Driver's Seat: 2014 Impala makes headway


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2014 Chevrolet Impala 2LT: Just in time for the Fourth, a review of the new design for the all-American trusty steed.

Price: $35,770 as tested ($29,950 base). Options noted throughout.

Marketer's pitch: "Innovation, finely crafted."

Conventional wisdom: An Edmunds.com test headlined "From Rent to Own" begins, "Forget, if you will, the Impala's last 13 years."

Reality: This model makes it easy to forget.

USA! USA! Could it get much more all-American than driving a Chevrolet Impala along the Pennsylvania Turnpike while tuned to the Sirius XM Tom Petty Channel on Memorial Day? How about reading the review just before the fireworks celebrations kick in?

Debuting in 1958, the Impala has been one of the bread-and-butter models for the most American of carmakers (except for a few years in the 1990s when it was only offered as a performance sedan).

Now it looks like Chevrolet is trying to turn the old nag into a stallion.

Driver's seat: The dashboard is nicely done, as most GM pods are these days.

The instrument cluster is easy to read, and it also allows you to customize what information drivers receive. The typefaces are clear and easy to read.

On America's highways and byways: Power is plentiful. It often seemed a little uncontrolled on standing starts, and the shifter was abrupt about 5 percent of the time. But the 3.6-liter V6 really showed itself when I was given a short passing lane on tall Western Pennsylvania mountains.

On the curves: The Chevy Impala feels most like the old mid-'90s Pontiac Bonneville in size and handling, and that's not a bad thing. The large car handles curves very well, and all but the windiest roads are easily covered at high speeds.

Listening to Petty (and Springsteen and Dylan -- only American acts, right?): The infotainment center had the right mix of the old and the new. The touch-screen is huge and easily visible, but the two dials underneath are obvious in their functions. The premium audio was part of the $1,140 Audio and Sport Wheels Package (which also added 19-inch wheels) and it sounded great.

Friends and stuff: That's the biggest durned trunk this side of a 1974 Caprice.

We spent about seven hours crossing Pennsylvania in this updated classic. The lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat and Sturgis Kids 1.0 and 4.0 report passenger comfort was great and rear seat room plentiful.

A 110-volt outlet really kicks things up a notch as part of Audio and Sport Wheels Package. The outlet was a feature lacking in an $82,000 Lexus I tested recently.

The giant storage bin in the console keeps wanting to shut and sits in an awkward spot. But its forward-sitting design does allow more room for rear-seat passengers. Compare that to a Passat, which I parked next to: While the Volkswagen has lots of legroom, the middle person will suffer spread-foot syndrome around the back of the console.

Driver comfort: The mix of leather and cloth seats in the $945 Premium Seat Package (which heated them and moved them eight ways as well) was pretty enough. The seats felt a little firm at first, but the longer I sat the better I felt.

A look back: Rear visibility is a bit of an issue. The window is tilted fairly flat, and the rear sill sits up very high. You'll want to spring for the LT convenience package, which added rear park assist, auto dimming rearview mirror and more for $940; and the advanced safety package, which added forward collision, rear cross traffic an side blind zone alerts for $890.

Hidden flash: The warning flashers are close to the driver but hard to see around the steering wheel in a panic slowdown situation.

Awkward gearing: The shifter sits just a little too far back. A button controls manual shifting, so shiftability is not an issue, but I found simply engaging Drive awkward.

Night shift: The interior lights offer a pleasant glow that does not interfere with the rearview mirror.

Fuel economy: We got around 25 mpg on a highway-heavy trip, which is not bad. But I had a 1996 Chevrolet Lumina years ago that got 31 and was almost as roomy and almost as powerful.

For those interested in saving fuel, an eAssist version is in the offing. I've tried the LaCrosse and Malibu eAssists and been pleased with the performance. Edmunds disliked the base four-cylinder engine's performance.

How it's built: This model is brand new, but the plant has brought us the Impala (since 1999), the Camaro, the Equinox, the Cadillac XTS and the Buick Regal. The Equinox, Regal and Camaro all get top reliability scores from Consumer Reports.

In the end: The Impala follows some of the newest Buicks and Cadillacs into the realm of thoroughbreds from the stable of workhorses.

businessnews - autonews

Scott Sturgis, a freelance auto writer, can be reached at mrdriversseat@gmail.com.


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