2014 Chevrolet Impala First Drive

We're looking out over the San Diego cityscape from a penthouse high above the street. It's dusk, and the lights wink on among the thicket of tall buildings silhouetted against the sky. It's one of those vertigo moments ... not because of the view but because of the 2014 Chevrolet Impala a few feet behind us. How did this car get up here?

It's not the physical challenge of putting a 201.3-inch sedan in the small patio area of a penthouse on top of an apartment building that makes us feel wobbly. It's the idea of such a stunt with a Chevrolet that seems unhinged.

You know, Chevrolet. The car company that makes plain but honest cars with all the glamour (Corvette aside) of farm implements. Yet when you flat-out ask Impala chief engineer Todd Pawlik what's the most important thing about the 2014 Chevrolet Impala, he says, "It's the way it looks."

Remaking the corporate architecture
Sure, the 2014 Chevrolet Impala is the newest entry in the full-size, front-wheel-drive sedan segment, but there's more at stake than the usual boasting about sales numbers compared with the Ford Taurus or Toyota Avalon. The 2014 Impala is about being the best, the kind of commanding statement we don't expect from a company famous for looking sideways and shuffling its feet when ambition has been called for. As we walk out of the Andaz hotel onto F Street the morning after the penthouse unveiling, the Impala greets us with the same kind of character as the comprehensively refurbished, 90-year-old hotel itself, a modern presentation strengthened by traditional elements. Built on the Epsilon II platform that began with the Opel Insignia and which has produced striking cars in long-wheelbase form from Buick and Cadillac, its statement of Chevy tradition comes from the swelling line of the rear fenders, a design flourish introduced with the very first car to carry the Impala name in 1958 and best expressed in the wonderful 1965 model.

You can tell the 2014 Impala is right after driving the first 50 feet. The car moves away from the curb all at once, with the confident, forthright and yet reassuring feel that Bentley and Rolls-Royce engineers have told us is the signature of a fine motorcar. Epsilon II has worked for Chevy engineers because they have been able to cherry-pick all the best bits Buick and Cadillac have developed and refined. This includes a 305-hp, direct-injection 3.6-liter V-6 that revs so crisply, plus the six-speed automatic transmission that quickly locks up its torque converter to enhance fuel efficiency (EPA-rated 19 mpg city/29 mpg Highway for the V-6).

Go big or go home
As you'd expect in a large car, the Impala's cabin is all about spaciousness. It delivers 105 cubic-feet of passenger volume, with 45.8 inches of legroom in front and 39.8 inches in the back. The low cowl and receding wings of the dash enhance the sensation of space, while the use of high-strength steel in the A-pillars enables them to be twisted slightly to increase the driver's field of view.

The interior is rich with standard convenience features, like the increasingly usable MyLink interface (an improved version of Cadillac CUE). An 8-inch touchscreen lets you click, swipe and drag the screen icons, connect up to ten devices through Bluetooth, and display the optional 3D navigation system. Optional leather trim is laid conspicuously thick on the dash surfaces, and while this effect seems slightly take-me-to-the-country-club gorgeous in a color that contrasts with the upholstery, it's very Euro when executed in a complementary color.

Michigan-size people fit in the rear seat, and the doors have been bowed outwards slightly to increase shoulder room by placing the locks at the rear of the window sill. The car is very quiet thanks to double-pane acoustic glass for the windshield and front side windows, plenty of acoustic baffles within the body structure, and a pretty slippery 0.30 Cd that controls wind noise.

Driving in the spirit of harmony
It is the way the 2014 Chevrolet Impala drives that really sets it apart. The suspension action is wonderfully hydraulic, as if GM engineers have discovered shock damping at last. The car smoothly blends the transitions between acceleration, braking, steering and cornering in a very impressive way. This is no sports sedan, yet it represents a responsive yet stable platform for fast cross-country driving.

We hammer the V-6 through the gears as we pass a service truck on the two-lane road to Campo and the transmission shifts quickly and smoothly, although there are no manual control paddles. The stiction-free, Camaro-style electric-assist steering is precise. The front suspension with its reinforced strut towers quickens response from the tires, which come in 18-inch, 19-inch and 20-inch dimensions. The car also rides with more equanimity on the 19s and 20s than we've seen from some premium cars. We like the P245/45R-19 98V Goodyear RS-As best.

There are plenty of business facts in this car's story, including the forthcoming availability of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder model that is expected to make 21 mpg City and 31 mpg Highway, plus a mild-hybrid that will make 25 mpg city/35 mpg Highway. Pricing ranges from the $27,535 LS with the four-cylinder engine to the $36,580 LTZ with the V-6. The mid-price LT models between these two extremes will represent 55 percent of the volume.

Quality takes a big effort
When chief engineer Pawlik describes his team's challenge in sustaining close tolerances in the complex fit between the hood, the fender and the elaborate LTZ-style headlight cluster, sweat pops out on his forehead. This makes us even more impressed with the car's quality. His is the same kind of sweat equity that has put the 2014 Chevrolet Impala in a penthouse on top of a building in downtown San Diego.

That and one of the large number of giant construction cranes that are all over the city these days. The publicity stunt only cost $5000, we overheard. Of course, as the car was dangling about 100 feet above the street, the breeze off the fogbank over the ocean apparently made the car sway enough to make your heart stop.

TeamWidetrack
I seen this car in person already and whenever I see it now I think to myself "I can't believe the same company that did such a truly half-assed job with the Malibu is the same company that builds this Impala." I haven't seen a FWD car from GM this cool since Pontiac stuffed a V8 in the Grand Prix.
Vermontn8iv
Praise Be! Finally a Chevy without the obnoxious affectation of a solid chrome bar across the front...the worst Brand styling cue ever.I hope the new Impala is everything the article purports it to be.
Kyree S. Williams
This seems like a car that was built and designed by Americans, for Americans.  And I love it so far.  The only issue is that even with sister-LaCrosse's MY2014 facelift, it looks like it will still be upstaged by the Impala. But having two spacious and stylish--yet different--cars to choose from isn't a bad thing.  I'm certainly not complaining.
Marc Hamady
I bet no one is going to buy this car with the four-cylinder engine
jmccool6969
They got the looks about right, however I am not sold on the 1/4 panel. It looks too much like all the new cars. They did do a nice job on the interior. If I was ready to buy I would give one a try.
tresean1
Professor:  "Good morning class.  Welcome to GM Car Design 101.  Let's jump right ahead to our first lesson of the day:  What do you get when you take the overall exterior design/sheetmetal from a Ford Taurus/Lincoln MKS, and the LEDs from a 2010 Mercedes E-class, and the angel eyes from a BMW, and the steering wheel from a Mercedes S-class, and the rear lights from a VW Jetta/Passat, and the center console from a Kia/Hyundai, and the cheap plastic 'woodgrain' trim from all the other non-luxury marques, and the grille from a Camaro (at least Chevy was original in something)?""This ridiculous, plagiarized, piece-of-sh** Frankenstein of a creation called the CHEVY IMPALA.  Class dismissed."
OMEGATALON
Chevy's 2014 Impala looks contemporary with cars like Toyota's new Avalon and makes Chevy's new SS look dated; I wonder whether Chevy will make the 270-hp turbocharged 2.0L 4-cyl engine from Buick's Regal GS Turbo or possibly have GM redesign their 3.6L DI DOHC-4v VVT V6 to feature active cylinder deactivation like with Chevy's new LT1 so that the engine can drop to either a 1.8L 3-cyl or 2.4L 4-cyl while at low speeds to improve fuel mileage.
frank1946
Epsilon doesn't do much for me. W Body still has lots of loyal fans. Like Me.
TheClassicCarFactory
with the possible exception of that styling line out of nowhere on the rear quarter panel - nice looking car!
Jonny Bussell
thats good an impala should be rear wheel!
MarksMT
Great Job on this Car Chevy!
Danny Wang
will miss having the open feel in the front interior with the available front split bench seats, not very fond of the rear of the car or the steering wheel, excessive trim piece on the dash does not seem to blend in, no available rear seat entertainment system. However a mini safe behind the center display is an idea I will give them credit and front end looks good without the LEDs.
Erik Summa
This is a great shot of this car. High trim level with the detailing that says premium (which Impala has lacked since the early 60s), wheel/tire combination appropriately sized for the styling, and, for a Chevy, cohesive design. Go to the rear 3/4 and the car just looks unfinished, if not still a contemporary well-executed exercise. Suffice it to say, if GM resists the fleet queen urge, this is a great statement vehicle for the brand's future. Hopefully the volume trim levels translate as well.
Lee Klein
Nice. It looks HUGE in person.
Orin O'Neill
Or more correctly, the Buick Lacrosse with the bowtie in the grille...
Daanesh Chanduwadia
Michael Jordan is a tremendous writer. Always has been. Kudos to him on a fair assent of an unusually fine effort.
Salvador Fonzarelli Ramirez
Looks badass, just needs rwd drivetrain.
David Lunatto
Really handsome design. I saw one at the auto show and it looks even better in person. I guess the best compliment that I can pay it is that it looked expensive.
Jake Chapman
It has at ass of an A5 and the steering wheel from a S550. Camaro-esq grill, Bimmer halo's..The whole car has a sort of borrowed look... but I don't necessarily think thats a bad thing as all of the aforementioned cars are nothing like what the Impala was... which is a great thing.
Barry Enquist
GM, poor quality, poor design, many issues.
M Rick Richards
@Chris Scherzer: I guess you've never seen an American car from before 1985...
Chris Scherzer
American cars need to be smaller
Rick Taylor
Decent car. I once rented one but not as fun to drive as a Charger.
Ryan Merkl
Wait so is it FWD with 300bhp that will not work no car can handle its gunna have awful under steer and so much torque steer will make the driving experience un-bearable. Plus GM reliability no one with a brain will buy this... Good thing for GM most American's refuse to recognize other countries are better than us at some things so it will sell .
Dammy Onafowokan
The word barge comes to mind
Automobile Magazine
Good idea, Matt... except that the Impala's next-gen MyLink system more closely imitates CUE. I haven't used it yet, so I'll reserve judgment. Cross your fingers. -BT
Miles Krasic
Good design. I can understand the use of LED's. Face it, every brand will be using LED's in their own, unique way. I was at BMW when Audi introduced them. Interior is a huge improvement. Reliability is the only thing I am worried about.
Matt Simmons
I like it. I see Caddy shoppers that don't want CUE buying this.
Godvin Fleming
Dang!!! I guess the SS if I can afford it!
Automobile Magazine
300hp, yes. RWD... no. -BT
Godvin Fleming
Sorry Rear wheel!
Godvin Fleming
If it's RRdrive I'll take it! 300hp even better!
Moshe Levy
Just handing off an Impala back to the rental agency today. The Impala (this older model they gave me, anyway) is the embodiment of all that is unholy and wrong with GM. Perhaps that's too harsh. It IS good at one thing: Making you feel like a total, mundane failure for driving one.
Frankiko Ly
Reliability = poor
Dan Ryan
I could own this. But wish they called it the Caprice, it's more upscale
Nikhil Patil
nice bt nt gud as compais to cruzz
Pete Colombus
Audi LEDs look stupid
Steve Yelich
Very nice!
Patrick Daly
Andrew Daly, it's looking good man. What color you gonna get?
Josh Mutchler
@Jonny Bussell That's why they built the Chevrolet SS
Kyree S. Williams
@Erik Summa The only reason there've been so many fleet sales on the outgoing W-Body Impala is because it isn't a very desirable vehicle, nor is it competitive.  Fleet sales aren't any automaker's preference, because not only does a car model's image go down, but so do transaction prices and resale values on new units of that model when fleets sell them after one or two years and flood the market...Based on what I've seen, this one is at least on par with Avalon, Azera, Taurus, and even General Motors' own LaCrosse...
GTIRunner
But its past and cliche post as your does not say anything about this car or the article. From what I read lateley other car makers have had many recalls. Its just part of the game when you mass produce something.
Kyree S. Williams
@Ryan Merkl I guess you haven't driven a modern V6-powered FWD car, because most of them don't have much torque steer...and what little they do have is quite manageable.  As for your comment about "other countries [being] better than us at some things"...American tastes and needs are different than in, say, Europe or Asia.  So some of the things that are better for them are actually worse for us.
AMXLNT
@Moshe Levy If driving an Impala can do that for your self image, Mosh, you need to get a life.
Alfonso T. Alvarez
@Frankiko Ly Really??  Based upon what, exactly?  You have a crystal ball or something??
You do know the previous generation had great reliability. right?  And that everything else on the Epsilon platform has performed very well, right?
No??  Oh, so you just make stuff up to make yourself appear uninformed?   OK - works for me!
Kyree S. Williams
@Dan Ryan They're already using the Caprice name for the RWD police-interceptor.  But "Caprice" would have been a nice way for GM to differentiate this new, largely-unrelated product from the outgoing Impala, since even on this message-board, people seem to be judging the new Impala based on the shortcomings of the older one.
Kyree S. Williams
@Josh Mutchler You're right.  The SS is probably only going to come in one or two top-level trims about on par in price with the Dodge Charger SRT8, making it something of a niche car.  But that's just as well, because most buyers don't want or need RWD.  The packaging, driving characteristics and space of a FWD-based car serve them better.  A lot of car enthusiasts fail to see how unnecessary RWD really is for the majority of buyers, and even *I* am not particularly partial to it...

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