Forget, if you will, the Impala's last 13 years. It shouldn't be difficult, as those sedans were as forgettable as the name of the rental agent who might have stuck you in one. As generic and uninspired as the previous-generation models were, Chevrolet may well have just named it "Car" instead of Impala.
Fortunately, the 2014 Chevrolet Impala marks a return to form. It may not have the presence of classic Impalas like the tucked-fin 1959, low-rider 1964 or bad-boy mid-'90s SS, but in a segment where "inoffensive" is one of the nicer things you can say about a full-size sedan, the new Impala is sharp. Not only will it fetch a premium rate at the rental counter, it's now worth considering at a dealer.
Better Late Than Never
Take a walk around the redesigned 2014 Chevy Impala and the styling may just win you over. Up front, the grille and headlights have a whisper of aggression, placing it somewhere within the Camaro's bloodlines. Meanwhile, the profile sports a sharp character line that stops, drops and rises around the rear haunches for some visual interest. The unimaginative rear end exhibits the only real blandness.
The Impala's rejuvenation continues inside, with a new organic design that wraps the cockpit around the driver and front passenger. The centerpiece of the new cabin is the 8-inch touchscreen running the MyLink infotainment system, which is standard starting with the midlevel LT trim.
MyLink's menus are intuitive and the display sharp, but we're disappointed by the screen's placement that puts it just out of comfortable reach. There's also too much of a delay between input and action, so hopefully future updates will improve the system's response. The screen rises to reveal a hidden bin with a USB port, à la Cadillac ATS, but unlike the Cadillac, the Impala's overall setup features more physical buttons and knobs that increase the convenience factor.
Well-Trimmed and Spacious
The majority of interior materials in the 2014 Chevrolet Impala are praise-worthy, with only one minor exception. The usual touch points are adequately padded and the leather upholstery is comparable to other large sedans. The same cannot be said of the flimsy plastic panels that fill the space between the center console and dash, though. These thin sheets flex with the lightest of fingertip pressure and feature the kind of marble texturing you'd expect from a bowling ball.
Outward visibility is comparable to other cars in the segment, which is to say, not great, but the elevated ride height does provide an SUV-like view of the road ahead. The thick A-pillars present a sizable obstacle on curving roads and the high rear deck lid keeps the Impala's perimeter line a mystery. This forces a heavy reliance on the rearview camera in tight parking spots, but at least the camera provides a useful view and is standard on the range-topping LTZ trim.
The lack of rear visibility is easily forgiven when you consider one of the culprits: a generous trunk. Measuring 18.8 cubic feet in volume, the Impala's trunk can fit 2 more cubes than the 2013 Hyundai Azera or 2013 Toyota Avalon. It can easily accommodate four golf bags with room to spare.
Hitting the Road
When it comes to actually moving people and cargo, the 2014 Chevrolet Impala does so with high levels of comfort and confidence. Our range-topping 2LTZ tester was outfitted with the optional 3.6-liter direct-injected V6 that produces 305 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of torque. The 1LTZ comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes only 195 hp and 187 lb-ft of torque. We have yet to drive the base engine to see if the $2,025 premium for the V6 is worth it. Either engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission that routes power to the front wheels. A mild hybrid Impala is set to debut later in the year.
Out at the Edmunds test track, our V6-powered Impala got up to the 60 mph mark in 6.7 seconds (6.4 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip), which is an average result among large sedans. Gearchanges are smooth and quick as the car gathers speed, and there's not even a hint of torque steer with the pedal mashed. As an added bonus, the six-cylinder doesn't sound half bad, either. Out in the real world the Impala is just as competent, passing slower traffic with ease.
The EPA estimates the V6 will turn in fuel economy figures of 18 city/28 highway mpg, which are confirmed by the 28.9-mpg result on our highway-heavy evaluation loop and 18.6-mpg average in mostly city driving. The four-cylinder engine will add another estimated 3 mpg in both cycles.
When the road begins to bend, the Impala remains composed and obedient, though the prominent body roll reminds you that this big car is tuned for comfort, not performance. Steering is feather light and relays little information to the driver, but the Impala remains true as it tracks through tight turns.
Like the suspension, the brakes also instill a fair amount of confidence. Stopping from 60 mph required 120 feet, which is about a half-car-length shorter than rivals. The pedal is on the soft side and there's quite a bit of nosedive in panic stops, but there's no disputing the brakes can get the job done even after heavy and repetitive use.
After hours in the driver seat, we found ourselves just as fresh as we were before we set out. We attribute some of this to the comfort-focused cabin, as well as the minimal demands the Impala puts on the driver. The slightly oversensitive steering on-center makes the car predisposed to wandering within highway lanes, but otherwise, the big sedan allows the miles to pass by effortlessly.
The cabin remains pleasant over a variety of road surfaces, with most imperfections shrugged off with little acknowledgement. There is some unsettling float from larger rebounds, but these conditions are admittedly rare. We would pass on adding the optional 20-inch wheels, though, as they transmit some initial harshness into the cockpit. Wind and road noise are also hushed to near silence, further minimizing fatigue.
The seats are worthy of praise, too, with appropriate cushioning and eight-way power, plus four-way lumbar adjustments up front. The taller seat height also makes getting in and out a no-stoop affair. The optional and aptly named Comfort and Convenience package adds ventilated front seats, a heated and power-adjustable steering wheel and an auto-dimming mirror, though we did find the driver-seat ventilation on the weak side.
The outboard rear seats have enough head- and legroom for the average adult male to remain comfortable for extended trips as well. The C-pillars are quite substantial, but window cutouts manage to keep passengers from feeling claustrophobic. As is typical, the center passenger will miss out on overall spaciousness, compounded by an unusually large (for a front-drive car) center hump.
The $40,000 Question
This redesigned 2014 Chevy Impala represents a significant improvement over its bland and forgettable predecessor. Not only does it exhibit some personality now, but on the whole, it's a solid choice as a large sedan.
Our 2LTZ-trimmed test vehicle is nearly fully loaded and will set you back $39,510. The only significant feature missing is the $1,695 adaptive cruise control option. Similarly equipped versions of the Toyota Avalon and Chrysler 300C sticker in roughly the same territory. Hyundai's Azera is the only comparable sedan with a significantly lower price, as it runs about $2,000 less.
Unlike in years past, the 2014 Chevrolet Impala is now competitive in this segment. It has the performance, features and space of a proper full-size sedan, along with a modern design that looks distinctive compared to its peers. It's not likely to become legendary like some of its predecessors, but it's no longer the rental sedan you would rather forget.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.