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Review: 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ (2nd place)

The redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ has much more modern, elegant, and aggressive styling than its predecessor.
The redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ has much more modern, elegant, and aggressive styling than its predecessor.
Brady Holt

This review is part of a ten-car comparison of large sedans. The Impala is ranked second place of ten.

Although a higher level of luxury could be expected at the 2014 Chevrolet Impala's price point, it delivers an impressive level of space, comfort and quality.
Although a higher level of luxury could be expected at the 2014 Chevrolet Impala's price point, it delivers an impressive level of space, comfort and quality.
Brady Holt

2nd place: 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ
Summary review

The Chevrolet Impala was late to the party of moving full-size sedans upscale, but General Motors has done an impressive job with it.

Before its 2014-model redesign, the Impala was a relic that rode on a 1980s platform. Its space efficiency; interior layout, style, and quality; and driving dynamics were clearly subpar. It was simply a relatively cheap way to get a car that was physically very large (even though the cabin didn't provide a ton of usable space).

The new Impala is nothing like that. Ride and handling are up there with the best in the class. Interior space efficiency – while still not outstanding – has improved, and the seats are far more comfortable. And the Impala's cabin has the style, quality, and technology that are appropriate in this class and at this price range.

It certainly isn't cheap anymore, though. Sticker prices have gone up, and rebate have gone way down. Expect to pay nearly $37,000 for a well-optioned model, at a discount of just some $2,500 off the MSRP.

And although it's a commendably solid car, the new Impala still doesn't feel as much like a luxury vehicle as some buyers might demand for that price. The ride isn't as hushed as some of the best, the seats not as coddling, the in-dash screen not as slick. The car also suffers from especially poor rear visibility.

Are these niggles? Sure. But at this price, it's reasonable to be demanding.

Nice to drive

The old Impala offered neither good ride quality nor agile handling. Presumably attempts to make the car handle like it was designed in the 21st century overruled maintaining a 1980s-style ride softness, so the car wasn't competitive in either way.

The 2014 model is a huge upgrade. Ride isolation could still be improved, with part of the problem likely being the large 19-inch wheels, but the Impala is still among the smoother-riding cars in this class; bump absorption and body control both impress.

The Impala pulls off this ride quality without affecting handling. The first impression is that the car has extra-light steering, but it firms up promptly at speed and feels natural and responsive. The suspension is sorted out well enough to keep the Impala from leaning and plowing when it's pushed. It's not sports-sedan agile, but it stands apart from most competitors.

Like the steering, the Impala's acceleration feels lazy in gentle driving. You have to really dig in to get the 3.6-liter V6's 305 horsepower, but it's strong once it does come. The EPA projects 22 miles per gallon in mixed driving, which is within the normal range for this class, albeit on the low side of it. Two four-cylinder engines are also available, one of which as a gas-electric mild hybrid.

Where the Impala would benefit the most from a bit of extra investment is noise suppression. It's hardly a noisy car, even by the high standards of this class, but it's a notable just-okay point in a package that's otherwise quite strong. Stifling road rumble from “modest” to “hushed” would make the Impala a more thoroughly premium car.

Stylish cabin

Although the first impression of the Impala's steering response isn't too impressive, the cabin doesn't wait to dazzle. The tested car's “Mojave” orange leather signals that this Impala isn't ordinary. A leather piece that arcs its way along the top of the dashboard, then matching another piece atop the door panel, adds a splash of style – especially in orange. (More muted color schemes are also available.)

But the once you're past that flash, the rest of the cabin materials are pretty ordinary. Which is not to say that they're cheap, but just not all that fancy for the upper $30,000s. Though the open expanse is interrupted by a spear of woodgrain trim, the passenger side of the dash is mostly simple plastic – the stylish leather arcing far from the passenger. Some competitors are dressier.

Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system also isn't fancy. It's properly sophisticated and mostly works well, but the screen's graphics appear dull next to some competitors. It doesn't seem to be an issue with the screen itself so much as what it's programmed to show – basic, grayish icons of varied sizes. If you like simple, you'll like the Impala's display screen, but it's out of place with the effort that was put into the rest of the interior styling.

Audio controls are also needlessly fussy, requiring too-frequent visits to the infotainment system's menu. The climate controls, though, are simple and cleverly place the temperature display at the center of the temperature dials, a feature that deserves to be plagiarized.

The Impala has well-shaped comfortable front seats, with a good mix of cushioning softness yet underlying support. As in the Ford Taurus (though not as egregiously), a large, tall center console can crowd the Impala's front-seat occupants. For better or for worse, it makes the cabin feel more confined – if you don't want to feel like you're in a full-size car, perhaps you'll find it a welcome coziness, but don't expect to feel like you can spread out.

You won't have to question whether you're in a big car when you look rearward, though, and constrained visibility can make it intimidating. It's especially poor straight back thanks to the high rear deck. Whereas you usually have a “parcel shelf” between the rear seat and rear windshield, the Impala has a bulge that extends upward about six inches. A car stopped behind this Impala at a red light was invisible save the very top of its roof. Forward visibility is fortunately better than in the Buick LaCrosse, but use great care – and frequent checks of the backup camera – when reversing this Chevrolet.

The high decklid does pay off in the Impala's trunk, which is one of the best in this class at 18.8 cubic feet. Besides the sheer volume, this trunk is also well-shaped and has a conveniently large opening. One slight issue: The trunkliner is roughly cut around the hinges; most cars at this price design the liner with the hinges in mind to avoid this.

Rounding out the Impala's user-friendliness is a roomy rear seat. The cushion sits lower than ideal to allow for more head space – which is still more adequate than generous – but passengers should nonetheless be comfortable.

Overall

The Impala is a standout product in general, checking the right boxes for style, comfort, feature availability, and driving dynamics. But something intangible is missing that keeps it from getting the overall win. It's found in little details that add up – a bit of extra cabin noise here, a middling piece of cabin trim there.

Even several cars in this class that are overall inferior to the Impala – including GM's own Buick LaCrosse – could be convincingly mentioned as alternatives to luxury-brand cars. But the Impala just isn't quite at that mark. It's a highly impressive mainstream car – and indeed, like most of today's good mainstream cars, a fairly luxurious one. It's just not making the jump to the next level the way this comparison's winner does.

Overall grade: A-

- More photos of the 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ
- Report card: Rating the Impala -- how does it compare in different ways, such as comfort, performance, and fuel economy?
- Report card: Ranking the Impala -- how does it stack up for different types of buyers?

More from this comparison:
- Previous review: 2014 Kia Cadenza Premium (3rd place)
- Next review: 2014 Hyundai Genesis 3.8 (1st place)
- Introduction
- Rating the ten large sedans
- Ranking the ten large sedans
- Quick summaries of the ten large sedans: Pros, cons, conclusions

See also:
Review: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu 2LT
Review: 2014 Buick LaCrosse Leather
Review: 2011 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ
Review: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic 2LT
Review: 2011 Chevrolet Cruze 1LT

Vehicle tested: 2014 Chevrolet Impala
Vehicle base price (MSRP): $26,860
Version tested: LTZ
Version base price (MSRP): $35,770
Vehicle price as tested (MSRP): $40,105
Vehicle price as comparable (MSRP)*: $39,245
Estimated transaction price as comparable**: $36,780
Test vehicle provided by: Sport Chevrolet; Silver Spring, Md.

Key specifications:
Length: 201.3 inches
Width: 73.0 inches
Height: 58.9 inches
Wheelbase: 111.7 inches
Weight: 3,800 pounds
Trunk volume: 18.8 cubic feet
Turning circle: 38.6 feet
Engine (as tested): 3.6-liter V6 with 305 horsepower
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA city mileage: 19 miles per gallon
EPA highway mileage: 29 miles per gallon
EPA combined mileage: 22 miles per gallon
Assembly location: Michigan
For more information: Chevrolet website

* "Prices as comparable" reflect 2014 models with leather seats, a sunroof, a navigation system, a premium audio system, heated front seats, and certain other premium features.

** Transaction price estimates are based on data from Truecar.com and dealer quotes.