2014 Chevy Impala Review

2014 Chevy Impala
By Jim Kenzie. Toronto Star

General Motors is on a roll.
Second-quarter earnings were better than expected.
The company cleaned up in the recent J. D. Power Initial Quality survey.
And now, the new 2014 Impala full-size sedan (built in Oshawa as well as in GM’s plant in Hamtramck, Michigan) has been granted the third-highest score Consumer Reports has ever given a car.
OK, but what does Kenzie think of it? Actually, I was pretty impressed during the media preview earlier this year.
It is handsome, nicely finished, offers decent handling and a smooth and very quiet ride.
But all the cars we drove then had the 3.6-litre V6 engine. I wanted to see how the 2.5-litre four behaved before passing final judgment, because that will be the most popular engine in this car.
It works very well, indeed. It is now in showrooms, starting at $28,445.
The four-cylinder has a bit less horsepower than the previous generation’s base V6 did (196 versus 211), but gets considerably better fuel economy.
Teamed with a six-speed automatic, performance is more than adequate.
There is occasional and slight four-cylinder gruffness in the exhaust note; this is also characteristic of the high-tech, fuel-saving, direct fuel injection system.
But because the car is so well-insulated noise-wise, this is never a problem. While cruising, it is utterly silent. In fact, interior silence, augmented by active noise cancellation, might be this car’s most impressive feature.
Another minor glitch in the drivetrain was a random bobble in transmission shift quality. I couldn’t replicate this reliably, and am not sure what was causing it.
I remarked after the preview test on the new Impala’s high-quality interior. This latest tester, the mid-range LT trim level, was no disappointment. Materials and fit and finish are exemplary.
It had the optional Premium seating package, with so-called “sueded microfiber” upholstery. It sure looked and felt like suede and was nice and grippy.
It did take me a while to find a good driving position – initially it seemed like I was sitting in a too-deep bathtub.
The eight-way power seat and tilt-telescope steering wheel eventually resolved that, although the car’s stylish profile does mean visibility to the rear is limited, no matter how you adjust the seat.
The Premium package also brings eight-way power for the passenger, and both front occupants get heated seats.
Because this is bundled with a bunch of other stuff, it will set you back about $3,000. Probably worth it.
The back seat is positively cavernous, as is the trunk, both prime attributes for a car that will appeal to growing families.
Chevrolet’s MyLink touch screen for most audio, communications and climate functions is unavoidable if you go beyond the base LS trim level, which you probably will because of the other goodies you get.
Like all such devices, it suffers from illegibility under certain lighting conditions, exacerbated by fingerprints all over the screen.
This one also sometimes did not respond to my touch. For instance, often when I tried to get the Navigation screen to zoom in or out, it steadfastly refused.
One cool feature, shared with some other current GM vehicles: at the touch of a button, the screen rises up to reveal a hidden storage compartment.
Speaking of cool features, there’s an AC outlet in the back seat, so you can plug in your electrical gear without worrying about bringing along a dozen adaptors. Why doesn’t every car have one of those?
We also seem to have failed to convince GM to make automatic door locking a programmable feature. Every other car maker lets us decide for ourselves; why can’t this be our choice?
I also appear to have lost the fight against push-button ignition, which is completely pointless. The key fob for the Impala even has a proper key, the same switchblade style almost all German cars have.
In sum, no car is perfect: they all have their little peccadilloes. But my initial impressions of the 2014 Impala are borne out with the four-cylinder model.
If you’re looking for a large sedan that is handsome, roomy, smooth-riding, dead-silent, decently fuel-efficient and well-built, your Chevrolet dealership need no longer be considered foreign territory.
The vehicle tested by freelance writer Jim Kenzie was provided by the manufacturer.
Price: $28,445 for base LS model, $31,445 for LT trim, $37,910 as tested.
Engine: 2.5 litre inline four, direct fuel injection.
Power/torque: 196 hp/186 lb.-ft.
Fuel consumption L/100 km: 9.9 city, 6.3 hwy.
Competition: Buick Lacrosse, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon.
What’s best: Ultra-silent, handsome styling, roomy and classy interior, smooth ride.
What’s worst: Mylink touch-screen system is no better (but no worse) than every other such system, rearward visibility not great, occasional hiccup from transmission.
What’s interesting: Who knew General Motors could beat Toyota and Honda at initial quality?