Will the new Chevrolet Impala become “America’s Sweetheart” again?

The full-size Impala was introduced as a top-line Chevrolet in 1958 and became so popular it was nicknamed “America’s Sweetheart” by 1965, when a huge number were sold. The redesigned 2014 full-size Impala is also a model Chevy can brag about.

The full-size car market isn’t what it was in the 1960s, but there are a good number of auto buyers who want a full-size sedan with convenience and luxury features. Many are aging baby boomers who fondly recall the big 1960s American sedans.

The Chevy Impala has been redesigned for 2014
The 2014 Chevy Impala has a sleek new design. Images © James Raia, 2013

The new front-wheel-drive Impala should satisfy such folks as retirees, family hauling parents and businessmen taking clients to lunch or golf outings. It has the same solid platform as the Cadillac XTS and Buick LaCrosse.

Rivals include the Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon, Hyundai Azera, Kia Cadenza, Nissan Maxima and Chrysler 300.

(Click on thumbnails for full-size images.)

The Impala has new, sleek styling with sculpted body sides and a rear-fender swelling line seen on the venerable 1958 and 1965 Impalas.

There are three available engines that combine performance and fuel efficiency. There also is a new interior with a flowing design and increased front/rear legroom for a limo-style feel. The huge trunk has a wide but rather high opening due partly to the car’s rakish styling. Rear seatbacks fold forward and sit flat for more cargo room.

The quieter “dual-cockpit” cabin no longer has the old Impala’s rental-grade interior. It’s comfortable in there, with supportive front seats, easily read backlit gauges, convenient controls, a wraparound flow of the instrument panel into the door panels and soft-feel materials—not to mention the upscale look of the seat stitching.

The instrument panel has an easily read 4.2-inch color display with reconfigurable features for the driver information center. An eight-inch touch screen is matched with the available Chevy MyLink system on upscale models, which also have perforated leather seating.

Rear windows lower all the way, but the stiff rear-seat center is best left to the fold-down armrest with its dual cupholders.

The wheelbase is about an inch longer at 111.7 inches, with a slightly wider rear track than the previous model’s. Overall length is 201.3 inches. All wheels are large. They’re available in 18-, 19- and 20-inch sizes.

The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is heavy, at approximately 3,800 pounds, so you can’t fling it around as you would a sports sedan. However, steering, handling and braking are quite good. The ride in this rigidly built sedan is excellent. Fast cross-country cruising would be a breeze.

Safety features galore include 10 air bags and available full-speed-range adaptive cruise control, crash-imminent braking, forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning and side-blind-zone alert. An available rear-cross-traffic alert is especially handy when backing out of crowded parking areas.

Also offered are a rear camera with dynamic guidelines, ultrasonic rear-park assist, brake “pre-fill” to help shorten stopping distances, hill hold/start assist and rear-park assist. Much of that stuff once was offered only for luxury cars.

Other options, depending on the model, include a $1,050 tilt-sliding power sunroof with fixed glass aft of the sliding glass, a pushbutton start, heated steering wheel and front seats and upscale sound systems.

There are base LS, mid-range LT and top-line LTZ Impala models. They cost from $26,725 to $35,770. I tested the $29,950 2LT model with a 3.6-liter 305-horsepower V-6.

There’s also a 2.5-liter 196-horsepower four-cylinder and a 2.4-liter 182-horsepower four-cylinder with an “eAssist” feature that provides electrical assist in certain conditions to help save fuel. (It’s scheduled to be available at the end of 2013.)

I’d like a potent V-8 to be offered, but the V-6 provides fast starts (0-60 m.p.h in 6.5 seconds) and swift, smooth highway performance. Punch with the four-cylinder engines won’t be as impressive, but they still have decent horsepower. And final-drive ratios are tailored to each engine to provide the best performance and fuel economy.

Estimated fuel economy is 19 miles per gallon city and 29 highway with the V-6 and 21 and 31 with the 2.5-liter four. Chevy estimates that top economy is an impressive 25 and 36 from the 2.4-liter four with eAssist. All engines are advanced, with direct fuel injection, dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and continuously variable valve timing.

Only 87-octane fuel is required.

Engines work with a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s very responsive, but has an annoying console shifter that doesn’t easily slide from one gear to another, as, for example, when shifting from Park to Drive.

Also, there are no manual control paddles, so manual shifting of the automatic is done with tiny “plus “(for upshifts) and “minus” (for downshifts) signs atop the shifter handle. I found it best just to leave the versatile automatic shifter in “Drive” mode, although manual shifts are crisp.

The first Impala was a smart move on the part of Chevrolet. So is the new one.

Pros: Stylish. Roomy. Strong V-6. Nice ride. Secure handling. Decent economy. Technical features.

Cons: Heavy. Annoying shifter action. High trunk sill. Stiff rear seat center.

Bottom Line: Easily Chevy’s best-ever Impala.

Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.

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