Review of: 2015 Chevrolet Impala 4dr Sdn LTZ w/2LZ
2015 Chevrolet Impala: Adventures in space
By Chris Chase
Mar. 27, 2015
Long favoured by taxi drivers and police departments across North America, the modern, front-wheel drive Impala that Chevrolet started selling as a 2000 model was a decent big sedan for its time, but not a great one. Impala’s latest redesign came for the 2014 model year, with sharp new styling, and underpinnings that link it to the upscale Cadillac XTS and Buick LaCrosse. Bigger, quieter, and more comfortable, it’s arguably too good now to be limited to just cops and cabbies.
Big sedans are traditional domestic-brand territory, so the Impala competes for buyers with the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Ford Taurus. But the imports have elbowed in on this segment, with Toyota’s Avalon and Kia’s Cadenza elbowing in for a piece of the pie. In the U.S., the Hyundai Azera plays in this sandbox, but Hyundai dropped that model from its Canadian lineup a few years ago.
Pros & Cons
- + Interior space
- + Trunk space
- + Comfortable front seats
- - No all-wheel drive option
- - Interior design
- - Rearward visibility
This big car is more imposing than ever, with presence to rival Chrysler’s monolithic-looking 300, minus that car’s cliff-face of a grille. The long rear overhang might throw off the Impala’s proportions, but start poking around inside and you understand why the car looks like it does.
Under the trunklid is 532 litres of cargo space, virtually the same as there is behind the rear seats of the little Trax crossover; in a photographic experiment, I learned that at 5’7” I can lie lengthwise in the trunk with all but my lower legs fitting inside.
It’s not just cargo that benefits from the Impala’s size. Rear seat passengers enjoy lots of legroom, and two people back there feel like they’re in different postal codes. Up front, the flat, wide seats provide long-haul comfort; a 2014 model we drove previously proved a fantastic highway cruiser on a weekend round-trip from Ottawa to Toronto.
What annoyed me in city driving was the front centre armrest, which is shaped and positioned such that I was always knocking my right elbow into it in hand-over-hand steering maneuvers. Also, rearward visibility isn’t great, owing to the high trunklid; a backup camera is standard in LTZ trim. Obviously, it helps, but we’d still rather be able to see better out the back window when reversing. Note that you’ll pay extra for the camera LT models, and it’s not offered at all in the base LS.
Standard high-tech stuff includes OnStar, Bluetooth, stereo with auxiliary and USB input jacks, and satellite radio. Move up one from the base model, to 1LT (and the three models above it), and Chevy’s MyLink touchscreen interface is included, as well as a motorized screen that slides up to reveal a clever, cavernous storage space behind it. You also get two more USB ports, for a total of two in the centre console bin and one behind the screen.
MyLink is among the best touchscreen setups in the industry right now: the layout is logical, so it’s easy to use, and high-resolution graphics make it easy on the eyes.
By the time you get to my tester’s top-line LTZ trim, you’ve got a car with backup camera, intelligent keyless entry, forward collision, rear cross traffic and side blind sport alerts, lane departure warning, Xenon headlights, navigation and remote start.
It’s far from sporty, but drive this new Impala back-to-back with the previous generation and the difference is like night and day. This one’s much quieter, for one thing (the old car let in a surprising amount of road noise), and it handles with a confidence that belies its otherwise laid-back nature; combine that with good brake feel and you get a car that would actually be a bit of fun on a back road.
The last-generation car could be had in V8-powered SS trim; but there’s no such option now: your engine choices are a 2.5-litre four-cylinder and 3.6-litre V6, both of which come with a six-speed automatic transmission. My tester had the latter power plant, and it’s the better fit. Where it feels underpowered in GM’s mid-size crossovers, it’s near-perfect here, giving the Impala strong, drama-free acceleration.
Against fuel consumption ratings of 12.5/8.2 L/100 km (city/highway), my tester averaged 13.8 L/100 km in wintry city driving. Two weeks previously, a Buick Verano Turbo posted the same average in similar conditions; you decide whether that makes the Impala look thrifty, or the Verano thirsty. That 2014 Impala referenced above (also V6-powered) averaged 8.3 in a mix of city and highway driving.
Only the domestics give you any choice in powertrains, though that choice is most limited in a Chevrolet showroom: in the Taurus, Ford charges $1,000 to ditch the base V6 for a turbocharged four-cylinder, and the top-trim SHO model gets a turbocharged V6. The Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger are the only ones to offer V8 power (an option up from a base V6 in both cars), and serious speed freaks can go for one of the uprated SRT models if the basic Hemi motor isn’t enough.
The Avalon and Cadenza imports come with naught but V6s.
As nice as the Impala is, we like how Dodge packages the Charger: our Impala tester’s near $40,000 price tag will get you a Charger with the Hemi V8, turning that car into a serious powerhouse without sacrificing refinement.
If AWD is on your shopping list, you’re out of luck here, but it’s an option in the Taurus and Chrysler’s twins.
Ultimately, the lack of a big motor and AWD hurt the Impala in the value category.
Before this, the Impala was an easy car to dismiss, but no longer: Consumer Reports named it the top large sedan in its list of the best cars of 2015, and while we don’t quite agree (we’d put Avalon on top for reliability that’s historically best in this class), we will say that this car deserves recognition for putting Chevrolet back in the big-sedan game in a big way.