Chevrolet Preparing More Upscale Impala for Next-Gen Model, Still Front-Drive

After several years on the market with little substantive change, Chevrolet’s Impala is aging — and General Motors itself acknowledges it needs a reinvention. That said, the company is going to have to be careful to craft a new large sedan that’s fairly different from the new Malibu in order to avoid stealing sales from the latter.

According to Automotive News, Chevrolet dealers have been shown images of the next-gen Impala, and reported that the new design bears some resemblance to Buick’s LaCrosse. That’s not surprising, considering the next Impala will ride upon a stretched version of GM’s Epsilon platform, which underpins the LaCrosse, Malibu, and potentially the new Cadillac XTS.

Wait, where’s the rear-wheel-drive? Although GM once had plans to shift the Impala nameplate to a large, rear-wheel-drive platform, those plans were shelved during the company’s bankruptcy, and effectively died in wake of recent CAFE mandates and fuel prices. That said, Chevy is porting a Holden-built Caprice stateside for police use, and recent comments made by GM North America president Mark Reuss lead some to believe a rear-drive flagship positioned above the Impala could make an appearance in our country.

What GM really wants, however, is an Impala that no longer competes against the Malibu in Chevrolet’s own showrooms. The current Malibu grew larger than its predecessor because, at the time, GM hoped for the Impala to move to rear-wheel-drive. When that didn’t happen, the brand was left with two very similar sedans — and thanks in part to incentives tied to the aging Impala, the larger sedan regularly steals customers from its smaller sibling (A larger car for less money? It’s hard to talk a consumer down from that argument).

Enthusiasts may drool at the idea of a revival of the Impala SS, but expect the new Impala to pursue fuel efficiency, not outright performance. More realistic goals include boosting the Impala’s EPA highway rating over 30 mpg, refining interior materials, and reducing cabin noise.

An all-new Impala, however, is later, rather than sooner. AN says the car won’t be ready until 2014 at the earliest, leaving the current car — which rides on an evolution of GM’s dated W-car platform — to soldier on for another year or two. The company will, however, install its direct-injection V-6 as standard equipment for the 2012 Impala.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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