2014 Chevrolet Impala LT 2.5 four cylinder from North America
A mixed bag of pros and cons
Nothing whilst it was mine.
I took a week-long business trip to New Jersey recently, decided to pay the extra money to rent a "Premium" car, and ended up with this. The rental company insisted that the extra features and technology made this modest front wheel drive sedan every bit as good as a Chrysler 300C, which is more what I had my eye on. Could seven days of driving around the dense suburban sprawl of north New Jersey prove them right? Has this tenth generation (the first generation came out in 1958 and sported tail fins) of an American icon truly earned a place in the junior exec car park?
Stepping into the car, it instantly began winning me over. Gone are the acres of bland plastic that used to characterize American autos. The Impala's interior feels stylish, tight and focused, more like something you would find in a Honda or a Nissan. Sure, it's still technically all plastics, but they feel good to the touch and like it will endure through the seasons. Your attention is drawn to the MyLink info / entertainment system, with a big colour screen in the centre of the dash and a mini colour screen directly behind the wheel. It was fairly easy to navigate and I managed to set the Bluetooth link to my phone up without a hitch. I never figured out how to make it display text messages though. Alas, in America, land of the shameless cash grab, most of the really good features such as the sat nav and digital radio had to be unlocked for a fee. This was the rental company and not the car's fault though.
The best part of the car was the chassis. It's taut, nimble and communicative, and the front-wheel-drive setup works surprisingly well in the constant 90 degree turns of American suburban grids. You can really aim the car accurately, and it never feels like it's going to squirm out from underneath you no matter how hard you floor it to force yourself into a narrow traffic opening.
I got the non-hybrid LT version, which has a fairly modest 2.5 litre four-pot engine: alas, even America is beginning to feel the pressure to produce more economical, sensible cars. In short, it wasn't very good, and compared surprisingly poorly to the 1.8 litre turbo found in my fiance's Audi A6, which has very similar power and fuel economy figures. The engine has a disturbing lack of power at low revs, to the point where it feels like it's going to stall. It wakes up across the 1500 - 2500 RPM range, but then doesn't have anywhere to go from there, with no significant power at the top end. This is not a car for the enthusiastic driver.
The car definitely benefited from a six speed auto box, probably because the useful power range is so narrow. There's a manual shift mode too AKA Tiptronic, worked by a rocker switch on top of the gear stick, but it's just about the worst Tiptronic mechanism I have used in any car. Paddle shift as found on Audis, Astons and Ferraris is now de facto for this feature. Failing that, Mercedes and BMW have a fairly good system where you knock the whole gearstick from side to side. With the Chevy, it's difficult to find the tiny, black rocker switch with your fingers when keeping your eyes on the road, requiring you to pretty much keep your hand on the gear lever at all times when using it. Not good.
The best toy in the whole package was the reversing camera. This thing adds one point to the car's score all by itself. It gives you a great fish-eye view of the world behind you - good thing too, as the natural rear visibility is terrible - and will also overlay "trajectory" lines to your reversing, showing with great accuracy where the car will end up. Within mere days, I had complete confidence in the system, and wasn't even checking my rear view mirrors anymore - so 20th century.
The trunk is vast, and will easily take four full sized suitcases. As a practical family sedan, this is hard to beat.
The final drive I made in the thing was a very spirited (i.e. I was running late) drive back to airport, across 30 miles of undulating, twisting turnpike. When pushed to 60-70 mph, the Impala's equations start to come apart. It felt very uneasy over anything less than pristine highway, with the steering wheel bucking and kicking in my hands, and the engine and gearbox didn't want to give me any useful power either. This is not a car for someone who misses their old Mustang.
As with many American autos, the visibility situation is terrible. Blind spots big enough to hide a truck in lurk on every side. Even the view out the front wasn't great until I adjusted the seat all the way down. The visibility in my fiancee's dinosaur of a family car, a 2002 Mercury Grand Marquis, is far superior.
Fuel economy was not great, considering the pokey engine. About 27 MPG with a real-life combination of highway and town driving.
In conclusion: I would recommend a 2014 Impala to anyone who is knuckling down to a sensible family life, or anyone who can get a great deal on a used model. It's certainly not a driver's car though.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 17th May, 2015
18th May 2015, 18:16
America felt the pressure to build sensible and economical cars back in the 70s with the introduction of a slew of small 4 banger powered crap cars. This philosophy spiraled out of control in the early 80s when large American cars were powered by diesels, V6s, and gutless V8s. FWD mid-size American cars powered by weak 4 bangers came out back in 1982 when GM introduced the A-car (which also could be ordered with a diesel). These dark years for American cars lasted until the late 80s when American consumers had enough of that fuel mileage BS.
Bottom line: I think the new Impala is a great car that offers great value for the money and is leagues better than its FWD predecessors. It's the best one since the 96 SS. Just avoid the lousy euro inspired 4 banger.