The trip from Baton Rouge to Houston takes about the same amount of time to drive as fly when you account for driving to the airport, going through security, then dealing with getting to the hotel on the other end. So, when a business trip came up, I decided to rent a car and make the drive. Renting a car is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you are going to get. (Yeah, Forrest, they do have a little map of the chocolates if you look at the top of the box)
This car isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The front end is a bit pedestrian and there’s not a ton of character, but it is a decent looking car even if it won’t be turning any heads. One thing I really liked was the paint. It’s a really dark midnight blue that’s practically black, but pops in the sunlight. I really appreciate that it’s blue, not purple.
The chrome around the window was nice, but I didn’t care for the chrome and blue handles. The small button on the handle activates the locks as long as the proximity key is close enough.
This was a well-appointed car with leather and navigation. I found the seats to be quite comfortable if somewhat stiff. The dash materials are fine, but some might think they are somewhat plasticky. I liked the combination of real buttons and knobs with a touch screen. I found it easy to adjust the big items - volume, fan speed, temperature - without looking. The steering wheel was nicely wrapped and had a good feel, but the controls on the steering wheel were disappointing. I’m accustomed to real buttons. Chevy provided four-way touch pads. Icky.
I didn’t spend any time playing with the navigation system or radio. I just paired my phone and left it at that. Pairing was painless and the bluetooth connection worked every time thereafter without any intervention. I started an Audible stream at the beginning of the trip and it always managed to pick up right where it left off every time I started the car. I like it when technology just gets out of the way.
The interior is fairly quiet even at freeway speeds. I didn’t feel the need to crank the volume like I do in my WRX. To be fair, these really aren’t in the same category, but it was nice to have a nice quiet car over a long trip.
The first thing I found to hate about this car is that line of chrome trim running around the dash. Chevy’s pretty proud of it, but the designers didn’t think it through. When driving through areas with trees, the chrome reflects the dark/bright pattern, so there’s a constant movement in your peripheral vision which I found very distracting. As I went from forest to prairie, it was less of an issue.
The second thing I hate about this car is the light-colored dash pad. It reflects off the windshield, adding glare where there should be none. The marketing materials show it with a black dash, so at least that is an option.
The third thing I hate is the rear view. The high waist line and long, low roof work together to make it difficult to see much out the back window. The only advantage I could see was what I couldn’t see - the headlights of the car behind me. Flash your brights all you want, I can’t see it.
Driving at night brought one surprise. That chrome is translucent and there’s some blue e-wire hiding inside. It was strange to have the interior lit up in blue. At least it was keeping with the theme.
I didn’t try out the back seat, but it appears to be very spacious. The trunk swallowed my giant suitcase with ease. Hatchbacks or wagons are preferable if you have to haul stuff, but if you have to have a sedan, this one does a fair job at stowing away the cargo.
The Impala comes with either a 2.5L four or a 3.6L V-6. Both are mated to a six-speed automatic. I assumed that my rental came with a four-banger, but the kick in the pants that came when I stepped hard on the gas told me otherwise. I was so surprised at the get-up-and-go that I looked it up at the first gas stop. I found that this car is using 305 horsepower to move around 3,800 pounds. It’s no lightweight, but it has enough horsepower to make it feel fast. Even though it was front-wheel-drive, giving it the juice didn’t produce any torque steer. I didn’t have any twisties to play in, so I can’t say much about the handling.
The transmission was another surprise. Shifts were quick and precise. It didn’t have that rubber-band feel that’s so common. There was the slightest hesitation when stomping on the gas at speed, but again, it was quick. I never felt like the car was hunting for the right gear. It offers a manual mode, but I didn’t like it. When in manual mode, shifts are handled with an up/down rocker switch on top of the shifter. It just isn’t satisfying.
The 500 miles I put on my rental were mostly highway. Even so, the overall fuel economy was 24 mpg. I attribute that relatively low number to my relatively heavy right foot.
Despite the shortcomings, the car was pretty nice. I found the interior to be comfortable if somewhat distracting, but those distractions could eliminated with either the right boxes checked on the order form or a handy can of plastidip. The engine offered enough power to keep it fun and the transmission just did its job without getting in the way.
Would I buy it? Probably not.