General Motors hasn’t shied away from the fact that the new 2014 Chevrolet Impala will be offered in mild-hybrid guise -- in fact, it said as much when the car was unveiled at the 2012 New York Auto Show. It hasn’t, however, actually shown us an Impala so equipped. No worries: our spy photographer caught pre-production prototypes running around wearing virtually no camouflage.
So, what’s changed? Very little, though we do spy some slight revisions applied to the 2014 Impala’s nose. This particular tester wears brightwork and LED driving lamps once promised for the high-end LTZ trim level. Without a doubt, the biggest modification is the grille: the 2014 Impala’s Camaro-esque, three-bar grille is eschewed in favor of a large, solid insert that tapers towards the bowtie emblem, restricting airflow to two slender openings. It’s vaguely reminiscent of Chevy’s flagship hybrid – the Volt – but likely functions as an aerodynamic aid in the name of further improving the 2014 Chevrolet Impala's fuel economy.
Chevrolet has said the mild-hybrid 2014 Impala – which will likely wear the same Eco name and badging as the midsize Malibu sedan fitted with the same system – will pair a 182-hp, 2.4-liter I-4 with a belt-driven electric motor/generator. The system cannot propel the car purely on electric power; it does provide up to a 15 hp/ 79 lb-ft boost under hard acceleration, and does allow the engine to shut off when the vehicle is stopped.
EPA figures are still forthcoming, but Chevy’s gunning for a 35-mpg highway rating in order to best many of the 2014 Impala’s competitors. Impossible? Probably not, since the Buick LaCrosse e-Assist – which shares its platform, wheelbase, powertrain with the 2014 Impala, and boasts a similar curb weight – returns 36 mpg on the EPA’s highway test cycle.
Expect further details on the 2014 Chevrolet Impala Eco, along with the remainder of the new 2014 Chevrolet Impala family, to emerge closer to the car’s official market launch in early 2013.