When car buffs debate muscular daily drivers of an earlier generation, the Chevrolet Impala name tends to crop up.
Introduced in 1959, the Impala typically rolled out some of the larger, more popular Chevy brands. DependableV-8 engines powered the spacious all-American coupes, four-doors and convertibles, which could ferry a family to the lake or manage a teenager on a date with equal skill.
Decades later, the Impala remains a big seller for Chevrolet, although in recent years its looks seemed ready for a makeover.
The carmaker obliged, unveiling a sleek streamlined Impala for 2014. The near-luxury four-door comes available with a six cylinder, 305-horsepower engine, leather upholstery, fold down rear seats that open to the trunk and 29 mpg fuel numbers on the highway. The upper end, LTZ package carries a sticker price below $38,000, based on a well-equipped model at Mount Pleasant Chevrolet last week.
"This is a complete redesign, (part of) the new faces of Chevy," said Norman Sasnett, sales associate for the U.S. Highway 17 dealership.
He said high-tech work on the model included crafting "the whole redesign in a wind tunnel," helping the manufacturer develop an especially quiet ride.
"We wanted to compete with luxury manufacturers" such as Jaguar and Lexus and upscale models such as the Toyota Avalon and Mazda6, he said.
With the new Impala, Chevrolet "designed from the inside, out," Sasnett said. The engineering work resulted in ample interior space, notably more head and leg room.
The Impala received an upgraded Chevy MyLink voice and touch-screen audio and navigation system also found in the new Silverado and the Corvette Stingray.
Choices under the hood include a four-cylinder 196-hp engine capable of 31 mpg on the highway or the six-cylinder 305-hp VVT direct injection powertrain getting 29 mpg in open driving. The car's shod with 19 inch aluminum wheels.
Inside, the new Impala serves up convenient controls such as buttons on the steering wheel to scroll through the eye-level driver information center. Meanwhile, the "completely upgraded" voice recognition system more effectively picks up accents and other speech patterns, Sasnett said.
Among new perks: an oversized sunroof extends into the back seats, and a hidden storage compartment can be accessed behind the center console screen.
Chevrolet upgraded the car's safety systems, adding or updating the backup camera, a collision alert system, park assist and blind spot warning lights in the side view mirrors.
Heated seats and dual climate control are among the interior perks as are controls that can change the color and lighting of viewing screens.
For audio-visual gadgets, phones and tablets, the Impala installed two extra USB ports and an additional MP3 player hookup.
The new sedan, which seats five, shows off multi way power seats for the driver. Rear seating room is ample, Sasnett said. Family-friendly features include a trunk that opens electronically and an abundance of cupholders, including two with the fold-down rear armrest.
Chevrolet offers a generous warranty with the Impala: two years, 24,000 miles maintenance coverage, three years, 36,000 miles bumper to bumper protection and five years, 100,000 miles powertrain coverage as well as five year, 100,000 miles' roadside assistance.
In a couple hour test drive last week of the LTZ version priced at $37,100, the 2014 Impala proved to be comfortable, reliable and moderately powerful.
LED daytime running lights mark the shapely front of the car, which also prominently showcases the iconic bowtie logo in the understated grille. The oversized wheels give the Impala a throwback link to its muscle-car days.
On the inside, the full-sized sedan stands out with soothing leather seats and high-end appointments such as wood-grained dashboard accents. Drink holders shaped into the door panels are a nice touch. Maybe the Impala's best interior feature involves the extra roomy, pop-open trunk and the fold-down rear seats that can provide extra deep cargo space. The seats fold in a 60-40 configuration so one seat can stay up while the other is down flat for storage.
The dashboard offers a distinctive front design, pulled together artistically by a thin metal strip running from door to door.
Another keen interior feature involves the audio-navigation system's ease of use. The driver or front passenger can touch the screen to control audio and mapping functions or alternately employ the MyLink voice recognition or manual controls on the console and steering wheel. The driver information center offers pertinent information such as a subtle warning if you're low on fuel. One of the most innovative devices would be the hidden storage bay, revealed when the screen slides up after hitting a button.
From a performance standpoint, the Impala's six-cylinder engine proved to be up to the task, accelerating smoothly on city streets and thoroughfares. Brakes worked well.
The only mild let down was the steering, responsive but hardly tight and lacking a strong feel of the road.
Still, the new Impala brought back memories of the brand's special appeal 40 and 50 years ago while at the same time upgrading looks, comfort and innovations to keep pace and even surge ahead in today's competitive automotive field.
For learn more, visit your local Chevrolet dealer.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.