Consumer Reports Ranks Chevrolet Impala “Top Sedan” *
By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Helena, Mont. – Trying to be a devoted son and daughter-in-law, we promised Bill’s mother, who lives in Helena, Mont., that we would come to visit – soon. A couple weeks later, there was a break in our travel schedule during Independence Day holiday, so we decided we had better go while we could. Over the years, we have discovered it is nearly as quick and convenient to drive to Montana rather than fly. Besides, we are suckers for a road trip. After checking with the press fleet manager to see what cars were available for a road trip , the car that seemed best suited was the 2014 Chevrolet Impala LT.
Before dawn July 4th, we loaded our luggage in the car along with snacks, sodas, bottle water and a selection of audio books. We also stuck the new Cobra iRadar system on the windshield and we were ready to go. (Bill isn’t an excessive speeder, but he does tend to drive five to ten mph over the limit and the detector helps keep him out trouble and it performed well warning us several times to be careful.)
The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is quite a handsome car with its wide stance, simple horizontal grille, dressed up with the iconic bow tie logo. The sides have strong accents with crisp lines that convey a feeling of motion. The Impala looks good in photos and even better in person.
We disagree over the interior, however. Bill likes the expressive dash treatment that looks like a twin cockpit, while Barbara thinks it’s too cluttered and busy – “a dust collector”.
The interior is very comfortable and is significantly larger (3.5-inches more front legroom and 2.2-inches more rear legroom) than the previous generation. The double cockpit layout features French stitching, and other tasteful accents all in high quality materials. We liked the handy concealed compartment behind the eight-inch motorized screen. Push the button and the screen moves up about six inches allowing access to a little compartment behind it. And Chevrolet designers were thoughtful enough to include a USB port in it, so a phone can be charged, with serving as the Bluetooth® link to the MyLink system.
With its low coefficient of drag (0.296 CD for the four-cylinder version – slightly higher for the V-6 version), noise-reducing acoustic laminated glass, triple-sealed doors and other acoustic techniques the 2014 Chevrolet Impala is remarkably quiet. The four-cylinder versions even have an Active Noise Cancellations system that eliminates most engine noise in the cabin.
The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is offered in five trim levels: LS, 1LT, 2LT, 1LTZ and 2LTZ. The standard engine in all models is a 195-hp Ecotec® four cylinder. The LT and LTZ versions have an available 305-hp 3.6-liter V-6 option. Both engines drive the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Our Montana car was the 2LT version with the V-6.
The V-6 is rated at 19 city and 29 mpg highway and Chevy says it will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, but we think it’s faster. Passing power is excellent, which was especially handy on two lane highways that we had for about a third of our trip. But what impressed us the most was our roundtrip fuel economy — 28 .1 mpg. That’s with going over two mountain passes and driving for hours at 75 to 85 mph.
The six-speed automatic transmission is very smooth and positive, but we both don’t like the manual shift mechanism. Rather than having paddle shifters or a gated shifter, the Impala manual shifter uses a button mounted no the top of the shifter handle. When the transmission is pulled back to the manual mode, the driver can push the toggle button to shift up or down as needed.
However, when the shifter is pulled back it requires the driver to put an arm back in a really awkward and uncomfortable position to shift. Other than the shifter, the controls are well placed on the steering wheel and center stack.
The Chevrolet MyLink entertainment and communications system works well and provides easy access to the audio and navigation system. It uses a linked cell phone to provide a variety of handy services like Pandora, On Star, weather and hands-free phoning. The touch system has gesture recognition, which reacts to subtle, swipes, flicks, clicks and drags to activate and personalize the system. It works more like the screen on one of the smart phones. It also has an advanced natural voice recognition system, and it even recognized most of our commands – and that’s unusual.
The 2014 Chevrolet Impala has a long list of available safety technologies including forward collision alert, lane departure warning, side blind-zone alert, rear cross traffic alert and collision mitigation braking. There is also a rear camera system, rear park assist and an available full speed range adaptive cruise control that will stop the car if the vehicle ahead stops. Cruise is reactivated when the driver pushes the resume button on the stalk.
The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is built on the same Epsilon platform used for the Buick LaCrosse and the Cadillac XTS. The platform is underpinned with a sophisticated four-wheel independent suspension, electric variable-assist steering and the brakes have the GM developed and patented DuraLife™ rotors. The specially treated rotors have a longer life expectancy, eliminate shutter and always look bright and rust free.
The 2014 Chevrolet Impala prices range from $27,535, including the destination charge, for the LS up to $36,580 for the 2LTZ model. Load the LTZ with the two available packages, MyLink and the adaptive cruise control and the price can go to just over $41,000. But what a car!
Since 2004, the Impala has been America’s best-selling full-size sedan. However, that’s been mostly due to strong fleet sales. For example, 70 percent of the 169,000 Impala’s sold last year went to fleets. Chevrolet officials hope to reverse that trend with 70 percent of the new car sales going to retail consumers. Plans call for continuing to build the previous generation Impala exclusively for fleet sales for an undetermined time.
A road trip tells a great deal about a car, and the 2014 Chevrolet Impala was a standout on our Montana trip. The car is comfortable, economical, fun to drive and it looks good. We think it could be the best sedan Chevrolet has ever built.
*Here’s part of the Consumer Report release we received this morning:
Outscores luxury competitors costing as much as $20,000 more
YONKERS, NY—With a phoenix-like turnaround, the revamped 2014 Chevrolet Impala has changed the landscape of Consumer Reports ratings by earning the top spot overall for all sedans—and taking a position that has been held by Japanese and European models for at least the last 20 years.
The Impala has gone from the bottom of its class in Consumer Reports ratings, with a mediocre test score of 63—too low to be CR Recommended—to an “Excellent” 95 that places it not only at the top of its “Large Sedan” category, but also among the top-rated vehicles Consumer Reports has tested. Only two vehicles have a higher test score; the Tesla Model S hatchback and the BMW 135i coupe.
“The Impala’s performance is one more indicator of an emerging domestic renaissance,” said Jake Fisher, director of Consumer Reports automotive testing. “We’ve seen a number of redesigned American models—including the Chrysler 300, Ford Escape and Fusion, and Jeep Grand Cherokee— deliver world-class performance in our tests.”