by Adam Lynton
With a history dating back to 1958, the Chevrolet Impala is just one in a number of iconic nameplates to have worn a bowtie over the decades. The current tenth generation was introduced in 2014, and while some of the previous generations may have fallen from grace, the latest version looks to elevate the Impala in the eyes of the American public. This full-size sedan is only available in front-wheel-drive and comes in three different trims with two engine options. The LS, and LT both have a 197 horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. The range-topping Premier trim features a powerful 305 hp V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission. In the crowded sedan class, it has many competent rivals like the Toyota Avalon, Chrysler 300, Kia Cadenza, and Buick Lacrosse. Whether it can stay ahead with its bland base engine and awkward visibility is the question to ask, or is the comfortable, quiet cabin and good optional technology enough to cement its place in its class?
For 2018, the Impala gets a rearview camera and keyless entry as standard features on all models. The entry-level LS trim also gets the MyLink infotainment system, while Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and an eight-inch infotainment unit are now standard fare, together with LED daytime running lights. A new Sunroof and Spoiler package has also been made available, and the LT trim receives a heated steering wheel. The color palette has also been expanded to incorporate three new exterior options, namely Nightfall Gray Metallic, Graphite Metallic, and Cajun Red Metallic.
The front end has a mildly aggressive look with the Chevy bowtie logo in the center of the V-shaped grille flanked by dual air intakes. The LED headlights are shaped to match the grille, while the daytime running lights on the molded bumper stand out with their unique shape. The side profile is handsome, with creases running the length of the car and stylish alloy wheels in either 18 or 19-inches filling the arches. The rear is more subdued with nondescript taillights sitting beside a narrow chrome strip running the width of the car. When equipped with the V6 engine, twin chrome-tipped exhausts adorn the back end, while the four-cylinder variants hide the outlet entirely.
There's no doubt that the Impala is large. Its overall length is 201.3 inches, longer than the new BMW X5 SUV which measures 194.3 inches. The Impala has an 111.7 inch wheelbase, a width of 73 inches and a height of 58.9 inches. Curb weights range from 3,682 pounds on the LS and LT trims, to 3,812 lbs on the Premier. Comparatively, one of its chief rivals, the Toyota Avalon, is smaller overall, with a length of 195.3 inches, height of 57.5 inches and a width of 72.2 inches. The Impala has never been a small car, with the original 1958 version measuring a massive 209.1 inches in length and having a width of 77.7 inches.
There's a range of ten metallic and non-metallic colors available for the Impala, but some colors are reserved for certain trim levels while certain optional colors cost more. Black, Nightfall Gray Metallic, Blue Velvet Metallic, and Silver Ice Metallic are available on all the trims at no extra cost. Summit White is only available on the LS and LT trims. Mosaic Black, Pepperdust, and Graphite are all metallic colors available at no extra cost for the LT and Premier trims only. Iridescent Pearl at $995 and Cajun Red at $395 are the only colors that cost more and are available on the LT and Premier trims only.
The Impala was never designed to be a performance car but instead a comfortable everyday cruiser. When it comes to performance, the 197 hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder is sluggish and struggles to push the huge weight off the line. It eventually builds up momentum and is far better at cruising speeds, but the weight of the car is always lurking in the background ready to pull it back. Being front-wheel-drive doesn't help at all, and with your foot flat, there's noticeable torque-steer. At the end of the day, the base engine's job is to provide a comfortable cruise while keeping down fuel economy, and it mostly succeeds at the price of a ho-hum driving experience.
The Premier trim with the 305 hp V6 feels like a completely different car altogether. The acceleration, while not the quickest in the segment, is linear and it pushes the Impala from 0 to 60 mph in a respectable 6.7 seconds. The V6 is way more suited to a car of this size and class and brings out the best in the Impala.
In an age of turbos and hybrids, Chevrolet is still using naturally aspirated engines in the Impala with varied results. The 2.5 liter four-cylinder makes 197 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque and is probably a reasonable choice for commercial use, where companies want as much bang for their buck as possible. Many of the Impala's rivals don't offer a smaller engine option and could miss out on customers who don't need the power and associated fuel costs of a V6. To satisfy the customers who can't be bothered to drive a lethargic full-size sedan, Chevy gives the option of the V6 with 305 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque. The V6 feels more reminiscent of the Chevrolet's of old that were designed for long road trips. While not blisteringly quick, there's always enough power on tap and it never feels lethargic, coughing up an extra push whenever it's needed for overtaking. Less impressive is the standard six-speed automatic transmission: it is serviceable, but could be better. The shifts aren't the fastest and sometimes it feels like it's in limbo, not knowing whether to change gears or not. Still, it serves the daily driver purpose.
The Impala is an easy car to drive because of its laid-back persona. Just step on the gas, and it will transport you to your destination with a minimum fuss while you enjoy the space and ambience of the cabin. There's very little outside noise and while the ride can be a firm, it is still comfortable. Unsurprisingly, body roll is a bit excessive thanks to the hulking weight, but once again, this isn't a car made for flying through chicanes. The brakes are a bit spongy, but adequate, while the light and accurate steering is unexpected in a car like this. The driver's seating position is comfortable with a good view of the road ahead, which can't be said for the rear, where rearward visibility is subpar hanks to the thick pillars.
Overall the Impala is a capable day to day cruiser and will do for the odd road trip, although it won't thrill you either way. The smaller 2.5-liter engine has its place, but the V6 fits the Impala perfectly and is the difference between an average car and an excellent car.
Despite having no modern fuel-saving turbos or hybrid options, both Impala engines give decent fuel economy ratings for their respective sizes. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine gets great EPA estimates figures of 22/30/25 mpg which are great for such an enormous and heavy car. The 3.6-liter V6 obviously gets lower figures of 19/28/22 mpg, which aren't too bad either. Both engines use 18.5 gallon tanks and based on the combined scores, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder has a range of 462.5 miles, and the 3.6-liter V6 has a range of 407 miles. Comparatively, the hybrid Buick Lacrosse with its 194 hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and the electric motor gets figures of 25/35/29 mpg, while its 310 hp 3.6-liter V6 gets figures of 21/30/24 mpg.
While not quite on the premium level, the interior of the Impala is functional and stylish with both hard and soft-touch materials put together logically. All the parts that make contact with the body, including the armrest, have a soft and comfortable feel to them. Besides the dark shades, there's just the right amount of faux aluminum trim to keep it classy without going overboard. All the seats in the Impala are big and spacious and come in a range of materials to choose from. The only thing that brings down the interior is the fake wood-grain plastic on the center console - it seems stuck somewhere between real wood and plastic, distinctly cheapening the interior. The blue ambient lighting is a nice touch on the Premier trim, and all models boast roomy cabins with comfortable seating and well-dampened insulation from outside noise.
There's abundant space for five passengers with large and comfortable seats. Front passengers get a decent 39.9 inches of headroom and a lavish 45.8 inches of legroom. Rear passengers aren't quite as fortunate, but still have a respectable 39.8 inches of legroom. They also get 37.4 inches of headroom, which isn't bad but could inhibit passengers over six feet. In comparison, the Toyota Avalon has less space in the front with only 37.6 inches of headroom on most trims, and 42.1 inches of legroom. In the rear, the Avalon has slightly more headroom at 37.9 inches but less legroom at 39.2 inches. All seats are well-padded, and although they could do with some additional side bolstering, the rear seat is spacious enough for adults. Premium cloth with leatherette inserts feature on the LS and LT models, while the Premier gets the leather treatment. Getting in and out is easy, thanks to tall doors and raised seat heights. An eight-way power-adjustable driver seat is standard across the range with the passenger getting four-way manual adjustment on the LS and the LT. The Premier gets an upgrade to eight-way power-adjustable seats for the passenger.
There are a number of upholstery options ranging from cloth and synthetic leather to regular and perforated leather. The entry-level LS comes standard with a cloth and leatherette combination in Dark Titanium. The middle of the range LT comes standard with cloth and leatherette in either Dark Titanium or Jet Black with the option to upgrade to leather in Light Wheat, Dark Titanium, or Jet Black. The Premier is more upmarket and comes with perforated leather in either Jet Black, Light Wheat, or Dark Titanium. All the color combinations come with Jet Black accents.
The Impala has one of the largest cargo spaces in its class, with a whopping 18.8 cubic feet available; this tops out on the Toyota Avalon and Kia Cadenza's 16 cubic feet, and the Buick Lacrosse's 14.2 cubic feet. Not only is the cargo space one of the largest in its class, but it can also be expanded with the rear seats folded down.
In addition to the trunk space, there are also many storage nooks and crannies in the cabin, including a nifty storage area that hides behind the touchscreen. Others include a small center console storage tray together with a larger bin, as well as front seatback storage, front and rear cup holders, and front and rear door pockets.
There a number of impressive features available on the Impala depending on the trim level chosen, not to mention the optional packages that can be had. The entry-level LS is equipped with 18-inch wheels, eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, cruise control, power-adjustable mirrors, air conditioning, keyless entry and ignition and automatic headlights. The LT adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated mirrors, folding headrests, and dual-zone climate control. The range-topping Premier fleshes out the feature list with heated power seats, perforated leather upholstery, a sunroof, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and a heated steering wheel. It also gets larger 19-inch wheels.
The Impala punches above its weight when it comes to the infotainment system, with features to match some more expensive cars. It comes standard with an eight-inch touchscreen connected to Chevy's MyLink system. It also is configured to support both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and has two USB ports, six-speakers, AM/FM radio, and a trial subscription to satellite radio. Available on the Premier trim as standard, and optional on the LT, is onboard navigation, a CD player, and an 11-speaker Bose sound system. Exclusive to the Premier is also a wireless charging pad. It's refreshing to see Apple CarPlay and Android Auto offered at no extra cost and combined with a Bose sound system, as some more premium brands insist on subscription-based configurations. Thus, the Impala has a formidable infotainment unit that should please even the fussiest buyers.
There have been minor complaints about the 2018 Impala regarding USB outlets not working properly. There has also been a recall for the rear brake calipers not having enough coating, which could increase the risk of a crash. J.D. Power gives the Impala a below-average rating of only two and a half stars out of five.
The Impala comes with a five-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty and a three-year/36,000 mile general warranty. The anti-corrosion warranty runs for six-years and 100,000 miles, and there's also roadside assist offered for five-years/60,000 miles.
The NHTSA has given the Impala the best possible score of five stars out of five for overall safety scores. All other tests received full stars, with only rollover evaluations scoring four. The Impala also has impressive results in the IIHS testing, getting a best-possible score of Good in most of its evaluations, with the exception of only Acceptable for a small overlap on the driver's side.
Unlike many cars out there with only six airbags, the Impala does better with ten airbags, including head curtain airbags for front and rear passengers, knee airbags for front occupants, and thorax side-impact airbags for rear passengers. Additionally, it also comes standard with four-wheel ABS, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring, emergency braking assist, post-collision system, and a rearview camera. Many additional driver aids are part of the Driver Confidence Package, which is optional on the LT and comes standard on the Premier. It adds lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert.
The 2018 Impala is Chevrolet's flagship full-size sedan and definitely worth taking a look at. Its distinctive and stylish looks set it apart in a class known for conservative styling and boring designs. The interior is a bit dated compared to some of its rivals like the Toyota Avalon and Kia Cadenza, but it is still solid and user-friendly, and the fantastic infotainment system makes up for the shortfalls. Having large seats with lots of space means that long trips are a joy, especially with the copious amount of cargo space. Both engine options serve their purpose although the V6 would definitely be the pick for a better driving experience. Still, there are a few drawbacks to the Impala, like it's average safety scores and subpar reliability, but the base engine provides great fuel economy for those who desire it. Rear visibility is another shortfall, but it's a petty issue when looking at the all-round attributes of the Impala.
The entry-level LS starts at an MSRP of $27,895, while the middle of the range LT is priced at $30,220. The Premier tops the range at a price of $36,620. These prices exclude additional costs like taxes, licensing, and registration. There's also a destination fee of $875.
The rival Buick Lacrosse costs a little more for the entry-level sedan, with a starting price of $29,565, and setting you back around $47,070 for the top-end Avenir trim.
The Chevy Impala comes in three trims, the LS, LT, and Premier, which all use a front-wheel-drive layout. Both the LS and the LT come standard with a 197 hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with six-speed automatic transmission. The Premier features a 305 hp 3.6- liter V6, also paired to a six-speed auto transmission.
The LS starts off the range and comes with 18-inch wheels, cruise control, keyless entry, and keyless start, power-adjustable mirrors, air conditioning, power-adjustable mirrors, a rearview camera and tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. It also has an eight-inch touchscreen with Chevrolet's MyLink interface. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, two USB ports, a rearview camera, AM/FM radio, six-speakers and three months subscription to satellite radio are also standard.
The LT has the same features as the LS but adds remote engine start, heated mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power front-passenger lumbar adjustment with folding rear headrests, and dual-zone climate control.
The Premier has the same features as the lower trims, but adds 19-inch wheels, heated seats with perforated upholstery, wireless charging, ambient lighting, a sunroof, rear spoiler and xenon headlights. The infotainment unit also gets upgraded to a Bose sound system with 11-speakers, onboard navigation and a CD player. Driver aids like rear cross-traffic alert, rear park assist, blind-spot monitoring, and lane change assist are also standard.
There are a number of packages available for the Impala, but most of them are only available for the LT and Premier trims. The Midnight Edition Appearance Package at $1,595 gives the Impala exclusive blacked-out wheels, badging and grille, as well as a pedal cover set and a rear spoiler. The Driver Confidence Package comes standard on the Premier trim but costs $495 on the LT and equips rear cross-traffic alert, rear park assist, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure warning.
The Sunroof and Spoiler Package is also included on the Premier but costs $1,275 on the LT. It consists of a power-tilt sunroof with power sunshade and a rear spoiler.
Other packages include the LT Convenience Package at $875, LT Leather Package at $1,195, and the All-weather Mat Protection Package at $200. Standalone options for inclusion worth naming, are a rear spoiler at $425, wheel locks at $110, and front and rear splash guards at $180. It's also possible to upgrade both the LS and LT to the 3.6-liter V6 engine at a cost of $1,095.
The LS starts off the range with many standard features and the lethargic 197 hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The LS is cheap, but options to upgrade are very limited with many of the packages only available for the higher LT model. The LT uses the same engine and transmission but has much more opportunity for upgrade via packages. Both the lower end trims can be upgraded to the more powerful 305 hp V6. The Premier is the top of the range trim coming with way more features than the other two, as well as sporting the V6 engine as standard. In a car of this size, the V6 is the best engine to have, and with all the features available on the Premier, it's most certainly the model to choose. With a starting price of $36,620, the Premier trim is worth the money.
The Impala still faces competition from its sibling, the Chevy Malibu. Although smaller and with a lower starting price (ranging from $21,680 to $31,020), the Malibu has completely different engine options to the Impala. A 160 hp turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder, a 250 hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and a hybrid unit with a combined 182 hp from its 1.8-liter engine and electric motor are all available for the choosing. Only the 250 hp engine is in the same league as the Impala's 197 hp engine though, and there's nothing in the Malibu lineup to touch the 305 hp V6. The Impala has more interior room, and more cargo space but lags behind with an older looking interior. The main reason to get the Malibu over the Impala is that it is cheaper with more frugal engines and the option of a hybrid model. Overall, the Impala is a better-equipped sedan.
The Toyota Camry has been at the top of the sales charts throughout its history because of its all-round capabilities. The 2018 model does away with Toyota's conservative styling and goes for a more aggressive look that may not be to everyone's taste, but is certainly contemporary. It has a starting price of $23,645 for the L trim four-door, with a 203 hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and tops out at $35,100 for the XSE with its 301 hp 3.5-liter V6. Despite having a more modern interior, the Camry is a smaller car with less passenger space and a not quite as much cargo volume as the Impala. The Camry is smaller and slightly more nimble, though, while the Impala is bigger with the huge weight sometimes impacting the driving experience. Although they are both good cars, with better reliability ratings, the Camry is the winner in this comparison, unless space is your only concern.