Chevrolet Impala

Debut: 2013
Maker: General Motors
Predecessor: Impala (2005)

 Published on 18 May 2013 All rights reserved. 

Back in the 1960s, Chevrolet Impala was the most popular car in America. It once sold 1 million units a year there, which is still an all-time record. However, that was nearly half a century ago. To those not old enough to remember its hey days, Impala is more a rental car or supermarket bargain. It still registered decent sales because the majority went to fleets at peanut prices. After 3 decades of falling, General Motors says the new, 10th generation Impala will be different. It will compete squarely with class rivals and have 70 percent sales go to retail. How does it implement the plan? No magic actually, just follow the class norm by offering an attractive style, modern technology and proper build quality.

At a first glance to its looks, the impression is not very positive. Sure, its designer tries very hard to inject style into the sheet metal, but the design is overdone and lacks coherence. Up front, it looks as aggressive as a Camaro, something should be avoided for a class targetting at conservative buyers. At the back, it looks more like an Audi. Turn to the side, its very long tail leads to an ill-proportion. Even though a dramatic crease line running around the rear wheel arch attempts to shift more weight to the rear and mask its wrong proportion, it still looks unbalanced. You can easily see it is derived from a smaller FWD platform (Opel Insignia's Epsilon II), having the wheelbase extended to the maximum possible yet still needs an extraordinarily long rear overhang to realize a 5-meter-plus length in order to fit into the large car class. In short, it looks unnatural.

The underpinnings are better. Epsilon II provides a modern component set like MacPherson struts and multi-link suspensions, electrical power steering, 6-speed automatic transmission and a 3.6-liter dual-VVT V6 good for a class-leading 305 horsepower. The engine is especially worth praising. Its power delivery is smooth and linear, not especially torquey at 264 lbft, but still it manages to propel the Impala from zero to sixty in 6 seconds, which is among the fastest in the class. Moreover, its exhaust is tuned to sound better than other applications on GM cars, including Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XTS which are also derived from the Epsilon II. Unlike these cars, the Impala employs ordinary MacPherson struts up front instead of the more sophisticated Hiper Struts. In my opinion, it is wise to avoid the extra cost as the V6 is not torquey enough to cause torque steer. Instead, Impala invested on more sophisticated dampers with rebound springs, reinforced strut towers, hydraulic bushings and urethane bump stops to improve its ride and body control.

On the road, the Impala is surprisingly able. Well, it is definitely not a driver's car like Ford Fusion, but for a front-wheel-drive large saloon its handling is actually quite good. Its structure feels solid. It turns into corner with an enthusiasm missing on the aforementioned sister cars as well as Ford Taurus. The steering offers little feel but it is nonetheless precise and obedient. Body control is better than imagined while ride comfort is exceptional. It feels composed on a variety of roads. Speed bumps cannot upset its composure.

Supporting this sense of refinement is the NVH engineering that GM values so much in recent years. Extensive use of bushings, insulation forms, laminated glass and triple door seals guarantee the cabin to be a quiet place. In fact, it is probably the quietest in the class.

The old Impala was not especially spacious in the cabin. As the new car has been repositioned more squarely to the large car class to distant itself from Malibu, its passenger space got the most benefit. The combined legroom of front and rear seat is increased by 145 mm. The cabin is now bigger than most other in the class, including Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus and Hyundai Azera. This mean six-footers will find plenty of room both front and back. The interior styling also emphasize the sense of spaciousness, thanks to a low-mounted dashboard (like Jaguar XJ). The design is quite radical for its class. You can also opt for leather upholstery. Unfortunately, fit and finish is not as good as its Japanese and Korean rivals. On the plus side, the infotainment system called MyLink is quite intuitive and powerful with its 8-inch touch screen and 3D navigation.

Alright, the new Impala surprises us with its fine handling and performance as well as exceptional ride and refinement. However, its styling and build quality remain below average. Although the V6 is good, lesser engines, like the 2.4-liter e-Assist and 2.5-liter direct-injected four-cylinder are not competitive enough, and it lacks of a really green model. In a segment which is shrinking, it is harder and harder to survive, let alone increasing sales. I would advise GM to combine the Impala with Malibu in the next generation, making a medium-size vehicle that could be sold worldwide (including China) rather than one US-bounded large car and one global car which is criticized to be too small. If it wants to keep the legendary nameplate, it may use to brand the long-wheelbase version. How about Malibu Impala?

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Impala 2.5
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5115 / 1855 / 1495 mm
2837 mm
2499 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
196 hp
186 lbft
6-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
1655 kg
132 mph (c)
Impala 3.6 V6
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5115 / 1855 / 1495 mm
2837 mm
V6, 60-degree
3564 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
305 hp
264 lbft
6-speed automatic
F: strut
R: multi-link
1735 kg
149 mph (c)

Performance tested by: *C&D

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