It’s the 60th birthday for the Chevrolet Impala (never mind that it went missing for a few years). 1958 was a great year, the year Impala was born, a classic out of the box. Try to buy a ’58 Chevy Impala today, especially a convertible. You’d be looking at $50k to $125k, last time we checked.
The 2018 Impala is still a full-size sedan, although today it’s front-wheel drive. Rivals include the Toyota Avalon, Hyundai Azera, and Ford Taurus. It’s comfortable, thrifty and engaging. It shares its platform with the Buick Lacrosse and Cadillac XTS. It’s eight inches shorter than the ’58 Impala, on a wheelbase that’s 6.5 inches less. Cutting out eight inches in sixty years doesn’t sound like a whole lot. And back then they had to make room for a V8.
This is the fourth year since the last redesign, which was a good one, for both the body and chassis.
There aren’t any changes for the 2018, however the standard equipment gets increased on all models, and there are new colors to choose from. Even the base model gets a rearview camera and 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. You won’t find that in many cars at the Impala’s price.
The base engine is a 2.5-liter four cylinder making 196 horsepower, with an available 3.6-liter V6 with 305 horsepower. Each engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel mileage is respectable but not the best in class; the four-cylinder engine is EPA-rated at 25 miles per gallon Combined, while the V6 gets 22 mpg Combined.
Impala gets five stars for its crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, while Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives it top scores in frontal- and side-impact collisions.
Impala LT ($30,220) also is four-cylinder. but adds Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment, cloth/leatherette upholstery, power lumbar for front passenger, Bluetooth phone/audio, dual-zone automatic climate control, and 18-inch alloy wheels, Options include leather seating surfaces, 19-inch wheels, and the V6 engine.
Impala Premier ($36,420) gets the 3.6-liter V6, as well as perforated leather-upholstered seats, heated front seats, a power front passenger seat, 19-inch wheels, pushbutton start, and rear parking sensors,. Safety features include forward-collision and lane-departure warnings, and blind-spot monitoring. Navigation and a sunroof are optional.
An optional group of advanced safety features includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure warning.
The Impala attempts to be muscular with its chiseled lines. Its proportions are similar to the Buick Lacrosse and Cadillac XTS, but the Caddy pulls it off best, with the Buick second.
However the Impala profile is sophisticated and the lines fairly crisp. The hood is invigorating, with stamped lines and ribs. The rear is an intricate intersection of surfaces, distinct from the Lacrosse and XTS.
The shape of the sweeping dual-cowl dashboard is lovely, but it’s ruined by a complex and heavy-handed mishmash of textures, lines, and materials. There are lots of storage bins in the cabin. The audio system has a hidden storage compartment behind the LCD screen. GM’s OnStar system includes a WiFi hotspot.
Support in the front seats is about the best in class, while there’s enough headroom and legroom for tall people. The power driver’s seat has an especially broad height range.
Although the back seat is wide and well shaped, the bottom cushion is low, flat, and a bit short. Yet headroom is still a bit tight, and the seat support could be better. Legroom is near limousine-level, while entry and exit is made easier by doors that are tall and wide.
As for cabin silence, the four-cylinder models include active noise cancellation, while upper trim levels are fitted with additional sound deadening and thicker glass.
Performance with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is fine for commuting most family use, but when power is needed for passing, the acceleration falls short of the spurt that’s available with the 3.6-liter V6, with its vivid acceleration that can almost make it feel like a sport sedan. It will do zero to sixty miles per hour in a healthy 6.8 seconds, bringing smooth, strong power.
The six-speed automatic can be shifted manually, using a switch on the lever, whose action is unfortunately awkward on account of the tall center console. Also unfortunately, the transmission isn’t seamless like some earlier GM transmissions. It shifts quickly enough, but if you’re not smooth with your foot, its response will be imperfect. So if you’re rough on the gas pedal, the transmission might be rough on you.
The Impala’s road manners are among the best in its large class, with composure and balance that’s better than the Toyota Avalon, Hyundai Azera, and Ford Taurus. It feels almost athletic out on the road, which is saying a lot for a full-size front-wheel-drive car. Quick and accurate, the belt-driven electric power steering never feels heavy or sluggish.
The Impala adeptly balances handling and a comfortable ride. Rebound springs help keep body lean under control. Excellent suspension damping keeps the ride subtle and restrained, although it feels a bit stiffer when rolling over small bumps than when encountering large ones.
The Impala offers an attractive body, composed handling and a satisfying ride. The inline four-cylinder does the job almost all of the time, as does the six-speed automatic. The V6 offers a lot more acceleration, for 3 less mpg.
Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports.