By on April 10, 2012

I come to not to bury the W-body Impala, but to praise it.

With the NYIAS introduction of its replacement, we can now legitimately call Chevrolet’s pocket battleship of a full-sizer the “old model”, although if we are speaking truthfully, it virtually qualified as the “old Impala” when it was introduced thirteen years ago. At the time, it seemed like more woeful evidence of General Motors’ ineptitude, a quick mash-up of a Lumina with powerplants so ancient there are probably cave paintings somewhere in Altamira documenting an early TSB campaign for them, complete with pictograms of how to use a wooly mammoth to power an engine hoist.

A funny thing happened along the way, though: the Impala started to find things. First it found a place. Next, it found character. Finally, and not everyone will agree, it found redemption.

The new-for-2000 styling, best described as “anonymous middle-aged Georgia white trash”, didn’t promise much, and the interior, best described as “Malaise left in the dryer to shrink”, couldn’t even deliver on those meager hopes. The reviewers of the day pounced on the newborn Impala the same way African lions did. It was an also-ran from the start, hobbled out of the gate, destined to suffer through a typically Methuselan and pathetic GM product lifecycle before gracelessly retiring to second-tier salvage yards across the country. Naturally, there would be some sort of horribly embarrassing facelift halfway through to point out just how obsolescent the car was. There was even a minor possibility that the Impala would somehow “pull a Fiero” and become decent, mildly desirable transportation right before the order came down to cancel production. Regardless, the story was bound to be tragic at best, tragicomic at worst.

I was there at the Detroit Auto Show when the 2000 Impala made its debut. Not as a journalist, of course; I was merely a former car salesman with the vestigial tail of professional interest in volume-market sedans. It was mounted on a vertical display within sight of the also new-for-2000 Pontiac Bonneville. I naturally, and wrongly, assumed that they were platform twins because they shared numerous detail touches, including horribly outmoded-looking recessed headlamps. From the front, the car had an odd mixture of aggression and pathos about it. Compared to the Impala that had gone before, the Orca-esque B-body Impala SS, this looked like… nothing in particular. The interior wasn’t anything to write home about, either: the plastics were typical GM and for those of us who were used to European seating positions the front bench seemed deliberately uncomfortable. Only the tail had any merit: Chevrolet had finally returned circular taillamps to the lineup. Naturally, GM’s inability to do anything right meant that these evocative, jet-exhaust-esque details were submerged within a sea of low-grade semi-transparent plastic that would likely cloud over before the warranty, which wouldn’t cover said clouding, expired.

The Impala appeared to be some sort of generic full-sized car, except it wasn’t truly full-sized, not at two hundred inches stem to stern, not when Ford had just revamped the Crown Victoria yet again, not when the Chrysler LH cars made it look weak, timid, and — yes! — small. Worse yet, in the engine bay, where the Ford had the controversial but still inarguably American mod-motor V-8 and the Intrepid offered an ultra-modern, import-humiliating 24-valve V-6, GM couldn’t be bothered to install anything better than the old “3800″. Blech.

Did you know anybody who bought a new 2000-2005 Impala? I certainly never knew, or even met, anyone who did. Yet the Impalas multiplied on the Midwestern streets, fleet beige strippers and frustrated-dad Supercharged SS models in chintzy gloss black. They became company cars, inner-city cop cars, second-choice taxis. They were never a car that anyone seemed to want, but yet people ended up driving them, riding in them, owning them. They were all around, wedge-shaped cockroaches in the American cupboard.

Looking out the window of my generic corporate office here in Dublin, Ohio, I can see three Impalas of that generation in the parking lot. Silver, silver, dark blue. They’re at least eight years old now, but they still look clean, decent, and unrusted. Isn’t that also like a cockroach? Durability regardless of aesthetic appeal? It turns out that the General’s glacial efforts had finally refined the old GM10 into something that would last, particularly if the original owner had ponied-up for the 3800 engine. The trim didn’t fall off. The interiors turned nasty and grimy, but everything still worked. Impalas started to earn respect, back there in the middle of the Noughties.

Of course, GM itself couldn’t be bothered to respect the Impala. The facelift, when it came, was an absolutely shameless rip-off of the then-current Honda Accord, from the Chinese-eye pyramid headlights and timid, rounded nose to the triangle tails that appeared simultaneously on the Accord facelift. Surely only the General could be stupid enough to copy a car that was already halfway through a four-year lifecycle! At least the Kia Amanti’s designers had had the sense to copy a long-lived Mercedes-Benz! It was as if the people at Chevrolet wanted, needed you to lose faith. They were like addicts showing up at a family party and puking all over the grandmother, hoping that Poppa Government would step in and give them the help they secretly needed.

Yet there was a ray of light! This time, the Impala had a small-block-Chevy! Finally! A Chevrolet with a Chevrolet engine! It was enough to bring tears to everyone’s eyes. Nor was the resulting car an abomination before the Lord, as one might have feared. The Impala SS was a really interesting car, and if it wasn’t really any faster than a V-6 Camry, so freakin’ what? The interior kept getting nicer. The 3800 variants continued to impress, and now even the base engine appeared to be something besides a boat anchor. The new styling may have been derivative, but in an era where the Japanese and Korean competition increasingly resembled the nightmare creatures of a deep-sea diving expedition, strangely proportioned and writhing to and fro with low-budget interpretations of flame surfacing designed to work in the transplant-factory stamping presses, the Impala started to have class. It looked restrained. Tasteful. Decent.

As the not-so-big Chevy reached the decade mark in production, a lot of people had heard about its virtues. One of them, oddly enough, was fuel mileage. In real-world situations, the torquey, low-revving 3800 and its 3.9-liter successor seemed to be able to match the four-cylinder foreign-brand competition. Forget the VolvoFords and DaimlerChryslers; they weren’t even close. Fleets which had originally purchased Impalas because they were cheap to buy were now taking a second round of them because they were cheap to own.

This wouldn’t be a General Motors story if the company didn’t get the car correct in the eleventh hour, and so it happened here. In the final year of production, the much-vaunted High-Feature V-6 finally arrived in perfected form, twisting out 303 horsepower in the final Impalas and returning economy that may not match the old 3800 but isn’t bad in its own right.

This was the Impala in its final days: Tasteful. Utilitarian. Spacious. Efficient. Affordable. Powerful. Reliable. Doesn’t that sound like what most Americans want in a sedan? Of course it does, which is why the wunderkind Malibu, with its pug nose, wacky interior, middling fuel efficiency, and miserly trunk space, struggled until the very end to match its sales numbers.

The Impala wasn’t a very good full-sized car. It wasn’t a very good prestige car. It certainly wasn’t a very good cop car or taxicab. What it ended up being was simply this: a good family car. Chevrolet could have taken some lessons from that.

Instead, the brain trust at GM has decided, once again, to demonstrate its complete ignorance of the market and to simply copy the class leaders. The 2006 Impala aped the Accord, but the new one is virtually a note-for-note homage to the departing Hyundai Azera. Riddled with Chinese lowest-bidder electronics and parts constructed in haste by suppliers who were recently pulled from the brink of extinction by the loving hands of the federal government, it probably won’t be as reliable as the old car. It doesn’t look like it has as much room for people or cargo as its predecessor. It will cost more, both to buy and to repair. The SBC won’t reappear, but there is a SYNC-alike touchscreen that rises precariously out of a soft-touched dashboard to wobble in the wind as you distractedly poke at it. The peregrination necessary to reach the General Motors display at the NYIAS wasn’t long enough to erase memories of the brand-new Toyota Avalon, which along with the new Azera renders this Impala the third-tier choice, outclassed before it even reaches the dealership.

The good news is that you can’t buy the new Impala yet. You can only buy the old one. Anyone who chooses to do so will find little cause, I think, to regret that decision. It may no longer be welcome at the auto show, but the last Impalas will find a home on the American highway for many years to come.

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123 Comments on “Avoidable Contact: The Love Song Of W. Chevrolet Impala....”


  • avatar
    ajla

    H > W.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      H>W>Epsilon (there I fixed for you.) :)

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        To be fair, the W-Bodies seem to be much more reliable than the H-Body cars. They don’t perform as well, nor are they as efficient in their use of space, but they do seem more trustworthy.

        CR recommended the W’s, but avoided the H’s.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        @Psar:

        I’m not sure which years you are going off, but you should consider the complete body of work.

        Pulling up the archives, the 1st and 2nd gen H-body was on CR’s recommended list several times. Often times they were the only GM vehicles to earn that distinction. The Bonneville was on the recommended list as late as 2001. Reliability ratings first hit “neutral” in 1988 and stayed at that or better for most years.

        I know in recent years the Lucerne has made occasionally made the recommended list too.

        The W-body didn’t really get its sh*t together until 2000 or so and I didn’t see CR recommending any W before that time.

        The major dynamic and quality advancements made for the 2nd gen W seemed to come at the direct expense of the H. Between 2000 and 2005 the gap between the two platforms tightened considerably.

        Notice in this thread that all the H-body fans owned a pre-2000 example and all the W-body folks owned a post 2000 example.

        Still, those early Ws do not compare well to the Hs of the same era.

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    i have and will continue to have huge respect for the 3800, as old as it is it is an excellent engine.

    • 0 avatar
      morbo

      so long as it wast made on a Wednesday. My 3800 was not made on a Wednesday. It does not deserve the respect that the unbreakable Honda V-6′s or Ford modular V-8s get.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Buy one built between 1986 and 1995 or 2004 and 2008.

        And, the Ford Modular family had plenty of problems when they first came out.

      • 0 avatar

        Uh – huh.

        I just ran into someone who’d just bought a late-90′s Buick LeSabre, presumably with the 3800.

        Their previous ride was a Lincoln Continental circa 2000 with a Mod Motor. It loved to blow out spark plugs, apparently a common problem for Ford’s Mod Motors. Not enough threads for the plug holes. They liked the car but the head repairs got a little old and pretty expensive.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        The Honda with it’s 90′s think timing belt is hardly unbreakable, especially if one forgets that there engine must be checked before 100K to see if said belt is frayed and about to break and ruin the top half the engine and leave them stranded on the side of the road. The Ford modular V8 has suffered a plethora of issues ranging form piston knock to spitting out spark plugs to oil consumption problems and intake leaks bad wires etc.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      When Buick re-introduced the 231 V6 in the mid-1970s, the engine was a gutless and rough-running lump. To GM’s credit, they spent the money needed to improve and develop the engine over the years. By the 1990s, the 3800 was smooth, torquey, long-lived, and capable of impressive fuel economy. I can get 30 mpg on the highway in a 1994 LeSabre without much effort. The 3800 wasn’t perfect – there were issues with bad sensors and intake manifolds in some of the engines – but it’s proof that GM could get things right once in a while.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        I can get well over 30 in straight up highway driving (close to 35, in cruise mind you @ 55mph), city is around 18/19. The ecotec Malibu I rented in 2010 struggled to avg 27-28 on the drive back from Columbus. I know they wanted to kill the 3800 for years, but I wish it had continued past 2008, even if it was only in one model such as the Impala. I agreed with Tonyola, GM can sometimes get it right, notwithstanding Morbo’s evil Bonneville which has soured him on the General.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        GM’s quality was something of a crapshoot in the ’80s and ’90s, and that appears to be still true to some extent today. For example, bad FWD H-cars could be a nightmare with the only saving grace being that they’ve pretty much all been junked by now. However, there have been plenty of good examples made too and they seem to have the potential to last a long, long time.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Nah. My friend’s 86 3.8L ate its PLASTIC timing gears and send the debris into the oil system, which then caused jammed lifters, a spun connecting rod bearing, and a ruined engine. All at 70k miles.

      I’m not sold on the ‘venerable’ Buick 3.8L myth, and my friend is done with GM cars.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Sucks for your friend, but I believe this was what the first or second year for those cars in FWD (85 maybe?), I would never buy a car in its first year, domestic or import. I assume this was a C-body Ninety Eight or Park Ave, and it sounds like the bean counters got him… plastic wtf. My mechanic’s dad still cruses an ’89 Ninety Eight bought new with around 150K still running strong and shifting well.

      • 0 avatar
        FromaBuick6

        My grandmother had a first-year ’85 Ninety Eight Regency. That car was an absolute disaster, never ran right in the six years she had it. She replaced it with a ’91 Eighty Eight Royale that was flawless, as was her ’97 Park Avenue.

        The Series II motors also have problems with cracking plastic intake manifolds. This was resolved by the time the Series III debuted, but by then pushrod engines pretty much dead in non-GM cars.

        The 3800 was a great motor, provided it was built by a non-ape on the right day of the week and wasn’t attacked by short-sighted bean counters.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        The 1988 on up 3800 series engine was drastically different to your friends 3.8 which tied it’s roots back to the 1975 design which traced it’s roots back to the old 60′s Fireball V6 of 225 Cid. The 1988 engine switched to a metal timing gear, an internal balance shaft for smoothness, an improved oiling system, centrally positioned pistons respective to crank throw which drastically reduced piston/cylinder wear and numerous other changes that made it a very reliable motor.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I agree. The 3800 Series II and III engines were excellent all around. A few had problems with intake manifolds but that was quickly ironed out. I would not get excited about the few stories of problems. There were failures in Toyota sixes and Mopar slant sixes too, but those are also the exception not the rule…

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Uh, I’m sorry but GM used the failure-prone plastic intake manifolds on the 3800 for over 10 years, starting in the early 90s on the Series I and up through the end of Series II production when they switched back to all-aluminum on the Series III around 2004.

        I had a 1988 3800 that had the one-piece all-aluminum intake (went 212K miles and 20 years before intake gasket replacement was required), and now have a 2001 with the plastic intake (and a slow coolant leak, hmmm). I am on a Buick forum and the 2000+ model year cars definitely still have crappy intakes/gaskets.

        That’s not what I would call “quickly ironing out” the problem (now why did the “old” GM go bankrupt again?)!

        In addition to the coolant leaks, another major problem (esp. with the Series I motors) was the tendency to backfire into the intake when starting cold (esp. if you stop cranking just a moment too soon), blowing a huge hole in the upper intake and rending the car inoperable.

        So, if you have any 3800 equipped with a plastic intake, here is the improved-design part (with a steel collar around the EGR tube that both the OEM and the Dorman parts don’t have) that you want to replace it with:

        http://www.ineedparts.com/auto-parts/intake-manifolds/gm-intake-manifold-kit-17806.html

        Also, get the improved-design lower intake manifold gaskets that have an aluminum (as opposed to the original plastic) frame and replace those at the same time as the upper is done (while you are in there).

        Thirdly, replace the plastic coolant elbows that go into the lower intake with OEM parts, not the aftermarket ones (which tend to leak when engine is cold), while you are in there.

        So I’m not with you at all on not worrying about “the few stories of problems,” as a failed intake can cause complete engine destruction via hydrolocking, and it can occur without warning while you are inside the store grocery shopping. I have seen this happen several times. The plastic intake should be considered a maintenance item on these cars and all coolant leaks should be investigated promptly.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    A nice obit for the GM W-Body and final praise for the GM 3800.

    Here lies the GM W-Body
    It wasn’t THAT bad of a car
    1988 – 2012

  • avatar
    morbo

    Honda=Ford=Toyota>Hyundai>Chrylser>Nissan>GM

    Actually,

    Honda=Ford=Toyota>Hyundai>Chrylser>Nissan>…….>Suburu>Mitsubishi>Suzuki……>Tonka>Lego>GM

    Still bitter Ex-’03 Bonneville, Happy Ex-MN12, Happy Ex-Ranger, Satisfied Ex-VRX, Happy Current LY-HEMI owner

  • avatar
    grzydj

    I always have to do a Ctrl F and see if McBigbra is in the article so I can decide if it is going to be internet fan fiction or not, at least for Jack’s articles. Seeing how Jack is offering praise for a W body Impala, I’ll surmise that it is internet fan fic.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    I had the “pleasure” of driving a loaner 2005+ Impala from our University fleet for a week. It reinforced every stereotype of American cars that I held since my youth except perhaps reliability. It wallowed, plowed, floated, leaned, and creaked just like my father’s 1979 Bonneville. The seats lacked support and bolstering, and the tires howled at the slightest provocation in turns. For such a large car it didn’t seem to have any more room in the back seat than my Passat. It endlessly wandered on the highway and felt like the steering wheel was connected to the front wheels with a rubber band. The Tupperware interior had modern shapes and a decent layout but was hard, cheap and shiny. It was transportation, that is all. I simply can’t understand why anyone would choose this car over any of it’s competitors unless they are a Luddite, or have some sort of nostalgia for old American cars.

    • 0 avatar
      drylbrg

      Google “TCO” and you’ll find out why somebody, especially a non-enthusiast, would prefer one of these to a VW.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Who cares if it has the lowest TCO going – which is only because they are stupid cheap in fleet spec. Very few of us are running a business here. What I want is a car that makes me smile when I look back at it in a parking lot, and that has a reasonable TCO. These bland-mobiles don’t do it. I will GLADLY pay more upfront and in repair and maintenance for a car that makes me smile.

        If all you care about is TCO, the Camry is probably a better bet. They cost more upfront, but the sell for a lot more used too.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        Three hours detailing my Black LTZ. Then I park it beside some wanabe with his filthy dirty BMW.

        Now that makes me smile.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        I would rather spend 3 hours driving a filthy BMW than detailing an Impala.

    • 0 avatar
      outback_ute

      How does it compare to a Camry?

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        A Camry is much more reliable for one. If you are buying a bland car, one of it’s only redeeming qualities should be that it doesn’t need to go to the shop very often.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        I needed to rent a car large enough to transport some furniture at Christmas. The Impala has a larger trunk and torque from the V6. The Camry had more usable room in the back seat area because the floor was almost flat and a more rectangular trunk. I prefer the SE version of the Camry even with the 2.5L I4/6 speed automatic, but others may prefer a Impala because of the V6. Camry + V6 costs significantly more than Impala + V6. The only other larger midsize rental option I saw, the Mazda6, has inferior highway fuel economy compared to an Impala.

      • 0 avatar
        jayzwhiterabbit

        My dad bought a 2006 Impala with the 3.5L OHV engine. He just sold it, at 209k miles, and it had never been to the shop. Original spark plugs, even. Only things changed were brake pads and the pvr valve. These cars were utterly reliable and very durable. This was his fifth W body since an ’90 Grand Prix. All of them were wonderful and reliable cars. Not to mention that in the 1980′s and early ’90s, they were a hell of a lot more stylish than the boxy and bland Japanese sedans.

  • avatar
    JohnTheDriver

    and in this section they come and go
    whispering of chevyangelo

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    “anonymous middle-aged Georgia white trash” this was carried to its logical extreme with the Monte Carlo variant. Man that was an awful looking coupe.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Also:

    “Finally! A Chevrolet with a Chevrolet engine!”

    The 3400 offered as the base engine on the 8th gen was a 60-degree Chevrolet design. Although maybe you meant V8 by “Chevrolet engine”.
    ____________________________________________________________________
    “The 3800 variants continued to impress…”

    The Buick V6 (L36 and L67 versions) was only offered on the 8th gen. The 3500 and 3900 offered on the 9th gen were heavily revised Chevrolet-type 60-degree OHV motors. Obviously, The LS4 was LS based.

    /Pushes up glasses. Goes back to the basement.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I always considered the 60 degree OHV motors as ‘Chevy’ engines and the 3800 as a ‘Buick’ engine. But at some point GM dropped this engine branding nomenclature and they became generic ‘GM’ engines, but I think Jack was referring to the LS4.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Eh, whatever. Having driven a zillion miles in rented Impalas of the past 15 years I don’t care how cheap they are to buy and own, they are just thoroughly uninteresting cars. They are adequate in every way, but not the slightest bit interesting, which is what you want at DEN at 2pm when you are facing a 500 mile drive after 6hrs of flying, but certainly not anything you would want to face in the garage every day.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Agreed, but are Camcords are interesting? People seem to have no trouble with that white noise in their driveway.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Nope. Dull as dishwater cars for people with no interest in driving. I’d rather walk than own any of them.

        The sad thing is that Accords used to be a distinct cut above, but certainly are not any longer. If you simply MUST drive a dullish $25K sedan, the Passat, Sonata, and Optima seem to be the class of the class these days. Though if the new Fusion drives as good as it looks it really should mop the floor with all of them if there is any justice in the world.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        I hope Ford does mop the floor with those beige-mobiles, but last I checked the good guys don’t always win the day.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Sonata the class of the class? I dunno. That car felt average and dull in just about every way. They just wrapped it in tortured sheet metal and gave it a gutsy four-banger. Much rather have the long-in-tooth Altima. Better interior and driving dynamics.

      • 0 avatar
        chrishs2000

        Have you ever driven an Accord on a twisty road? The chassis and feel approaches BMW-esque until you hit the FWD understeer wall – it’s not close to that way in a Camry. It’s also still a head above the Sonata/Optima in that regard. The Fusion and Passat are similiar. It’s not a boring car if you’re willing to make it interesting. Plus, they make a sleeper 6MT V6 version for the Coupe since 2003 (and for the sedan from 06-07).

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        chrishs2000, I liked the Honda Accord enough to buy one, but they don’t drive like a BMW. The Honda is just relatively good for its price class with the benefit of not converting to EPS yet. My impression is Honda doesn’t sweat the details of suspension tuning so the ride is somewhat jittery and they substitute heavy steering for excellent feedback. Good enough to be the basis for an Acura TL, but not sport sedan good.

      • 0 avatar
        KrisT

        Ford are the good guys? Wasn’t it FoMoCo that decided human life wasn’t worth $11 per vehicle in a certain 70s compact. Of course you could argue that’s ancient history, which I suppose is a luxury you can afford as long as its not your friends and family that were affected.

  • avatar
    Dynasty

    I just took a work trip in a newish Impala on Sunday and came back last night. A total of about six hours of drive time.

    Don’t know if it had the 3800 in it or not. But it seemed decently powered, and cruising at 80 on the freeway, the engine was barely ticking above 2K RPM.

    My thoughts on the car is I think if it had a little bit stiffer suspension, and some touring tires the chassis would be pretty much sorted out. Not too much above 60, the car seemed to want to float and wallow a little too much for my liking.

    The front seat after some time left quite a bit to be desired.

    I didn’t calculate mileage much. Left on a full tank, and put five gallons in before I left for home. Arrived back with the needle firmly pointed on the half way mark.

    Overall, the build quality (if not the materials) seemed solid. Decent power, and great efficiency for its size. 600 dollars later for some suspension upgrades, and as long as you got the 3800 engine, the car is not a bead deal. I’m not completely sold on its styling, but there are a lot of a lot uglier vehicles out there.

    Overall impression: Solid non offensive vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      3800 died in 2008, depending on model year you were probably driving the 3500 OHV V6 (2007-2011) or the new 3600 DOHC V6 in a 2012 which I believe is the standard engine for the final year.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        I rented one of these (a 2012) this past weekend while my CTS Wagon was being repaired after a deer strike. I’ve driven a number of cars with the 3.6 and it seemed most impressive in the Impala. The car was quick off the line and felt punchy in most of the powerband. There are some flat spots where the transmission isn’t in the right gear, but shifted manually using the steering wheel-mounted shift switches, it was a very satisfying drivetrain.

        I got some time on winding country roads and I found that the car did well when pushed, better than I expected. Torque steer is a bit of an issue and steering wasn’t terribly sharp. But, again, as a rental car it was a whole lot better than a lot of other rental cars I’ve had.

        The trunk in this car is huge and very usable with a high rear shelf. It swallowed a whole lot of stuff with room to spare.

        The thought that kept going through my head was that this was an honest car that didn’t need to make any apologies.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    “This wouldn’t be a General Motors story if the company didn’t get the car correct in the eleventh hour, and so it happened here. In the final year of production, the much-vaunted High-Feature V-6 finally arrived in perfected form, twisting out 303 horsepower in the final Impalas and returning economy that may not match the old 3800 but isn’t bad in its own right.”

    ^THIS. In typical GM fashion they finally give the car an engine (THE ONLY AVAILABLE ENGINE) that is worthy of wanting to own. I have driven one of the new 3.6 + 6 speed combos and found it sublime even in a fleet model that doesn’t even have a “designation” on the rump like LT, LS, LTZ. The current person assigned the car reports 28 mpg in mostly hwy and interstate driving with 3000 miles on the clock. The sucker even had a column shifter. I am tempted to buy one as a throwback.

    Column shift and 300 hp with a 19 cubic ft trunk? What is this 1968? Dang it, I DO WANT!

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Jerks they’ve been holding out on us!

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      The LS doesn’t have the ‘LS’ tag anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      musicalmcs8706

      I’ve really come to enjoy the column shifter in my 05 LS. Too bad it looks like you can’t get the 12 with the column shifter and leather like you could in mine… After a while you start to grow to like these cars, even though part of you wants something else that handles better, sportier, you name it.

      Is it perfect? Good heavens no. Will I trade mine in any time soon? Not a chance!

    • 0 avatar
      67dodgeman

      In my current fleet I have a column shift, two console shifts, and two manuals. 90% of the time I stomp the floor with my left foot by mistake, then grab the windshield wiper switch and damn near rip it off the column trying to get the car in gear. For my money they need to bring back three-on-the-tree!

  • avatar
    M.S. Smith

    My mother always seems to end up with an Impala when she rents a car. I found it boring as sin, but I can’t argue that as a highway cruiser it seemed right, nor can I argue that it was small inside. Mom, a current Ford Escape owner, though it was great.

    I think the skepticism of the new Impala is warranted. GM is acting like they’ve returned the car to what it should be, when in fact all it seems they’ve done is make it less spacious and more expensive. Is it better looking? Ok, sure. But it’s not going to get anyone’s pulse racing.

    To me it looks like they’ve killed a fleet sale queen and replaced it with a car that consumers won’t want, either.

  • avatar
    confused1096

    These are decent enough cars. Nothing spectacular, but decent. I see a lot of these come through the auctions with well over 200,000 miles still in usable shape.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    And the best selling car with the oldest platform is?

  • avatar
    pete

    Without commenting very much on the relative quality of the vehicle I have one memory of driving an Impala that will always stick with me. After 9/11 I was stuck in Toronto trying to get back to California. I traded my air ticket for a car rental and drove an Impala from Detroit back to San Jose. I probably couldn’t have asked for a better option from the rental company – the pliant ride, pretty good seats and gas usage countdown feature were ideal to put those 2500 miles behind me.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I seem to have missed the reason for buying a 2012 Impala over a 12 year old Camry. Did Jack cover that?

    • 0 avatar
      M.S. Smith

      The Camry is 12 years old?

      Toyotas are reliable and all that, but age does impact even the most well-made vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      How much are 12yo Camrys running for in your area?

      • 0 avatar
        SherbornSean

        About $17K, or the same as a 2012 Impala.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        Wow! scrap metal prices must be up in your area.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        What happened mikey? I’d have never expected you to call current model year GM products scrap metal. Congratulations on your personal growth!

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        You know what I mean’t, your a lot smarter than that

      • 0 avatar
        blockmachining

        Don’t overlook the Altima. It is now the 2nd best selling car in the land and both plants that produce the car are gearing up to produce 400,000 annually. The Altima moved into 2nd place with a model that is in it’s last year of production. The Camry needs to watch out when the new Altima arrives on dealer lots. The Altima provides excellent MPGs while providing exceptionally strong performance for a family sedan. With the V6, 152 MPH comes up surprisingly fast. In particular, Mustangs have lost many a red light race! Oh, by the way, it’s made in Tennessee and Mississippi by American workers….not in Mexico or Canada with Non-American workers.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Well 12 year old Camry’s are few and far between as few of them are still on the road in Upstate, NY. If you do see one there is lots of rust, a shot interior and suspension, warped brakes, ultra bland interior, unsafe handling, wheezy slow 4 banger etc. So yeah a 2012 Impala sounds really good to me in comparison. The 97-00 generation Camry’s were a big step down from the far better 92-96 generation judging from all the neighbors that owned both versions. The 97-00′s spent a lot more time in shops and needed considerably more attention, were a bore to drive and downright scary around curves at speed, suffered brake warping often, had the engine sludge issue on certain years and were totally forgettable. Our director of information systems bought a new 97 XLE V6 and that pile spent more time in the shop than in her driveway and the long running joke was “so what do you have for a rental today Sharen”? She was so embarrassed and her 00 purchase was an Accord which proved to be much better.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    In regards to the early ’00′s Impalas, it is true that the 3800 LS models weren’t bad. However, the base model? Not so much. My company has a 2004 Impala base model with the 3.4 engine. While I can get reasonably comfortable behind the wheel, and I have never gotten less than 33mpg, that poor car is duller than dull, and I feel like it wants to suck the life out of me! I’d seriously rather have a 3.1 Century of similar vintage.

    The W in and of itself isn’t a bad platform, it just needed to have more interesting options.

    I fear that the new Impala, while not bad looking, is going to lose something when it comes to overall value, and a lot of people still desire value…

  • avatar
    david42

    I recently rented one (with the older powertrain). Nice for potholes, mildly worrisome on curves. But the real issue: warped windshield glass. Honestly, how does that still happen? We’re not talking about a Lambo windshield here.

    My thought was, this car is in every way worse than my parent’s 1992 Camry–as SherbornSean pointed out.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    The impala/W body platform wasn’t one I would ever want to own and it’s too bad the impala refresh turned a somewhat interesting car into a cheaped out blandmobile. I have owned 2-H bodies however, both with the 3.8L 4 speed combination, and they are bulletproof. I would love to snag a low-cost late model of the last H body, the buick lucerne, this time I would like to find one with the 3.9L, which from the spec sheet seems like a great engine, it’s a shame GM abandoned their cam in block V6s.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Do I know someone who bought one of these? Yes. And there is nothing appealing about the Impala (the one in question being an 05). From the seating position to the god awful noise/vibration coming thru the floor/wheel/windows.. everywhere.. I can not say anything good about this four wheeled abomination.. Ya ya ya.. my parents had one of the indestructible 3800′s, but the tranny, power steering, repeat climate control head replacements simply weren’t enough to make up for it..

    Is this the redemption of which thou speaketh??

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    W-body 3500 Impala memories: Mild, unoffensive, forgettable by other drivers, exceptional fuel economy (500+ range on highway commute with a 17 gallon tank), capable of moving an entire offensive line (or a gang of programmers who looked and ate like one) around potholed and decaying streets without feeling a single bump. No single problem over 40,000 miles. Sold in trade due to boredom.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    The 3800 was only indestructible in the H-body — long rest the great H-body; the last truly great FWD GM has made, preferably the Olds 88/98 or, with Olds dead, the Buick applications — you want an indestructible Impala, get one with a 3500. They took the gutless and horrible 3400 Chevy V6 fit only for minivan duty and fixed it.

    • 0 avatar
      supremebrougham

      I have sitting in my garage a beautiful H-body LeSabre. 1995, 109k and drives like a new car. I wouldn’t hesitate to drive it cross country tomorrow if I had to, it’s that good.

      Just wish I didn’t have to try and sell it to cover medical expenses…

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      I have a pristine ’94 LeSabre that my mom gave me in 2008 with 25K miles. She and dad bought it new, but with dad gone and mom stopped driving around 2000 or so, the car sat in the garage, maintained but barely driven. Being a Honda fan, I was all set to dismiss the Buick as a hopeless mushmobile. Well, guess what – the car has earned my respect in four years. It’s smooth, roomy, quiet, comfortable, and glides like a cloud at 70 mph on the highway. I can get 30 mpg or better, yet there’s decent oomph from the V6. The HVAC is more than a match for any climate. Even though it’s in no way sporty, it can be tossed around to a surprising degree. The car has been reliable and when something does needs fixing, it doesn’t cost much and parts are no problem. A good H-body really is one of GM’s best latter-day efforts.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    GM’s big challenge is how to slot the Impala above the Malibu while not intruding into Buick territory. A RWD version could have accomplished that.

    I don’t believe that just saying the Impala will not be available in AWD while AWD can be had in a Buick is enough to differentiate the two.

  • avatar
    TheHammer

    My 2006 LT still rollin along at 116k.

  • avatar
    mikey

    It was a sad day in Oshawa number 1 plant,when in 84 the last 85 B rolled off the line. It took us 15 long years to get a true “bread and butter” car back.

    Rumour has it, that the last Impala will roll off in early 2013.

  • avatar
    Maintainer

    My dad just bought a 2010 Imp. He loves it. It’s a basic sedan that goes to the store and back, sometimes work and back and on the weekends maybe the Riverboats. He isn’t going to do hot laps at Nurburgring nor will he run any parking lot races or even hit Rt66 Raceway with it. That’s not what it’s meant for. Believe it or not, some people just want a car to be a car. That’s Impala. Just a car.

  • avatar
    bkmurph

    I rather liked the exterior styling of the W-platform Impala when it came out, especially the raccoon-eye headlights trimmed in black, the large greenhouse, and the humble black moldings around the body and bumpers. I disliked, however, the taillights: The taillight assemblies spanned the entire width of the vehicle, but GM was too cheap to put amber turn indicators somewhere in the vast unused space around the circular lights. And the interior – what a mess!

    But I’m young and looking at buying an inexpensive, reliable first car – maybe I’ll consider a 3.8L Impala if I can find one in good shape with a floor-mounted shifter.

  • avatar
    unseensightz

    Jack, in regards to your last paragraph on the newest Impala, have you even sat in the latest Impala or even been within ten feet of it?? Unless you have sat inside of the one on display at the New York Auto show I think you are completely off base making such drastic conclusions. (Lest we forget that the one there isn’t even a production model but one built a full year before they will be rolling off the line) From all of the video reviews and articles I have seen and read regarding the new Impala, it has received nothing but good ratings on design and interior quality/materials. What information do you have to base your “lowest Chinese bidder electronics and materials” comment off of? What research shows that the new Impala will be less reliable? Certainly not based on its platform mates such as the Lacrosse. Did you actually sit in the rear seat of the Impala or open the trunk to see if it was in fact smaller compared to the current model? And as far as the Avalon and Azera go, the Toyota might well be a legitimate competitor but Hyundai has yet to prove that the underlying engineering they put into their cars has improved as much as their designs, just see the wandering Sonatas for proof or how poorly, in my opinion, their suspensions handle even mild bumps. I hope my comment doesn’t get me banned from TTAC but I want you to show some legitimate proof to back up your comments to make sure you aren’t just GM bashing.

    As for videos I have seen that do not back up your comments on the Impala, see below.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IU-lVGRcdTI – Autoguide

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEkiDWJQa-g – Insideline

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmzdL0PFQzw – Cars.com

    • 0 avatar

      Just for the record I want to state that this is exactly the kind of comment that will NOT get you banned. An articulate, polite challenge is always welcome.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Yes, I was all up in the 2013 Impala, as the kids say. Not impressed. It wasn’t spacious and the materials quality seemed to be about the same as the old one, with said materials now bent and twisted in ways that must have seemed impressive to some cycle-commuting “stylist” somewhere.

      You can see GM’s Chinese sourcing yourself by looking around a Malibu “or similar”.

      Under no circumstances are you going to get banned for questioning something I’ve written. On the other hand, under no circumstances am I going to sit through an Inside Line video unless the alternative is waterboarding.

  • avatar
    armadamaster

    Good riddance. The 2000 WImpala, the car that was inferior in almost every way to it’s predecessor, the 1996 Impala SS. And despite the police version being “inspired directly from the 9C1 Caprice” (per GM marketing), it failed miserably in commercial fleets as well. It did manage to fill up Enterprise lots across the country though.

    Thank goodness I’m not the only one who noticed the direct ripoff styling of the 2006 Accord. All the WImpala has managed to do in recent years is steal sales from the similiar sized Malibu. Davis Chevrolet here last year had new WImpalas for $15,995 all day long, undercutting the $19,995 Malibu. GM’s solution to the two vehicles competing with each other? Why go upscale & RWD with the Impala when we can just reskin and rebadge both onto the same platform instead. Brilliant! 0_o

  • avatar
    seanx37

    One of my best friends has had 3 of these cars over the last 15 years.Just what he likes, despite me making fun of him. They are still in the family, and running fine. They are dull, and quite ugly. But comfortable to ride in. And dirt cheap. Especially here in the Detroit area. I don’t think he paid more than $19k for the last new loaded Impala(an ’11). And all have been 100 percent reliable. Two of them have the 3.8. His daughters have inherited the first two.

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    My family bought this car new in 2001. When I finally got to drive it, my impression was of immense weight, a noisy and torqueless motor, and a weirdly small interior for the size of the thing. Otherwise, it stands out so little in my mind that I can describe the steering kickback better than any other attribute.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I was looking forward to driving a 2012 Impala last week. I reserved a full-sized car at Hertz, and the Impala is their “example” car. When I got there, they tried to push me into a Chevrolet Captiva (think Saturn Vue). I kept bugging the desk lady to check for an Impala. Finally they were going to put me in a Camry. I told them that was okay if our luggage fit. I got to the Camry and the trunk didn’t come close to fitting our two large and two medium suitcases. Ditto an Altima one car over. Next to the Altima was a (ta-da!) Impala. I tried the luggage in the Impala, and it all fit. I went in and tried to rent the Impala. She told me it wasn’t available to rent. What a shame. We ended up with a Mazda5 which fit all our luggage and was a fine driver. I still would have preferred the Impala. Our luggage would have been covered, and the Impala likely would have delivered equal or better highway MPG.

    How about a 2012 Impala review, TTAC?

  • avatar
    22_RE_Speedwagon

    I grow old… I grow old… I shall wear my fenders rolled.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    This car seems remarkably similar to a Toyota Camry in mission and purpose. A practical, comfortable, quiet, reasonably reliable vehicle that prioritizes low cost of ownership and comfort over driving jollies. There are Camry fans and Impala fans, but I doubt they overlap much. So I ask, if you like one but would never consider the other, why?

    • 0 avatar
      musicalmcs8706

      I can’t quite put my finger on it, but give me my Impala any day over a Camry. Has my Impala been in the shop a lot for having less than 90k on it? Yes, but it still has been a great car to me.

    • 0 avatar
      PJ McCombs

      I’d personally never own either a Camry or Impala (and if anything, I have more sentimental attachments to Chevys), but having driven/rented both on several occasions, would take the Camry every time.

      The difference: while both cars started around $20K and could be optioned up to $30K, a $25K Camry felt like a de-contented $30K car, while a $25K Impala felt like a gussied-up $20K car.

      In the Camry you got a fast-revving, ripping-silk V6, good space utilisation, and decent-quality interior materials with lots of deleted ‘features’.

      In the Impala you got a V6 that (while reliable, I know) sounded like farm equipment, unimpressive legroom for its length, and poor-quality interior materials with ‘features’ to make up for it.

      To be fair, I suppose that’s applying car-guy priorities to cars with next to no appeal to enthusiasts, which may be a bit unfair–so YMMV.

  • avatar
    segfault

    I don’t like GM, and will never buy another new vehicle from them again, but I always liked the “big car” ride of the Impala. It seemed like it was able to absorb road imperfections better than most other cars.

    I realize that the 3800-equipped cars and their ilk (Impala, Lesabre, Park Avenue, Grand Prix, Bonneville, original Lacrosse, and original Lucerne) have a reputation for being powerful and comfortable, fairly reliable, inexpensive to operate, getting good fuel economy, and generally not being a penalty box to drive. Excepting the outgoing Impala, what *new* vehicles on sale today share those qualities? I have serious doubts about the new Impala, new Lacrosse, etc.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    Good riddance. One less miserable car at the rental counter.

    These were acceptable cars in 2000 back when Ford was still selling Vulcan-equipped Tauruses, but they were pretty much worst-in-class even then. The 3800 was the only redeeming factor, and that was probably still one of the best V6s at the time.

    Today, there’s absolutely no excuse to buy this over another GM sedan, let alone another manufacturer’s products. The new car doesn’t do anything for me, but at least its modern.

    I’ll be glad when the W-body fades into memory just like the J-car and I’ll no longer have to hear incessant fanboy rabble about how these cars are actually good, relevant and worthy of recommendation to people you don’t hate.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I don’t get the love for this car. I mean, it was reasonably reliable, but the packaging was terrible (there’s no way a car this big should have such a poor backseat) and it neither rode that well, nor handled.

    The Malibu—any contemporary Malibu—was better in every way save width. If you wanted a big car, the Taurus and Intrepid both had much better accommodations and both rode and drove waaay better. And if you really needed the space for your family, a minivan did that job better than any sedan ever could.

    The Impala, like the Crown Vic, was really only well-suited to fleet duty because it was cheap and simple to keep running when under the care of drivers who didn’t have to pay the mechanics. And that’s okay, but lets not pretend that this is somehow an unappreciated diamond-in-the-rough.

    • 0 avatar
      PJ McCombs

      Agreed. The SS model piqued my interest enough to drive one at a GM event in 2006. The V8 did sound good, but the flat leather seats felt like Teflon and pitched you into the doors in turns. The steering wheel writhed like a fish out of water under full power, and felt watery the rest of the time. It rode clompy–like the wheels weighed 80 lbs each–though the soft shocks damped some of that out. Couple the above with the Impala’s scratchy-plastic, generic interior, and it felt like a $30K car’s engine in a $15K car.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        You’re right about the clomping: this, and the Crown Vic, both thump pretty unpleasantly over big imperfections. The Intrepid, reliable as it wasn’t, was much more refined.

        Personally, I’d have written the eulogy for the LH Chryslers instead of this.

  • avatar
    Adub

    My parents bought a 2001 Impala LS brand new in December 2001. It now has 240k miles on the clock, racked up across the lower 48 (and Canada). No rust, engine and trans are good (better than in my V6 Accord). Problems? Little things, recalls under warranty, steering gear that is failing (the TSB calling for lube was not a solution).

    The car had the space and features to compete with Honda and Toyota, and the 3800 was the engine to get (still cracks 30 mpg at 75, better than my Accord). However, the ride was unsettled, the seats were all poorly designed, and the interior was shoddy. Seriously, when it got cold and the plastic moved, you could stick a finger through the gap to the left of the instrument panel.

    If GM hadn’t been saddled with all those legacy costs and inane budgets (can’t take money from marketing and rebates and put into the car up front), they could have built a car on par with the Accord and Camry of the era. And this looked way better than the jelly beans coming from Japan.

  • avatar
    Terry

    Adub quote [If GM hadn’t been saddled with all those legacy costs and inane budgets (can’t take money from marketing and rebates and put into the car up front), they could have built a car on par with the Accord and Camry of the era. And this looked way better than the jelly beans coming from Japan.]Quote

    A question for any and all: If GM hadnt these legacy costs and budget issues, would they..COULD they have built a better car?

  • avatar
    FuzzyPlushroom

    “Tasteful. Utilitarian. Spacious. Efficient. Affordable. Powerful. Reliable. Doesn’t that sound like what most Americans want in a sedan?”

    “Comfortable. Quiet. Predictable. Precise. What’s Dull In A Person Is Great In A Car.” Thus read a print advertisement for the ’96 Lumina. The more things change, so on, so forth.

  • avatar
    ixim

    Still in the family – a 2002 Buick Regal LS. With 138K on it, the 3800 will still top 30 mpg @ 65mph. Utterly reliable. Full of goodies (the Joseph Abboud! Model!). There were tons of $$ on the hood (thanks, GM) and, in a straight line, it matched my neighbor’s 323 BMW. Lots a gaps between body panels; low-end leather on the seats and not as much room as you’d think, given the size. Good looking, though. What the Impala would have been if it was a Buick.

  • avatar
    dwight

    I rented this car on a couple occasions and loved it each time. It had a half decent ride and was easy to drive. I would never have bought one used since it depreciates as fast as a Chrysler so as a used car it was a bargain. GM should have tried to keep the theme of the styling instead of a complete redesign in 2006. Certain design elements like the front and back lights should have been kept. They took the Impala character out of it in ’06. Too bad.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Well…I like my 2004 Impala Cappucino Frost base model w/sport appearance package (no spoiler, but nicer interior, alloy wheels and cargo net), split-bench, column shift, and I can honestly say I like it as much now as the day I drove it home. It’s been a very reliable car and is economical as anything else out there.

    Mine has the 3.4L engine and I have no issues with it, either, but I’m a cruiser, not a wannabe hot-rodder, so it has more than enough power.

    Perhaps I’m in the minority about these, but I added a few personal trim touches to make mine just a bit unique compared to the rest.

    It’s been a great car. I have driven the newer models and like them, too. In fact, I requested one as our rental in California last September over some Mazda5.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    I work at a Chevy dealer in sales. The Impala is funny compared to EVERYTHING ELSE in the Chevy lineup today – all the other cars are modern, high-tech, comfortable, good on ergo and good seats, etc etc. The Impala seems like a relic.

    BUT

    The powertrain in the 2012 is awesome. Total sleeper. I didn’t realize the car had gotten the dual cam 3.6 until I drove one around and noticed it sounded a bit cammy. Foot to carpet, double downshift, and holy hell – car rears back, bit of torque steer, and the speedometer starts to do a quick sweep. These things haul ass – having driven an 09 SS (we have a used one) the V6 is actually faster and has less torque steer/wheelspin issues. And it gets better mileage than last year’s base model (3.5L) despite having almost 90 more horsepower and 2 more gears. It’s hilarious- you can tell they put a really modern, high-tech engine in a car that is not. Fun in a perverse way.

    I’m not sold on the 2013 either, but it’s pretty, so it’ll sell, and that’s what matters to my bank account.

    By the way, my experience with the 90 degree 3800 isn’t positive – a 114k ’98 Olds 88 LSS that had the intake manifold issue and sucked a bunch of coolant into the cylinders, scored the bore, junked. No warning.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      That is my impression also. Like I said, I’m tempted to buy a base model with the 16 in rims (cheaper tire replacements dontchaknow), tint the windows, get a personalized plate that says “NCGNTO”, and replace the soft base suspension with better shocks and sway bars meant for an SS. Tint the windows and go surprise stupid kids in clapped out imports with oversize mufflers. The model I was in with a column shift still had a “paddle” on the opposite side of the steering wheel for flipping up and down a gear. Talk about old school meets new school!

      Dealers within a 500 mile radius of me are selling brand new models for less than $20,000 despite the $26,000 base price. Sounds like one of the deals of the century to me.

  • avatar
    SteveMar

    I don’t really have a big horse in this game, but my last three rentals involved full-sized (according to the rental car companies) models from Ford (Taurus), Dodge (Charger) and Chevy (Impala). To me, these all represented where each of the Big Three was it in terms of state of the American full-size car. While none would probably make me plunk down $28-30K for a new one, I have to say both the Taurus and the Charger far outclassed the Impala.

    At least with the Taurus and Charger, the companies are trying. The Taurus drove and handled well, had a the biggest trunk (for the luggage of four people) and was filled with electronics and features. Sure, it had crummy visibility and its interior space utility was not the greatest for its size, but it also had a rear view camera and other tech bits (heated/cooled seats) that made up for it. I think Ford overinvested in the whiz-bag part of the program, but it was the one of the three that my 12 year old said, “Dad, this is a nice car.”

    The Charger was surprising — I had driven one back in 2007 and thought it was a POS. The new one rode and handled much better, had a decent interior (it still was basic, but decently assembled) and the newish Pentastar engine was very quiet with excellent pick up. And the controls were much better than the Taurus with the best touchscreen system (in terms of readibility) I’ve seen. It too gave up too much for style — visibility wasn’t great to the rear and the trunk barely fit all our luggage due to getting shallow towards the rear (for some unknown reason). No one in my family commented on it, but I came away thinking Chrysler was moving in the right direction.

    The Impala really couldn’t compete. Sorry, but GM has been phoning it in with this one. It looked, drove and sound like the 12 year old car it was. Interior quality – meh. Features – forget about touchscreens and back up cameras. It wallowed and dragged and groaned in ways I haven’t heard since my ’97 Malibu got sold off to a high school student 6 years ago. For the life of me, I couldn’t see why anyone would actually want to pay their own money for one. It wasn’t the worst car I ever drove, but it certainly wasn’t worth the $25K+ price for a new one from the dealer.

    Sometimes, I notice folks get nostalgic for cars that never were all that good to start with. If you want boring, at least buy something reliable and efficient. If you want style or performance, go for it. The current Impala offers nothing that other companies don’t already do and do better.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Jack, there is more than a hint of irony in your ode to the W Impala. Just like the automotive press hated the W Impala at its release now you too choose to deride the new Impala at its launch – and for much the same reason. Too uninspiring, too much cheap plastic etc. Let give the new Impala a chance – the old one had 12 years to prove itself and everything tends to look better with rose colored retro vision.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      +1

      My sentiments, exactly. It was listening to all the talk at a wake about what a great guy the deceased was and how his son will never amount to much.

      I realize I’m in the minority, but styling-wise the new Impala is beautiful. But then I tend to like Chevy’s clean-lined styling. I wish all those ‘flame-surfaced’ designs would be true their moniker and spontaneously combust. I liken it to the singing style adopted by too many younguns that values the number of meaningless, melody-destroying notes they can fit into a measure.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I have owned 2 Impalas , a 00 and currently a 2008, my dad currently owns a 2008, two friends still have one each, a 2006 and a 2010 and we recently tested a 2012 for an entire weekend. My 00 was a stragely optioned white base sedan with the 3800 package, leather bench seats, moonroof, top line CD/cassette radio, alloy wheels, leather wheel and dual power seats etc. It was a great car and I drove it up until it had 171k miles. The ISS needed replacing which is a typical GM thing on W-body cars, the right rear wheel bearing went and the normal wear items were replaced but the engine/tranny were still strong, the car had no rust, still drove like new and everything including the A/C still worked.

    Fast forward to the 2008 2LT with the 3900 which now has 91k miles and still drives like a new car, gets 30 MPG on long trips, has only needed a new right tie rod due to banging into a curb in the Winter that was covered in snow and normal wear items. Up until last week it even still had it’s original brake rotors. The 3900 has been a faultless companion that always seems to have enough power for every situation I throw at it and not a wrench has been turned in the engine bay. Dads 2008 LS, now with 50K, has not even seen the inside of a shop save tire replacement and my two friends 2006 LTZ with 100k and the other with his 2010 LT have suffered no ill effects. BTW I’m 40 and my two friends are in there later 30′s and still like there Impalas even after years of ownership. That to me speaks volumes about how good the Impala is.

    Will reserve judgement on the 2014 Impala but exterior wise it looks very promising and the interior certainly looks much richer than the current car and I find it hard to believe that materials are subpar and cheap especially after seeing and driving a 2013 Malibu, various 2010-2012 LaCrosses, Equinoxes, Cruzes etc which all were a cut above many other new cars I have been in.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      I guess for some of us reliability is the only thing that makes a car “good.” I would not fit into that camp.

      According to Consumer Reports, the Impala doesn’t even have good reliability going for it.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        Funny, every car Consumer Reports says is unreliable I have had nothing but good luck with and every Asian car they praise the hell out of spends plenty of time in the shop within other parts of the family. Is it any coincidence that one of the staff members on CR’s panel is also affiliated with Toyota. That plus every appliance that CR recommends end up in the trash within a year or two, especially vacuum cleaners and toasters.

  • avatar
    Wizegui

    I last drove a rental Impala LT with the 3500 V6 back in 2010. I was really expecting it to be horrible, but it really wasn’t. The interior was not soft by any measure, but unlike a Corolla, it feels as if it will deal with dings and scratches better than a Camry/Corolla of the same vintage. While it had a pushrod engine, it felt as almost as smooth as most OHC V6 engines. It made really good power, had a smooth highway ride, and looked really rather nice. It wasn’t adventurous by any stretch, but it looks classy and really well proportioned. The only thing I didn’;t really like about the Impy was the soft suspension and Tahoe-esque steering wheel and feel. It doesn’t handle as well as other midsize/fullsize sedans, but then was that ever the point? I wish I had a chance to drive the 2012 with the 3.6 V6 and 6 speed transmission.

    The only other rentals that I have ever driven was a base model 2010 Corolla and 2011 Versa. The Impala was easily my favorite of the (admittedly limited) bunch.

  • avatar
    Nick

    ‘This was the Impala in its final days: Tasteful. Utilitarian. Spacious. Efficient. Affordable. Powerful. Reliable.’

    Right on the money Jack. This is exactly what GM was building when they were thriving.

    ‘Instead, the brain trust at GM has decided, once again, to demonstrate its complete ignorance of the market and to simply copy the class leaders.’

    You forgot to include ‘and add an extra dose of hideous’. I am sure I’ll get pounced on for saying this, but it looks hell. Seriously, if this is what ‘daring’ gets you, stick with bland.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    Polishing a turd comes to mind!


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