When Chevrolet reworked its Impala full-size sedan for 2014, the transformation was stunning. Instead of a bland, dowdy four-door like the previous Impala, the reworked version could truly be called beautiful, as well as comfortable, appealing, and abundantly equipped. Fuel-efficient, too.
With a heritage dating back to 1958, peaking during the legendary muscle car era of the 1960s and early 1970s, the Impala name has stood for performance and distinction in the Chevrolet lineup. Recent generations of the Impala have shirked that duty, but the current generation harks back to the nameplate’s illustrious past.
For 2016, little has changed other than adding Apple CarPay to the MyLink smartphone interface. There’s also a new option for wireless smartphone charging. Today’s Impala is connected to the digital world.
Much of the Impala’s running gear is shared with the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XTS. Inside, the dashboard shows intensive work, though a more subdued approach would have been nicer.
Equipped with stop/start technology, the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine makes 196 horsepower. That’s sufficient to propel an Impala most of the time. Still, even a brief, modest hill saps strength. EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 2.5-liter Impala is 22 mpg in city driving, 31 mpg on the highway.
With a V6 under the hood, the Impala turns into quite an energetic performer, neatly matching its engaging mix of comfort and well-composed handling. Generating 305 horsepower, the V6 mates with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy for the 2016 Chevrolet Impala with the 3.6-liter V6 engine is rated by the EPA to be 19 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, or 22 mpg combined.
Even with available 20-inch wheels, occupants can expect a neatly damped ride. Electric power steering reacts promptly and doesn’t feel too heavy.
The Impala is more spacious than the Ford Taurus, Hyundai Azera and Toyota Avalon. Impala boasts supportive seats up front. Headroom falls short in the flat, bench-type back seat, though legroom satisfies.
Ten airbags are standard. Optional on LT trim, a backup camera is standard on the LTZ.
Infotainment meets today’s standards. Bluetooth is standard in V6 models. Navigation is available. Chevrolet’s MyLink system, using an eight-inch LCD touchscreen; has space for a thousand contacts. OnStar with 4G LTE provides a built-in wi-fi hotspot.
The Chevrolet Impala is a gorgeous car, with crisp, attractive body lines.
Viewed from the rear, the sophisticated elegance of the design strikes the eye. Even though the hood is filled with ribs and lines, it looks reasonably unadorned. At the back doors, designers created a complex convergence of surfaces, not unlike the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. Impala looks like the Buick LaCrosse, adding an extra crease at the shoulder line.
Inside, the twin-cowl dashboard looks cluttered. Although less flashy than the dash in the Toyota Avalon, it’s burdened with an overdone mishmash of materials, colors and textures. Controls work nicely, though.
Tall, wide doors make entry/exit easy. Well-shaped seats are upholstered in cloth, except for leather in the LTZ. Front-seat comfort is fine, but back-seat headroom is somewhat skimpy for taller folks. Rear-seat cushions are nearly flat, if slightly short.
Leg space is good all around, and rear legroom nears limousine-like. Four adults fit neatly and comfortably inside an Impala. Visibility is good in each direction.
With 18.8 cubic feet of space, the trunk is shallow but its flat floor reaches beyond the back window. Cargo bins hold plenty. Impala LT and LTZ models have a concealed chamber behind the touchscreen. Tap a button and the screen rises.
The Chevrolet Impala delivers some of the finest road manners among non-luxury, family sedans. In addition to quick, accurate electric steering and admirable handling, Impala delivers a well-controlled ride. Suspension damping varies depending on the pavement imperfections: stiffer when faced with small ones, but less firm when rolling through bigger bumps.
Rebound-type springs reduce body lean in curves. Even with the noisier 20-inch wheels and tires, ride control is effective. In our view, the well-balanced, wholly composed Impala scores higher than a Ford Taurus, Hyundai Azera, or Toyota Avalon: comfortable, without sinking into sloppiness.
Short on midrange passing response on faster two-lane roads, the four-cylinder engine performs most enthusiastically in the city. Active noise cancellation makes it surprisingly quiet, though.
Acceleration is smooth and eager with the V6, which has a louder exhaust. Fuel-saving technology from the 6-speed transmission can yield occasional jumpiness. Unless you apply just the right amount of throttle pressure, the result may be like a half-shift, felt when the transmission’s torque converter unlocks too abruptly. Manual-shift mode is accessed via a switch on the gearshift lever, which isn’t easy to use.
Safety features include blind-spot monitoring; lane-departure and forward-collision warnings, adaptive cruise control, and rear parking sensors. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave Impala a five-star overall rating.
With strong V6 acceleration and appealing ride/handling, this is the best-equipped Impala in recent years. Prices can reach well past $40,000 if you pick an LTS and you’re imprudent with the option list. A well-equipped LT runs closer to $32,000.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.