The Chevrolet Impala is a full-size sedan in the same class as the Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus, and Hyundai Azera. Redesigned and enlarged for 2014, Impala has attractive styling and a roomy, high-quality interior with thoughtful touches. Underway, it’s quiet and efficient, responsive and enjoyable to drive.
Impala is front-wheel drive and shares its platform with the Buick LaCrosse and Buick Regal, Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Malibu.
Because it was redesigned for 2014, there are few changes for 2015. The biggest news is the addition of OnStar with 4G LTE on all 2015 Impala models. The 4G LTE system provides a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot inside the car for drivers and passengers to stay connected; it’s on whenever the car is on. 2015 Impalas equipped with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine come with a stop/start feature that shuts the engine off whenever the car is stopped to save gas, then restarts it the moment the driver lifts off the brake and steps on the accelerator. The 2015 Impala will be available with a new bi-fuel version of the 3.6-liter V6 that can operate on gasoline or super-clean-running compressed natural gas.
The 2015 Chevrolet Impala offers a choice of three engines. The 2.5-liter Ecotec inline-4 makes 196 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque and gets an EPA-estimated 22/31 mpg City/Highway. Most powerful is the 3.6-liter V6 with direct injection rated at 305 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of torque and 19/29 mpg. All Impala models use GM’s 6-speed Hydra-matic transmission.
The new bi-fuel version of the 3.6-liter V6 produces 260 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque on gas or 230 horsepower and 281 pound-feet running on CNG. The bi-fuel V6 will be available later in the 2015 model year, and EPA fuel economy estimates had not been released when this was published. (Last year’s 2.4-liter inline-4 with GM’s eAssist mild-hybrid system has been discontinued.)
While the stop-start system has added 1 mpg to the 2015 2.5-liter’s EPA City estimate, it’s a far cry from the 25/35 mpg rating in last year’s 2.4-liter with eAssist.
Good aerodynamics help the 2015 Impala with fuel economy, in part aided by wind blockers positioned in front of the tires, which look like mud flaps put on the wrong way. Four-cylinder models get an active aero-shutter grille and underbody aero panels to make the Impala even more slippery. Efficiency is aided by electric power steering that draws energy only when the steering wheel is turned.
A quiet ride is one of the Impala’s strong suits. Acoustic glass in the front side windows, extra foam in the body, and additional sound deadening material in the floor pan and trunk help to keep occupants feeling like they’re in their own little bubble.
Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and brake assist come standard on all models, and rotors have a special coating that resists rust, which not only keeps them shiny, but also reduces shudder under braking and, according to Chevrolet, doubles the life expectancy of the rotors to 80,000 miles.
Several electronic safety systems are optional on mid-range Impala LT models and standard on Impala LTZ trims, including forward collision alert, lane departure warning, side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert and rear park assist. Top-of-the-line Impala LTZ trims with the V6 engine can also be equipped with full-range adaptive cruise control with collision mitigation braking and brake pre-fill. With this technology, the Impala will automatically keep a safe distance from the car in front while cruising, and will slow down or even stop itself if a collision is imminent.
wraparound headlamp housing to the rear door handle. A sharp arcing character line starts in the rear door, flows high over the rear fender, and straight into the top of the rear tail lamp lens. Bright trim around windows and across rocker panels on the LTZ model add class, and optional 20-inch wheels give the Impala an almost show car-like presence. Standard 18-inch wheels on LT models and 19-inch alloys on LTZs still look good, if not quite as impressive.
The wide, horizontal theme continues in back. Tail lamps start tall on the outer edges and narrow as they point inward. They have a raised detail that is not only visually interesting, but serves as an aerodynamic aid to keep air flowing off the vehicle, rather than around it. Small touches like these help with fuel economy and contribute to reduced wind noise levels in the cabin. The rear bumper is big and beefy, and exposed exhaust tips on LTZ models have a chrome-like finish with an almost rectangular shape.
The cabin is attractive and comfortable, with very good fit and finish and quality materials.
Seats are roomy, supportive and comfortable. Front passengers have lots of knee and legroom thanks to a pushed-back glove compartment and instrument panel. Front legroom is 45.8 inches, a 3.5-inch increase over the 2013 and earlier Impala. Concave doors add to the roominess. Smaller drivers might not be able to rest an elbow on the door armrest while gripping the steering wheel.
Rear passengers have plenty of space, too. A 6-foot, 2-inch passenger sitting in the back seats was comfortable, with a couple of inches of headroom to spare. Concave seatbacks reduce cramping around the knee and leg area, and foot room was adequate. Legroom measures 39.8 inches, 2.2 inches more than the previous-generation car.
The trunk is quite large, measuring 18.8 cubic feet. The Bi-fuel V6 model, however, loses nearly half its trunk space to the compressed natural gas tank, dropping luggage room to just 10 cubic feet.
Impala LTZ models can be equipped with an optional sunroof. We like that the sunroof cover is opaque, unlike the translucent, perforated covers used in the Cadillac models that let in a lot of light. This kept us cool and shady, without having to worry about glare on the instrument panel.
Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system is standard on Impala LT and LTZ models and uses an 8-inch color touch screen with natural voice recognition, the latter of which is similar to the system used the Cadillac CUE interface. We like that the Impala’s touch screen has a matte finish, unlike the glossy screen found on Cadillac’s CUE, which shows fingerprints far too easily.
MyLink is versatile and relatively customizable. Apps such as Pandora come pre-loaded, and up to 10 devices can be paired to the system using Bluetooth. Users can drag application icons around to put their favorites first. You can also listen to music or watch movies from a USB drive. A choice of four different skins allow users to change the look of the screen, although we found most of them cartoon-like and wonder whether Impala drivers will want to deviate from the standard setup. New for 2015 is a text messaging alert feature for smartphone users that uses Bluetooth connectivity to read incoming texts through the car’s speakers.
MyLink’s Valet Mode allows valuables to be locked in the storage compartment behind the touch screen using a four-digit PIN that the user selects each time, much like an in-room safe. Not only will Valet Mode secure the storage area, it will also lock out all electronic information on the car such as navigation destinations, contacts, radio presets and other personal settings.
Chevrolet says the new OnStar with 4G LTE system is 10 times faster than 3G. The standard 3-gigabyte data plan is free for the first three months of car ownership.
For cars not equipped with navigation, OnStar offers Turn-by-Turn directions that are sent to the vehicle and displayed in the center display screen. The directions can be played back or paused anywhere from start to destination and provide a less expensive alternative to GPS navigation, according to Chevrolet.
Exceptional road manners are the hallmark of the Chevrolet Impala. The car is smooth, even around corners, not just in a straight line. Unlike some full-size sedans, the Impala feels like it’s a willing partner in the driving experience.
At the top of the Impala’s engine lineup is GM’s familiar direct-injection 3.6-liter V6, good for 305 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of torque. Its EPA-rated at 19/29 mpg City/Highway. Acceleration from the V6 is powerful and seamless.
A bi-fuel version of the 3.6-liter V6 that runs on unleaded gas or compressed natural gas offers a range of up to 500 city miles, according to Chevrolet. Normally, the bi-fuel Impala runs on ultra-clean CNG until it’s depleted, then changes to gasoline, but the driver can switch between the two fuel sources at any time by pressing a dash button.
The stop-start 2.5-liter four-cylinder operates like a conventional engine, except that it shuts off at stoplights and when idling in traffic to save fuel. The air conditioning, audio system, lights and all electrical system functions continue to operate even when the engine is shut off. The engine then automatically restarts when the driver lifts a foot off the brake. Dual batteries, special engine mounts and a high-torque starter motor help ensure seamless restarts, even in heavy traffic.
In all models, shifts are smooth, courtesy of GM’s 6-speed Hydra-matic transmission. All-electric power steering is effortless without feeling overly numb and it automatically adjusts to counter the pull of crosswinds or high-crowned roads.
The Impala is extremely quiet, and engineers took great care to make it that way. Acoustic glass is used in the front side windows as well as in the windshield, which is an unusual move for a non-luxury vehicle. Doors are triple-sealed and many areas of the Impala’s body are filled with foam. The floor pan and trunk are treated with sound-deadening material, and four-cylinder models use active noise cancellation to reduce engine noise in the cabin.
Ride quality is firmer than one might expect from a full-size, front-wheel-drive sedan. Its front-strut and rear multilink suspension uses rebound springs to reduce body roll around corners, and unique front strut towers help to minimize chassis flex. The result is a ride that’s more dialed-in than floaty. We much prefer the 18-and 19-inch wheels over the optional 20s, which make the Impala’s ride harsher and noisier.
Four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist are standard on all 2015 Impala variants. For the most part braking was smooth and confident. However, a few times we did notice a grabby feeling when braking downhill.
Full-range adaptive cruise control is optional on top-of-the-line LTZ models. This system not only maintains a set speed and distance from the car in front while cruising, it can also slow the car in traffic or even bring it to a full stop if a collision is imminent.
Forward and side visibility is good thanks to relatively narrow A-pillars; many new cars these days are wider in this area, and it can hinder visibility. Rearward visibility is hampered with the rear headrests up, but on most trim levels these can be folded down when not carrying backseat passengers.
Chevrolet Impala offers sharp looks, roomy dimensions and impeccable road manners.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Laura Burstein wrote this report after driving the Chevrolet Impala in the San Diego area. Ron Sessions also contributed to this report.