With the radically overhauled 2014 model, the Chevrolet Impala reaches its tenth generation. That's a big deal. The Toyota Camry is only on its ninth generation. Same goes for the Honda Accord. How about the six-decade-old Mercedes-Benz SL? A mere six generations.
A heritage-inspired design, without being retroMuch of the Impala's front fascia has been cribbed from the Camaro -- the hood is low and long, the front lights are slim and menacing, and the taillights are rectangular and wide. The headlamps are low-profile projector-beams on all models but the top-spec LTZ. LTZ models crib directly from the Camaro with HID headlamps ringed by sinister-looking LED pipes and the outer lower air intakes feature bright LED running lamps.
The profile recalls the Impalas of the late 1950s with a muscular character line that runs down the large sedan's shoulders and a secondary pontoon-style crease that sweeps from the rear wheel well to the taillight. The roofline defies tradition and sweeps gracefully toward the trunklid, similar to the line found on the Audi A7. Instead of flowing directly into the rear bumper, the Impala's trunk looks grafted on and the long overhang draws similarities to its similarly-proportioned Cadillac XTS platform-mate. Around back, the taillights echo the four-pod signature of the Chevrolet brand, with a chrome bar running above the plate bracket between the lights. Unlike the rest of the Impala's exterior, the rump is on the bland side, clearly a concession for the large 18.8-cubic-foot trunk capacity. To help visually balance out the car's mass, 18-inch wheels are standard while 19- and 20-inch wheels are available.
Inside, the cockpit is trimmed with premium materials and bold design befitting Chevrolet's flagship sedan. The dual-cockpit design found elsewhere in the brand's lineup appears here, albeit more exaggerated than on any other Chevy model. The center stack protrudes, pod-like, from the dashboard, enhancing the feeling of two distinctly separate zones for the driver and passenger.
Dominating the center stack is a standard eight-inch color touchscreen, which electronically slides up to reveal a storage bin with a USB port and is available with Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system. Circular gauges set deep into the instrument panel pod flank both sides of the 4.2-inch color driver information center.
An all-new steering wheel seamlessly integrates cruise control and redundant audio controls and looks premium enough to be used in a Cadillac. Chevy uses high-quality fabric, Ultrasuede, and perforated leather to trim the cabin of the new Impala, and the daring Ebony/Mojave (black/caramel) leather interior is both striking and luxurious. The caramel-colored leather is splashed across the seats, door uppers, and upper dashboard helps brighten the interior. Thanks to the sloping roofline and high beltline, the Impala's interior feels somewhat cramped compared to the vehicle's overall size.
Death to the W-body platformThe outgoing 2012 Impala is the last of the W-body platform cars from General Motors. The 2014 Impala rides on the same Epsilon II platform as the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, 2013 Cadillac XTS, and now-deceased Saab 9-5. Chevrolet uses a MacPherson-strut front suspension, four-link rear suspension, and hydraulic bushings to help the 201.3-inch-long and 73.0-inch-wide car have a smoother ride than the outgoing car. The 2014 model is only fractionally larger than the old Impala in every direction, and remains one of the largest in its class.
The new car carries over the top-of-the-line engine -- a 3.6-liter direct-injected V-6, up three horsepower to an estimated 303 hp. Two other direct-injected engines will be offered, both four-cylinders: a 2.5-liter I-4 estimated at 195 hp and 31 mpg on the highway, and a 2.4-liter I-4 with the eAssist mild hybrid system that is expected to make 182 hp and 35 mpg on the highway. If Chevy manages to hit the 35 mpg mark, it will easily make the Impala the most fuel efficient class; the Taurus and Charger currently tie for first place at 31 mpg. All Impalas will have power routed to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic.
Old name, new techAs Chevrolet's flagship sedan, the Impala will debut a number of new-to-Chevrolet safety technologies. Available for the first time are radar-guided adaptive cruise control that will bring the car to a complete stop and collision mitigation braking that uses the cruise control radar to hit the brakes in the case of an imminent collision. Also available on the 2014 Impala are forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and side blind zone alert with rear cross traffic alert. Ten airbags will be standard, as will be OnStar telematics with emergency response systems.
A tough crowdThe 2014 Impala will be going up against a tough set of competitors. Chevrolet's cross-town rivals have just refreshed their large sedans: Ford's Taurus received a substantial refresh for the 2013 model year, and Dodge's Charger was all-new for 2011 and gained a new eight-speed automatic for 2012. From Asia, the Hyundai Azera is all new this year, and Toyota is pulling the wraps off of the 2013 Avalon at the New York auto show as well. The lone competitor that has yet to see an overhaul is the Nissan Maxima -- the current generation debuted in 2008, but is expected to see a refresh by 2014.
The Impala's sleek styling will help it to stand out in the crowd of large sedans, as will its fuel efficiency with the eAssist motor. Chevrolet has yet to announce when the 2014 car will go on sale or pricing details. It will again be offered in LS, LT, and LTZ trim levels.