An old Chevrolet name earned a moderate update for the 2006 model year that included the addition of a small-block V-8 powertrain. Introduced at the 2005 Greater Los Angeles Auto Show, the latest Impala front-wheel-drive sedan remains related to the company's Monte Carlo midsize coupe.
Engines include a 211-horsepower V-6, a larger 233-hp V-6 and a 303-hp V-8. For 2007, Impalas with the smaller V-6 can be ordered with ethanol-based E85 compatibility, and those with the larger V-6 gain a cylinder deactivation system for improved fuel economy. Other major changes include an enhanced OnStar system with optional turn-by-turn navigation.
Four trim levels are available: LS, LT, LTZ and SS. Inside, innovative flip-and-fold rear seat cushions reveal a covered storage area and include grocery bag hooks. The rear seatback folds down to create a pass-thru into the trunk. Interiors also display improved seat-upholstery stitching, low-gloss instrument-panel components and jewel-like dashboard details.
Impalas ride on 16-, 17- or 18-inch wheels. Side curtain airbags are standard. Most models benefit from enhanced antilock brakes and traction control.
Impalas compete against the Ford Five Hundred, Chrysler 300 and Toyota Avalon. The Impala nameplate dates back to 1958, when it was the top-end member of Chevrolet's full-size car lineup.
Large headlights contain three independent lighting units, and Impalas have grab-style door handles.
SS sedans exhibit a distinct front-end look, led by a dual-split grille that contains a black-diamond crosshatch pattern. Corvette-inspired bright exhaust outlets are installed on SS models. A rear spoiler is standard on the LTZ and SS and optional on the LT.
The base Impala has a softer suspension that's fully independent and rides on 16-inch wheels. Midlevel Impalas receive 17-inch wheels, while the Impala SS gets a sportier suspension with 18-inch wheels. Built on a 110.5-inch wheelbase, the Impala is 200.4 inches long overall and 72.9 inches wide.
Depending on the choice of front seats, the Impala holds either five or six occupants. Nuance sandstone leather seating with French seams on the center cushions is available. The seats have firmer cushions and increased lumbar support.
An all-new instrument panel wraps into the door panels; its double-hump design is reminiscent of early Corvettes. All Impalas except the SS offer a choice of trim: either a wood-trimmed look or a sportier brushed sterling appearance. The Impala SS has a patterned trim panel. The glove box is 20 percent larger than before, and trunk space totals 18.6 cubic feet.
General Motors' OnStar communication system is standard, and an available Directions and Connections service gives audio turn-by-turn directions from an OnStar operator. Manual dual-zone climate control and a remote starter that can warm or cool the car prior to entry are available. Cruise control buttons are mounted on the steering wheel, and auxiliary radio controls are optional, as are heated seats, leather upholstery and power front seats.
Impalas can be equipped with one of three audio systems. A standard six-speaker CD stereo includes an auxiliary jack for iPods or other MP3 players. A midlevel system can play MP3-formatted CDs, while a top-end Bose system includes eight speakers and a six-CD changer.
Under the Hood
The Impala's 3.5-liter V-6 produces 211 hp and 214 pounds-feet of torque. It can now be configured to run on regular gasoline or ethanol-based E85. Uplevel Impalas get a 3.9-liter V-6, rated at 233 hp and 240 pounds-feet of torque. That engine receives GM's Active Fuel Management system — formerly called Displacement on Demand — which shuts down half the cylinders under light-load situations, such as highway cruising. Chevrolet says that with the V-6, AFM increases gas mileage by as much as 8 percent.
In SS models, a 5.3-liter V-8 generates 303 hp and 323 pounds-feet of torque and includes Active Fuel Management. All three engines work with a four-speed automatic transmission.
Side curtain airbags and seat belt pretensioners for the front seats are standard. All-disc antilock brakes are standard on the LT, LTZ and SS. Traction control is available, but an electronic stability system is not. LATCH child-safety seat attachments go on all second-row seating positions. A tire pressure monitoring system is standard on all models.