Full 2010 Chevrolet Impala Review
What's New for 2010
The performance-oriented SS model has been dropped from the 2010 Chevy Impala's lineup. The only other item of note is that the less expensive 1LT trim level can now be ordered with a new Convenience package that largely takes the place of the now-discontinued 2LT trim.
When you reach a certain age, you come to respect any product that's been around as long -- and been through as many changes -- as you have. In the automotive world, the Chevrolet Impala would be a good example -- it's been around in various incarnations since the late 1950s.
Of course, the danger with such longevity in both people and products is that they can fail to keep up with the times. Not in a trendy, chasing-the-latest-fad way, mind you, but in a practical sense that helps them feel fresh and relevant. The full-size 2010 Chevrolet Impala sedan is a prime example of a long-established product that's fallen just a tad behind the curve. It's not that there's anything glaringly wrong with the Impala per se, it's just that there are a number of areas where its rivals have pulled ahead in recent years.
First, let's give credit where credit's due. The Impala, which carries over largely unchanged for the 2010 model year, remains a solid large family sedan. It meets all the basic requirements to compete in this category, including a smooth ride, quiet interior with seating for six, decent crash test ratings and a generously sized trunk.
The problem is that the Impala doesn't really excel in any of these areas. Add the fact that this perennial top-seller remains hamstrung by bland styling, some cheap-looking interior materials and underwhelming powertrains and it risks looking like a four-wheeled fuddy-duddy.
A quick check of the full-size sedan competition illustrates our point. Both the Hyundai Azera and Toyota Avalon offer roomier and more luxurious interiors, while the newly redesigned Ford Taurus represents a storied car that's actually been brought up to date with a modern interior and technology. There are also the rear-wheel-drive Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger models that both have distinctive styling and better handling to recommend them.
And yet, despite all this, we can't argue with the Chevy Impala's largely successful five-decade track record. It might be behind the curve, but apparently the Impala's combination of familiarity and midpack performance keep it just competitive enough to attract the attention of an awful lot of buyers.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
For 2010, the Chevy Impala is offered in three basic trim levels including the LS base model, midrange LT and top-of-the-line LTZ. Entry-level LS models come standard with 16-inch steel wheels, dual-zone air-conditioning, front bucket seats with a six-way power driver seat, full power accessories, a tilt steering wheel, OnStar and a six-speaker CD audio system (with satellite radio and an auxiliary audio input jack). Stepping up to the LT gets you 16-inch alloy wheels, remote engine start, a compass and outside temperature display.
Spring for the top-of-the-line LTZ and you get 18-inch alloy wheels, a slightly firmer suspension, heated outside mirrors and a rear spoiler. Interior goodies include leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power passenger seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and a premium Bose eight-speaker audio system.
The Impala's option packages make it possible to add many of the desirable standard features found on the LTZ to the less expensive LT. The LS and LT can also be ordered with a front bench seat, while the LT and LTZ trims can be had with an optional sunroof.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Chevrolet Impala is offered with your choice of two different powertrains. LS and LT models come equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 211 horsepower and 216 pound-feet of torque. A 3.9-liter V6 that puts out 230 hp and 235 lb-ft is standard on top-of-the-line LTZ versions only. Both engines are mated to a four-speed automatic transmission that drives the front wheels and both engines return respectable EPA fuel economy estimates. The 3.5-liter V6 is rated at 18 mpg city/29 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined, while the 3.9-liter engine numbers drop to 17 city/27 highway and 21 mpg combined.
The Impala's list of standard safety equipment includes antilock brakes, electronic stability control, side-impact airbags for front seat occupants and side curtain airbags that cover both rows. The OnStar emergency communications system is also standard.
In government crash testing, the Impala earned the highest possible five-star rating in frontal crash tests; for the side-impact tests, it emerged with five stars for front passengers and four stars for rear seat occupants. Tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the Impala's performance as a second-best "Acceptable" in frontal crashes and a top rating of "Good" in side impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior of the 2010 Chevrolet Impala is a microcosm of all that's right and wrong with this full-size sedan. From a design standpoint, the Impala's interior gets points for overall quietness and the straightforward layout and operation of its gauges and audio/climate controls. That said, its uninspired styling and the use of low-grade materials on some trim levels makes the cabin feel a bit utilitarian.
Viewed from a strictly practical perspective, though, it's hard to argue with the Impala's cabin. There's seating for up to six passengers -- something that's increasingly rare in modern sedans -- with the 40/20/40-split front bench that's offered as an option on LS/LT models. Hip- and shoulder room is good all around, though competitive models offer a bit more legroom.
The spacious trunk will swallow more than 18 cubic feet of cargo which, while not class-leading, is still fairly impressive. The fold-flat rear seatbacks and large trunk pass-through (an option on LS/LT models and standard on LTZ) make it possible to carry longer items with the trunk lid closed.
When it comes to driving the 2010 Chevrolet Impala, the "competent but uninspiring" trend continues. Now that the sportier SS model is history, we're left with two available powertrains that produce acceleration that can best be described as adequate. While both engines are fine for casual motoring, they begin to feel rather anemic when driven back-to-back with the significantly more robust V6s under the hoods of the Impala's competitors.
The Impala's suspension is tuned to emphasize comfort, and it delivers an exceptionally smooth ride. Naturally there's a price to be paid for this cushiness, namely relatively lackluster handling that encourages a slow-but-steady approach to winding roads.