Chevrolet has redesigned the full-size Impala sedan for 2014 - marking the 10th generation of a nameplate that General Motors introduced for 1958.
This generation has lots of improvements both in looks and technology. It's no vanilla fleet vehicle - it is attractive and well-appointed, inside and out, with plenty of space for five adults and lots of cargo - 105 cubic feet of cabin space and 18.8 cubic feet of trunk.
Trim levels include the base LS, midlevel LT, and the LTZ, with a choice of three wheel sizes and three engines, and all have six-speed automatic transmissions.
The base engine is a new 195-horsepower, 2.5-liter Ecotec four-cylinder; optional is a 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6. A 182-horsepower Ecotec 2.4-liter engine with GM's eAssist, also offered in the new Malibu, will be available by the end of the year, and will have the best fuel economy - up to 35 mpg on the highway.
I tested a beautiful 2LTZ with the V-6 engine and silver-painted split-spoke 19-inch aluminum wheels with a distinctive machined face. The exterior was dressed up with strategically placed chrome accents and badging, just enough to be elegant.
Windows and the lower front air vent were outlined in chrome, the "grinning" grille was chrome with a chrome Chevy bowtie, and the Impala badge on the rearmost side pillars was chrome.
Also included on the test car was a power sunroof with a second-row skylight, which opens up the interior feel. The interior feels even roomier, thanks to rear doors that bow slightly outward to increase shoulder room. Legroom has actually been increased a total of 5.7 inches, to 45.8 inches in the front and 39.8 inches in the rear.
The outboard rear seats were comfortable enough for a road trip, and rear passengers had a few amenities, including adjustable AC/heat vents and a 120-volt power outlet on the back of the center console (part of a premium audio package).
The front carved bucket seats were heated and cooled, part of an optional package. But I didn't like how easily the controls for the heated/cooled seats could be accidentally turned on.
The driver and front passenger had lots of options for storage. In the armrest cubby was a light, a 12-volt outlet, dual USB ports, a card reader and an auxiliary input jack. There was a hidden storage area with a USB port behind the powered pop-up infotainment touch screen. A button under the screen raised or lowered it to give access to the cubby, a perfect place to store smartphones or iPods for security.
The well-crafted cabin had a padded leather dash; gray faux-wood trim on the dash, console and doors; ice-blue ambient lighting; and accent piping on the top-stitched seats. Thanks to double-pane acoustic glass for the windshield and front side windows and plenty of acoustic baffles elsewhere in the body structure, the cabin was also very quiet.
The latest version of Chevrolet's optional MyLink infotainment system had an 8-inch touch screen and natural voice recognition. MyLink has not impressed me, though, and even the newer version is not intuitive, with some functions not clearly marked or easily located.
Audio, navigation, some climate functions and rearview camera share the touch screen. There were audio controls on the back of the steering wheel, which I located as I turned the wheel and accidentally touched the station next/previous button.
The audio system was quite decent, with 11-speaker Bose centerpoint surround sound in the LTZ premium audio package. The Impala comes with three months of satellite radio service and six months of OnStar Directions and Connections with automatic crash response and turn-by-turn navigation.
There were controls on the steering wheel for cruise, steering wheel heat, forward collision alert on/off, and the driver-information center. The controls for the driver-information center were not marked, though, meaning a trip to the owner's manual to study their use.
Forward collision alert and collision-avoiding brakes, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, blind-spot alert and rear cross-traffic alerts are new technology for the Impala. The car also has battery-rundown protection, theft deterrent, passive entry and keyless start. Ten airbags are now standard, along with a domed hood to help reduce injury to unfortunate pedestrians.
My Impala had a cavernous, wide-open trunk with hidden storage under the floor. The lip was low enough for easy loading of groceries, luggage or stroller. The rear seatback folded flat to accommodate even larger items - a storm door or plywood, perhaps.
The Impala handles well, with little to no leaning in curves, practically imperceptible gear shifting, and quick, smooth acceleration. The factory specs say it can go from zero-60 mph in 6.8 seconds.
With the V-6, the EPA ratings are 19 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway. In mostly rush-hour slow-and-go traffic during our test, we managed 22.1 mpg on average, the onboard computer said.
2014 CHEVROLET IMPALA
• Base price: $26,725
• Price as tested, including destination charge: $39,505