This weekend, I drove a brand new, 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ (this is the only trim level shipping to dealers at the moment at least in my area). Let's call this an abbreviated review because I am at work and would prefer not to get fired.
Full Disclosure: Chevrolet didn't want me to drive this car. At all. I can't afford it. I wouldn't buy it if I could (based solely on price) and I'm not a large car buyer. I did not get wined or dined. No perks. Just a couple of dollars for fuel and the car. That's all I needed.
Let me start by telling you the things I liked. There are many. The exterior styling (pictures taken by me for the dealership I still work for on occasion) translates much better in person. I'm still not sold completely on the rear, however, style is subjective and it's a huge step above the Malibu in terms of styling.
The interior of the Impala is spacious and truly excellent. Your children could play in their own zip codes in the back seat. The quality of the details throughout the exterior carry into the interior. The entire interior above the hip line is swathed in soft, cushy, solid feeling materials that flow very well together. Build quality seemed top notch. Why above the hip line? Because this is a Chevy, not a Cadillac. Again, the interior looks and feels far better in person than it does through pictures. I can't touch it through pictures and I'm definitely an interior toucher.
Then there is Chevrolet's much touted MyLink system. It's been said, numerous times that the system in the latest Impala took parts from Cadillac's CUE system. When I used the CUE system for the first time in an XTS, I came away unimpressed. The graphics and overall design was pleasant, but the responsiveness just wasn't there. We are Americans and what do we want? Everything? When do we want it? Right now! I simply couldn't deal with the delays.
The same could be said for the system in the new Impala. It's ok but feels half baked. The UConnect system in the Chrysler 300 I drove was far superior to this in almost every way. One of the most maddening issues with this system is the volume control. There was a good 3-5 second delay (depending on what inputs the car was trying to compute at the time) between volume changes. This is unacceptable.
Moving right along. The ride and handling of this car can only be described as controlled and quiet. The chassis tuning won't remind you of a Lotus, however, body roll was kept to a minimum. Bumps and imperfections in the road, and there were many, did not permeate the cabin as I expected they might. This is a comfortable, competent highway cruiser that can also go around corners without rustling any jimmies.
Acceleration from the 3.6 litre V6 was linear and controlled. When demanded, the 6 speed gearbox acknowledge and dropped a few cogs, thrusting the car forward. Again, not a sports car, but plenty fast. Shifts were quick and I didn't detect any of the gear searching that I have found in many GM cars of late. I would like to sample a 2.5 4 cyl when it comes out to compare. I understand it's a heavy car, however, so is the Malibu and it does just fine with a four cylinder motor. I will not comment on fuel economy. The Impala is a large full sized car with a V6 engine. It's not great.
The car certainly has a presence about it when you approach it. It looks aggressive, yet, classy all at the same time. I firmly believe that at an MSRP of just under $40,000 that this car's value proposition seems steep. Having said that, I don't see any problem with people dropping almost 40 large for a fully optioned Impala LTZ. It's a high quality machine that coddles it's user while providing a reasonably rewarding driving experience.
I fear that this will encroach too much on the reasoning behind the Buick LaCrosse. My hope is that Buick's refresh of the LaCrosse moves it, and it's interior materials, above the Impala. Only time will tell but I think GM is taking a little bit of a gamble here.
Overall, the best praise I can give this car is that it's not your grandfather's Impala. Nor your dad's. That truly is high praise. The 2014 Impala is quiet, comfortable and tech laden. Those things sell these days.