I saw my first Chevrolet Impala in 1958. The triple taillights told me it was different than the Bel Air parked next to it. The Impala remained atop the Chevrolet hierarchy, until it was replaced by the Caprice in 1965.
With few exceptions, the Impala has not been heavily sought after by enthusiasts. It, on the other hand, is a favourite of people seeking a roomy, comfortable and long lasting ride at a fair price. I racked up more than 2,000 kilometers in an Impala LT recently. My expectations were not very high. It had been years since I had driven one and had relegated it to the lower end of my “desirable” list. Actually the Impala was not on it.
I have been converted.
The 2018 Impala in mid-level LT trim, proved a very enjoyable way to rack up miles and hours. Surprisingly modern in interior design and execution, it also proved adept at tackling the twisties, a trait I had not expected. As expected, the ride was smooth and comfortable. Unexpected, was the smoothness of the drivetrain, and the agility for such a large and heavy vehicle.
GM’s well-proven 3.6-litre V6, with an output of 305 horsepower, packed plenty of punch. It also yielded an impressive average of 9.8 litres/100 km over the duration of my use. The six-speed automatic was perfectly transparent, shifting imperceptibly with no hunting for the right gear. The transmission may be shy a few ratios compared to some competitors, but the V6 provides enough torque to cover that shortfall.
Quiet and spacious is the best way to describe the interior.
There is an almost vault-like serenity on the road, with neither wind nor road noise evident. The front buckets are broad and soft, yet supportive. There is lots of head, leg and shoulder room in the second row for two big adults. A tall center tunnel makes it necessary for a third person to put one foot on either side.
There are nice big knobs for primary audio and HVAC functions. The MyLink system has good, and bad points. Pairing a phone is easy and you can use the voice-activation system to not only place calls, but also control the nav and entertainment systems. But, deeper into the system you will find the need to use swiping motions, which are not only distracting, but inaccurate.
Impalas of a generation or two ago were known for their “cheap and cheerful” interiors with plenty of hard surfaces, lots of plastic, and vinyl applied somewhat haphazardly. No more.
The 2018 Impala, in mid-level LT trim, could easily compete against luxury vehicles costing $20,000 more.
The materials are of high quality, and fit and finish first rate. The top of the IP and the door panels have simulated stitching that closely resembles the real thing. The seats are covered in a leatherette that closely mimics leather.
The doors open nice and wide, making for ease of entry and exit. Visibility is somewhat restricted, with thick A-pillars up front. The tall trunk lid and deep back shelf leave only a narrow slot to look through. Thankfully a rear view camera is standard equipment.
The bottom line is the bottom line. At $35,000 the 2018 Chevrolet Impala offers a well-built and appointed, extremely roomy and comfortable car at a price that begs comparison with anything with similar properties. Is it a hot sports sedan? No. Will it be the envy of the neighbourhood? No. Will it serve a big family tirelessly and for many trouble-free years? Yes, at a cost much below most competitors.
Model: 2018 Chevrolet Impala 1LT
Engine: 3.6-litre, V6, 305- horsepower, 264 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
Transmission: six-speed automatic
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 12.7/8.5
Length: 5,113 mm
Width: 2,141 mm
Wheelbase: 2,837 mm
Weight: 1,711 kg
Price: $34,445 base, $36,295 as tested, including freight
Competition: Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon.
Standard equipment: dual zone automatic climate control, MyLink radio with colour touch screen, Bluetooth streaming, voice-activated technology, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability; cruise control, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, rear view camera, power driver seat, tilt & telescope steering wheel, power heated mirrors, 18-in alloy wheels,
Options on test vehicle: none