After spending years as a fleet- and rental-car star, Chevrolet is hoping a revamp will make the Impala worthy of its flagship position in the lineup. For 2014, the large sedan gets more aggressive styling, additional comfort and convenience features, and two new fuel-efficient powertrains.
In his review of the sedan, Cars.com editor Mike Hanley said the new Impala delivers the kind of comfort, roominess and luxury touches expected of a true flagship. Four other Cars.com reviewers recently had the chance to get behind the wheel, and for the most part, they agree that the new Impala is several steps ahead of the outgoing model in many ways.
Three engines are available for 2014, including a new eAssist 182-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 196-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder that is also new this year. The 303-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 carries over, and it's the one Hanley and the rest of the editors sampled.
Most of us agreed that power was strong and delivery was prompt thanks to a responsive six-speed, but Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder was left wanting more. "I seriously wondered if it was a four-cylinder. Chevy needs to work on the throttle progression. Actual output is pretty healthy but comes with some torque steer," he said.
With a more composed ride than the previous generation, the Impala delivers a comfortable, refined driving experience, but the car's electric power steering felt highly assisted and annoyed the editors across the board. "I haven't driven a car this easy to steer in ages; you can turn it with a single finger," editor Kelsey Mays said. Editor Jennifer Geiger agreed. "I found the setup touchy, requiring near-constant correction at higher speeds," she said.
Geiger thought the woodlike trim looked rich, giving the cabin an upscale feel, but it didn't convince everyone. "I thought interior quality was good overall, although I don't understand the use of the same bulky plastic from the top of the dash continuing down into the center console. Also, the fake wood seemed very fake and could also have been replaced with another material," Managing Editor David Thomas said. The faux wood trim, according to Mays, isn't the biggest offender in the first row. "The steering wheel's a real eyesore; it reminds me of the wheel in an early-2000s Ford Taurus," he said.
All the editors praised the multimedia system's control layout and physical buttons, but the system itself seemed slow to react and simple commands often required too many steps. Inputting a navigation address took too long, for example. "The Chevy version of Cadillac's CUE system looked nice, but I couldn't believe how much the physical buttons actually lagged in getting a response. I was glad they were there until I found out how hard or often I had to hit them to switch to 'Media' or 'Radio,' " Thomas said.
The sedan's size won it points in several departments. The roomy backseat isn’t set too low to the floor and offers plenty of space for three passengers. "I liked the size inside obviously, but it doesn't feel like a boat when you're piloting it around tight parking lots or corners," Thomas said. Mays agreed and found the trunk downright cavernous. "Like the Ford, the Impala's trunk should have its own area code. It's nice to see the 60/40-split backseat takes the center belt with it. This is the sort of setup that could accommodate cargo that once required a minivan or SUV," he said.
Though there are some areas that need improvement, the staff's overall opinion of the Impala was favorable – and a lot more favorable than our last Impala impressions. We recently tested the 2013 model and found it dated. Although the 2014 makes huge strides, it’s still up against some strong competition in the large-car class. The Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus and Toyota Avalon also deliver a comfortable ride with premium accommodations.
"It would be a tough call between this and the Chrysler. If it were just me as a dad of two youngsters, I'd get the 300. But if I really needed the extra legroom or trunk space I'd go with the Impala," Thomas said.