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For years, the Chevrolet Impala languished as a fleet special, a favorite of rental car companies that would buy them by the gross and foist them on hapless, disappointed travelers. Not anymore; 2014 brings an all-new Impala, and by any measure it is extremely impressive. It starts with styling that not only moves the Impala in line with the rest of the Chevrolet showroom, but it also acts to define it, with a menacing hooded-eyelid glare and split grille that makes it easily identifiable from a distance. That sculpted hood flows into a rakish roofline and high tail that create a more spacious interior and a cavernous trunk. A choice of three powertrains gives buyers the option of force or frugality: an advanced 2.5-liter four-cylinder; an optional 2.4-liter four cylinder with an eAssist mild hybrid system that produces 35 mpg highway; or a powerful 3.6-liter V-6 in higher trim levels that will get you to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds but still delivers 29 mpg highway ratings. All the engine choices are excellent, but our nod goes to the V-6, which delivers a performance punch without a gas pump penalty. Ride and handling are impressively refined, with highway noise and road imperfections well damped. Inside, things look even better. A spacious cabin with room for 6-footers up front and in back can be trimmed out in beautiful two-tone leather, with ice-blue-colored ambient lighting that drives home the car's revamped nature. The updated dashboard keeps a vestigial twin-binnacle theme but adds a significant dose of style with interesting shapes and top-notch materials. Chevrolet's excellent MyLink multimedia system can be specified; it is one of the best systems on the market today. Its screens can even be customized with one of four "themes" depending on your style preferences. The improvement from the old Impala to this new 2014 model is astonishing, but we don't grant this award for "most-improved" models. The Impala earned our praise as the Best Car for 2014 because it is unquestionably better than it needs to be. Chevrolet could have taken an easier road and maintained the mediocrity of the last Impala with some updated styling, better electronics or added more efficient powertrains, but the automaker didn't; it did all of those things and more. And in doing so, Chevy created a car that has become a genuinely desirable flagship.
For the first time in Cars.com's history, we are presenting a dedicated award for pickup trucks. And that makes sense. Three of the top five best-selling vehicles in the U.S. in 2013 were pickup trucks, and with the number of luxury trim packages growing and average transaction prices rising, if there's a segment more important to most automaker's bottom line, we can't think of one. Our Best Pickup of 2014 award goes to the all-new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500. In one way, this was an easy choice: Chevy engineers basically had the opportunity to go over every inch of this next-generation pickup to improve every aspect of its capability and prowess. However, when you consider how hugely competitive this market has become, and how aggressive dealers have had to be to make sales, we know there were many points along this long re-engineering process where costs could have been cut, shortcuts taken or aggressive strategies pulled back. But Chevy engineers and management didn't do that. Our criteria for this award are simple. We look at capability, power and value, and this new Silverado comes packed. The new frame and suspension is specifically reinforced to both carry and tow heavier loads while being lighter and offering a smoother ride. As to the all-new EcoTec3 powertrain, we know there must have been some heated debates with the higher-ups looking to save costs there. Coming out with a new truck and an all-new set of powertrains is a huge risk. But we're glad GM took that risk. Each offers power and efficiency at a level that could almost not have been imagined just 10 short years ago. In some of the fuel-economy tests we conducted during our 2013 Light-Duty Challenge, the Chevy Silverado won our towing fuel-economy challenge by more than 6 percent over the next non-GM competitor. The winner of this award must offer quite a bit of value, delivering excitement, performance, under-the-skin quality and reliability if we're going to call this truck out to our readers. We've driven this truck over many rugged miles, and we like the promise this truck offers and the fact that it doesn't just do what it says it can do, but it does everything with style, comfort and a margin of safety that is almost unparalleled in the segment.