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2014 Chevrolet Impala 2.5 1LT First Drive

Chevrolet says that four-cylinder engines power roughly 60 percent of its models sold here. With its 2014 redesign, the Impala joins the ranks of four-banger Chevys. The Impala's 2.5-liter four, which is the car's base engine, is related to the 2.5-liter four in the Malibu and the 2.0-liter turbo-four in the Cadillac ATS. It is rated at 196 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque, which is not a lot given the sedan's estimated 3800-lb curb weight. And indeed, the engine often sounds strained and quite vocal despite the engineers' attempts to quell NVH. In the quest to keep the racket to a minimum, Chevy has employed active noise cancelation, which nets the added bonus of a subwoofer for the stereo. The bow-tie brand has also taken a page from Buick and used copious amounts of liquid-applied sound deadener, sound-absorbing carpet, an isolated engine cradle, and an acoustically laminated windshield and front-door glass -- all of which are a first for any Chevrolet sedan. The six-speed automatic is good at keeping the four-cylinder within its power band, but with peak horsepower at 6300 rpm and peak torque coming in at 4400 rpm, that means keeping the revs up. The six-speed often needs to shuffle gears to stay in the meat of the power curve, and its shifts are less than smooth.

Among the Impala's competitors, only the Ford Taurus also offers a four-cylinder (turbo); the rest of the segment -- made up of the Toyota Avalon, the Hyundai Azera, and the Kia Cadenza -- offer V-6 engines only. While the turbo-four Taurus feels more balanced than its six-cylinder siblings, the Impala's I-4 does nothing to aid the big Chevy's handling. Granted, the Ford's four-banger has a different mission than the Chevrolet's. The Taurus' 2.0-liter turbo-four is a standalone option offering higher fuel economy that also happens to drive better, while the Impala's 2.5-liter I-4 is simply the entry-level engine. Buyers seeking the best fuel possible economy from an Impala will want the mild-hybrid eAssist model, which will be available later this year and is expected to achieve 25/35 mpg.

That leaves us wondering whether buyers save enough money at the pump and at the dealership to make up for the Impala 2.5's 109-hp deficiency versus the optional 3.6-liter V-6. The larger engine is rated at 19/29 mpg, just two mpg fewer than the four-cylinder's 21/31 mpg. On the Impala LT, the V-6 adds only $975 over the four-banger's $29,785 price tag; the top-spec LTZ model sees the $34,555 base price swell by $2025 moving from the four to the V-6. Base Impala LS models, which start at $27,535, are four-cylinder only.

Chevrolet expects the majority of Impala buyers to opt for the V-6, namely the mid-level 2LT model. With most people going for the V-6, Chevy might be better off with just the six-cylinder and the eAssist, similar to what Toyota offers with the Avalon and Avalon Hybrid, and losing the 2.5-liter altogether.

2014 Chevrolet Impala 2.5 1LT

  • Base Price (with destination): $29,785
  • Price as tested: $32,560
  • On Sale: Now
  • Engine: 2.5-liter I-4
  • Power: 196 hp @ 6300 rpm
  • Torque: 186 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Drive: Front-wheel
  • Wheels and tires: 18-inch aluminum wheels and P235/50R18 all-season tires
  • Fuel Economy: 21/31 mpg city/highway
  • Curb Weight: 3800 lbs (est. )
  • Capacities:
  • Doors/Passengers: 4/5
  • Cargo: 18.8 cu ft
  • Legroom (front/rear): 45.8/39.8 in
  • Headroom(front/rear): 39.9/37.4 in
  • Towing: N/A