GM’s Impala vaults to top of class
By Mike Mathes
The 2014 Chevrolet Impala

If you want to find the top rated Consumer Reports sedan, you don’t have to look far from home.

For the first time in at least 20 years, a U. S. auto maker has outscored all foreign competitors, moving to the top of its class.

The Chevrolet Impala, newly designed and refreshed, is one of 18 new or improved offerings among GM vehicles this year.

While its predecessor, the older model Impala, scored in the 60’s for a Consumer Reports point rating, the 2014 Impala topped out the list of sedans with a 95 rating.

My test drive proved that rating to be well-deserved. Greeted by Justin Brantmeier and Jerry Nett at Vande Hey Brantmeier GM, it didn’t take long to learn some of the benefits of the new Impala from their vantage points.

I took the back seat first, and marvelled at the leg room and quiet ride. We easily conversed between the front and back seats with out straining to hear or shouting. The ride was cushion-like as we pulled out through town toward the countryside. Built on the same platform as the Buick LaCrosse and the Cadillac XTS, the Impala offers a ride that is incredibly comfortable.

It was easy to concur with the Consumer Reports view of the Impala, which states, “....the spacious cabin sets a new standard for Chevrolet fit and finish with generally high-quality materials and trim. The backseat is roomy and comfortable, the trunk is huge and controls are refreshingly intuitive and easy to use.”

At the controls

Riding as a passenger only made me anxious to take my turn behind the wheel—to have a chance to take this beauty for a spin.

At the wheel, the driver feels both safe and in control. Acceleration was smooth and easy, as the Impala has great pickup for a sedan. In fact, the V-6, 305 horesepower engine can go from standstill to 60 miles per hour in 6.8 seconds. Even while pulling through that kind of acceleration, both driver and rider have no sense of bumpiness or jerkiness. The acceleration is as smooth as one could find.

The smooth experience of driving the Impala 2LT provided a sense of calm and comfort along the highway.

Multiple views

Impala’s impressive new dash design offers drivers a choice of two views. While taking the wheel, one can view what appears to be a stylistic, standard set of readouts for information like speed and other functions. But, a flip of the switch changes the appearance to a modernistic, digital look, with screens that change to provide each new set of information.

All of this is done conveniently by driver controls, mounted on the steering wheel, as are controls for the audio system.

Even with its automatic transmission, Chevrolet has built a manual shifting option into its handling package. By pressing a button on the shift handle, the driver can command an easy-to-manage hand-shifting effort.

Several models

Normally, the Impala 1LS starts with a base price of $26,860 but Chevrolet has rolled out a multitude of features and options that can be added by consulting with a salesperson. Trim packages come in the LS, LT and LTZ levels. The 1LT and 1LZ models have a four cylinder engine for those more conscious about fuel efficiency.

The 2LT and 2LTZ feature the V6.

As standard features on all LS models, the Impala includes 18” steel wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, full power accessories, an eight-way, power-adjustable driver’s seat, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steer wheel, a trip computer, OnStar emergency communications, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with CD player, satellite and HD radio and a 4.2 inch color display. Your i-Pod or other USB devices can easly be connected. Linking to a phone is also a capability of the new Impala’s electronic conveniences.

The LT model offers many more options grouped in packages. Some of those possible options include parking sensors, a rearview camera and cross-traffic alerts, keyless ignition, a Bose audio package, and heated seats.

Performance packages

As noted earlier, the Impala comes with a pair of engine options.

The standard engine is a 2.5 liter, 4-cylinder engine that gets an average of 21 miles to the gallon in city driving and 31 miles per gallon on the highway.

The V-6 engine has an efficiency rating of 19/29.

Late this year, GM is expected to introduce a mild hybrid version with a 2.4 liter, 182 HP engine assisted by a small 15-HP electric motor that will operate in certain conditions to save fuel. Fuel efficiency for the mild hybrid is expected to be about 35 miles per gallon.

You don’t have to take this test-driver’s word for the elegance and design improvements.

Consumer Reports says simply, “There’s little that the Impala doesn’t do well. The Impala rides like a luxury sedan while driving with agile handling.”

To schedule a test ride of the new Impala, give a call or stop in at Vande Hey Brantmeier GM, on North Madison Street in Chilton. The dealership can be reached by phone at 849-9331.

And, if you’d like to conveniently kill a pair of birds with one stone you can pull your current vehicle into the GM Express Lane for a quick oil change and inspection while you check out 2014’s top sedan.