its grille, and it could be almost anything. A lot of cars these days wear horizontal-bar grilles above and below their front bumpers, and a lot of cars have similarly-shaped taillamps.

What happened to the globally iconic twin-port face that Chevy designers have perfected for a decade on just about every model except Corvette and Camaro? Why walk away from that and head in a different direction? Would BMW suddenly abandon its twin-kidney grilles? Not likely. And wouldn't this all-new Impala look more distinctive with something similar to the current Malibu's Camaro-like taillamps?

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Interior

The 2014 Impala's roomy, quiet cabin builds on Chevrolet's dual-cockpit theme with generous legroom front and rear, premium fits and soft-touch materials. The instrument cluster has a standard 4.2-inch reconfigurable color DIC (driver information center) between the ice-blue-lighted tachometer and speedometer, and the available Chevy MyLink system's eight-inch touch screen has a concealed storage bin behind it. Base LS models have cloth-trimmed seats, mid-range LTs are trimmed in attractive cloth/vinyl, LTZs have perforated leather and sueded microfiber-trim is available on LTs and LTZs.

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Powertrain and Chassis

The 2014 Chevy Impala offers three very different engines: a new standard 2.5-liter Ecotec four-cylinder with 196 horsepower, a 305-hp 3.6L V6 and (by late 2013) an eAssist mild hybrid teaming a 2.4-liter Ecotec four with a small electric motor for 182 horses and an estimated 35 MPG highway - four MPG better than the standard four and six better than the V6. All drive the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.

The stiff GM global Epsilon architecture (shared with the full-size Cadillac XTS and Buick LaCrosse and mid-size Malibu and Buick Regal) enabled engineers to tune this new Impala's balance of ride and handling much more precisely. A comprehensive package of sound-absorbing and sound-suppressing features, including active noise cancelation on four-cylinder models helps make it Chevy's quietest full-size sedan ever.

Compared to the outgoing Impala, its wheelbase is about an inch longer and its rear track slightly wider for a more tied-down dynamic feel, and strategic mass savings in its structure allowed addition of a front strut tower reinforcement. The front MacPherson struts have internal rebound springs for a smoother ride with reduced body roll and weight transfer during acceleration and cornering. At the rear is a well-isolated four-link suspension.

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Features

Standard on 2014 Impala LTs and LTZs is Chevy's next-gen MyLink infotainment system, with an intuitive, smartphone-inspired interface that allows you to fling, swipe and drag like on a tablet. With large icons for everything from navigation to music apps, it's customizable and can accommodate new features and enhancements. You can enter destinations in a single step (instead of state, city, street and number in successive steps), and - with natural-language voice recognition - can place calls, enter destinations, browse media, play music and control functions just by telling it what to do. And it can store up to 60 "Favorites," not just radio stations but also contacts, destinations and music selections.

Its comprehensive suite of safety features includes GM OnStar, 10 standard airbags, StabiliTrak electronic stability control, all-speed traction control, four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel ABS and electronic brake force distribution, and Hill Hold/Start Assist. Also available are adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigation braking, forward collision alert, lane-departure warning, side blind-zone and rear cross-traffic alert, rear park assist, a rear camera with dynamic guidelines and a brake pre-fill feature that quickens response times and stopping distances by pre-pressurizing the brake lines when you lift off the accelerator.

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Driving Impressions

This new Impala's handling is a pleasant surprise. It drives much smaller than it is, its braking is sure and secure, and its standard variable-assist electric power steering (EPS) is light and direct and has Pull Drift Compensation, which automatically adjusts for crowned roads and crosswinds that would otherwise require steering corrections. Four-cylinder and eAssist models were not yet available to drive, but the V6 is as strong as it is refined.

The MyLink system is better than most on the market, yet there are still handy knobs for HVAC and audio volume and tuning, plus audio rocker switches behind the steering wheel spokes. The only important omission is a radio Scan function, which GM has foolishly decided is no longer necessary (we strongly disagree).

Today's (non-luxury) full-size sedan segment also includes the Ford Taurus, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Toyota Avalon, Nissan Mazima, Hyundai Azera and a soon-to-come new Kia Cadenza, and this lovely new Impala moves Chevy back into the game big-time. With prices starting at $27,535 (including $810 destination), it's worth a serious look.

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