By on August 26, 2013

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“New York, New York, a helluva town. The Bronx is up but the Battery’s down.”

New York City. The World’s Capital. It has something for everyone and everything for someone. One can travel the globe and never find better restaurants, theatre, shopping, museums, or music.

It’s also an awful, awful place to drive.

Parking is non-existent or hellaciously expensive. Taxi drivers show no concern for surrounding vehicles, changing lanes at will. Pedestrians leap out in front of vehicles–sometimes sober, but most of the time not. And the traffic! Sitting in the Lincoln Tunnel for ninety minutes “just because” is a daily occurrence. What vehicle can survive such a test?

Enter the 2014 Chevrolet Impala.

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I had the privilege of facilitating a meeting at the Grand Cascades Lodge in Hamburg, New Jersey this week. It’s a beautiful facility, with rooms bigger than any of my first three apartments, a meticulously manicured golf course, and a Wine Spectator-recognized restaurant with a $30M wine cellar.

It’s also only forty miles from New York City. So, naturally, on my last evening there, my colleague, Shawn, and I took his 2014 Impala rental car with just over 3K on the clock into town. It was the 2LT variety, complete with a whomping 3.6 liter V6 kicking out over three hundred horses. Our plan? Eat at the best Mexican restaurant I’ve ever experienced, Baby Bo’s on 2nd avenue, and then head into the Village to hear Roy Hargrove’s big band perform at the Blue Note.

The 2013 Impala was one of my favorite sleeper rental cars, especially in LTZ trim. I used to love watching unsuspecting rental car customers walk past them in favor of Nissan Altima 2.5 S models, leaving them for me to swoop up on. I was extremely curious to see how the 2014 model would compare.

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My first test of the Impala was to see how it fared from the passenger’s perspective. Shawn drove us into the city, avoiding the backup in the Lincoln Tunnel and taking the long way into town on the George Washington bridge. First impressions of the Impala’s interior? Best in class. Seats were much more supportive than the Avalon, dash materials were much softer than the Azera. The MyLink infotainment system was intuitive and easy to use. Forward visibility was decidely better than what I experienced in the Avalon a few weeks earlier. So far, so good.

Shawn’s driving style was much less aggressive than mine on the highway, but once we got into the city…not so much. The big Chevy floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee through the streets of Harlem, switching lanes and handling the potholes of Park Avenue without a single hiccup. The cabin provided insulation from the soundtrack of the urban atmosphere, not to mention from the homeless individual knocking on our windows. One sudden lane change received a honk and a warning from our rear starboard side. “Make sure that you put that there’s a big blind spot in the review,” Shawn advised. Consider it done.

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Upon arrival at 34th and 2nd, we found a parking space right behind a CR-V Zipcar and headed into Baby Bo’s. This little gem of a restaurant seats maybe thirty people and serves the finest inexpensive Mexican food in the country. If you have a Hot Tamale x10 badge on Foursquare, like I do, this is a must do in Manhattan.

Next up–the Village. Going the thirty blocks from Baby Bo’s to the Blue Note took about fifty minutes. At 8:00 PM. Think about that the next time you complain about your suburban morning commute.

“Why is it that a taxi seems like it would have been about twice as fast?” Shawn wondered.

No street parking to be found in Greenwich Village, so we opted for a parking garage on 3rd Street. Amongst the G Wagens, Range Rovers, and 911s already parked in the garage, the Impala fit right in. This car LOOKED like big money-everything from the stitched dash to the paint quality impressed. GM didn’t cut any corners when it came to appearance.

The line for the Blue Note stretched all the way down the block to McDougal Street. I had reserved a table beforehand, and upon entry to the club our server led us to a spot near the front of the stage, right in front of Roy Hargrove’s microphone. For those of you who may not be lifelong Jazz fans, Hargrove is on the Mount Rushmore of trumpet players. He’s been on the New York scene since the late Eighties when when he was in his late teens. He has won two Grammy awards. He’s collaborated on recordings with everybody from Stanley Turrentine to D’Angelo to John Mayer. (Mentioning John Mayer is always a good way to get a review published at TTAC — JB) I was psyched.

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Roy came out in a white cotton suit, green Ray-Bans, Nikes, and a purple bow tie with skulls and crossbones. I momentarily thought that perhaps I had accidentally gone to see will.i.am play trumpet. The set was okay. Not inspired, not awful. It was time for Shawn to toss me the keys and for me to drive us back out of the city.

Unfortunately, the drive back to New Jersey was a tedious one. After getting through the Lincoln tunnel with no hassle, we were forced down from four lanes to one across the bridge to the Meadowlands, which meant an hour-long traffic jam. Fifty MPH speed limits greeted us for the rest of the trip after that, with cops stationed about every two miles. Much to my chagrin, I was unable to fully test the direct-injected V6’s power, but the trip did let me know how the Impala would fare as an urban assault vehicle. The answer? Very, very well. Large enough for a family of four. Small enough to fight its way through traffic. Good enough fuel economy (we averaged just under 25 MPG for the trip).

Most importantly, the car was EASY. The stress of sitting in one spot for nearly an hour, inching along, was completely nullified by the comfort of the driver’s seat, the rich sound of the stereo, and the well-lit displays. The Impala moves with the facility that most drivers would expect from a Lexus. Somewhat comfortably numb, but still enjoyable. The transmission handled the start and stop with ease–no clunking, no uncertainty about which gear to select.

At 1:30 AM, I reluctantly turned the keys over to our valet as we returned to the resort. As I watched him drive away, I thought, “The only thing that would keep anybody from buying this car is that damned bowtie on the trunk.” This is a car that should conquest business from Toyota, Lexus, Hyundai, and Ford. This is a real Impala. This is a car GM can be proud of. I wonder how it would look next to a Boss 302 in my garage?

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45 Comments on “Bark’s Bites: Impala N’You...”


  • avatar

    WIn win for Chevy then. The only thing that bothers me about this car is the roofline that is veer well portrayed in one of the pics. The interior looks good and more imaginative than most of the competition, while the exterior (except for the roof) looks god. Can’t wait for this styling of roof to go away.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      But Marcelo, it makes it look like a four door COUPE. Racy. Quick. Stylish. Of course, like two door coupes, it limits visibility, noted in the review. Too bad there were only two on the drive in a 4-passenger (five in a pinch). Rear seat comfort, leg room and headroom will have to await another review.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      While the Impala in LTZ trim has a very nice interior for the segment, the design of the dash is a bit overdone with too many squiggly lines going everywhere (as well as a few cheap plastic bits).

      Overall, I’d say the Cadenza has the best interior, altho arguably, it competes more with the ES and TL.

      Nonetheless, GM did a great job with the Impala and it is one of the class leaders in the segment.

  • avatar
    segfault

    Nice. I’m shocked that the rental fleets stock a V6 model instead of the four-banger.

  • avatar
    StephenT

    Not to nit-pick but I feel that most “blind spots” occur because of poorly positioned mirrors. I driver several large cars, including old B-Bodies, Chargers, trucks, and SUVs, and have always been able to solve blind spots by positioning mirrors better.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      When driving state vehicles (California), we were instructed to take a standard driving position and note the edges of view in the rear mirror, and position the side mirrors as extensions of the view right and left. That gives you the widest continuous view.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I got a ticket at 44th and 7th ave in the afternoon after several parking exnforcement personnel blocked the interesection that I and three other care happened to be in. Ticket was 145 bucks. Blockin the box.

    I was in a new Cadillac. Didnt help.

    nice review tho.

    • 0 avatar
      Stumpaster

      You make a turn. Unless of course you are trying to get in the tunnel.

      • 0 avatar
        msquare

        Mentioned elsewhere that NYC parking and traffic enforcement is predatory. You’re far less likely to be mugged on the street than dinged by a cop or meter-maid. And they can take more money from you.

        And that’s the primary motivation. I pity the NYPD people who have to function as bagmen for Bloomberg.

        Best to park in an outer borough and take the subway in. Or drive off hours. Manhattan is extremely hostile to cars.

  • avatar

    The one feature you definitely want to have in Manhattan is STOP/START ENGINE TECHNOLOGY. I’ve wasted GALLONS of fuel in line for the Holland/Lincoln tunnels. Cylinder deactivation doesn’t help at all.

    If you really wanna test the V6, take it on I280 to the Poconos. I’ve gotten my new Jeep SRT up to 150 during left-lane passes of people doing 90.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Wish they had spent more time working on the rear of the vehicle the more I look at it the more it looks like they phoned it in.

    I have experienced the 3.6V6+6-speed combo in a W-body Impala. Glad to see they wrapped a good car around that great engine. Although even when GM was at its worst GM Powertrain was usually the best part of the company.

    Your title made me think of what my Dad used to call Impalas. “How do you like your Impale-ya?”

    • 0 avatar
      mistermau

      This is spot-on. As sharp as 80% of this car looks, the rear end just disappoints.

      If I was in the market for a new sedan (even though I don’t really buy new cars and I prefer wagons), this would be near the top of the list.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I was just going to comment on the same thing, that massive plastic void is downright upsetting on such a beautiful vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      This Is Dawg

      I thought the first one I saw from behind was an updated Sonata. Pretty similar chrome-into-taillights look.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      The biggest problem of all GM vehicles, including this one and the Malibu, is always the rear. It is like they never think of the rear when design a car and keep all the committee voters in the rear styling department.

      This is already much better than the Malibu’s rear.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    Spent ten years in New York… and drove in from Sunnyside every now and then. I get nostalgic about driving in the city, because I knew my way around it and could afford avoiding the worst hours. Thanks for saying a few things about it – a photo or two would have been awesome.

    [2nd ave is no good in going downtown at that hour – use Park, then cross over to fifth either before 23rd or before 14th. Or just follow the cabbies].

  • avatar
    mikey

    A salesman I know, tells me “we can’t keep them on the lot”. Here in Oshawa we are all keeping our fingers crossed. I for one, would love to see the 14’s running down our consolidated line.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Is this bizarro TTAC? I thought you guys hated GM.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Is this TTAC Impala week?

  • avatar
    suspekt

    This review vindicates my earlier post on the Impala a few months ago.

    I think this is one of the best car’s out there right now. Just from a design standpoint alone it’s a knockout.

    I thought the Avalon was a stunner when I saw the photos, but in person, this one KO’s the Avalon in the style department (and the new ES).

    I think I will wait a couple of years and try to pick one up for a nice discount. The only problem is that the existing W bodies are such good cars to begin with.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    That side profile and huge character line going to the back door is hideous. The Avalon is much cleaner.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The Avalon’s greenhouse isn’t a striking and the front fascia of the Avalon is a wreck.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I have a problem with the very rear of the window chrome – it’s too fat. Thinning that would add a nicer, longer profile and give it more of an A7 appearance. The Impala badge is too close to said trim as well.

      And maybe for next year they’ll ditch the full-gold-bowtie and go for an outline in blue. The gold is taking any semblance of upscale and/or class right out of it.

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    The real question is: Can Impalas swim upstream? Looks like a solid effort. Too bad it’s become an incredibly shrinking market segment.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    From some sides this car looks fine, I can’t help but say “Charger” when I see the side, and either “Hyundai” or “Toyota” when I see the back. I don’t mind the unoriginal design for being such, my issue is that GM has taken the Charger windows and “character curb” and much like the Charger it suffers from blindspots.

    But the Charger at least had the reason to “vaguley pay tribute to the ’67 models”, the new Impala has no excuse.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I was at the Chevy dealer this Saturday to inquire about the availability of the new Vette** and saw this Impala. A very hot Latina looking saleswoman came up to me when I was inside the Impala. Have to say, the Impala was beautiful as well. All this car needs is a nice red dot from CR so some of the CR sheep might actually consider it. Yeah, the bowtie will hurt it, at least initially but the previous W bodies will be more of a hindrance in the mind of most. This is exactly the effort GM needs to keep up for the foreseeable future to change the minds of buyers. A “recommended buy” from that magazine will go a long way. Hyundai did it this way; so can Chevy.

    **The Vette: My dealer has been allocated 30 cars to date. You can order the car as you would like to have it, as long as you are OK with $5K over sticker. They have sold six so far, sight unseen. No cars will be on the floor unless they are unsold.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Do adults have to remove their heads to be comfortable in the rear seat?

    Is a TV camera the only way to know what’s behind the car?

    Yes, I’m serious.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Seriously, no to the first and no to the second. For the first, the rear seats are a bit low, so there’s barely enough headroom. I wouldn’t consider the rear seats as comfortable as my ’80 Buick Regal, so that’s the key word. You can “know” what’s behind the car by checking your mirrors very frequently, but not by seeing them at all times.

      You could raise the roof and put in a vertical rear window, but with passengers sitting comfortably upright, the trunk lid fashionably high, and thick C pillars for roof strength, the rear view wouldn’t improve much. In my 1990 Accord, I thought a car behind me was too close if I couldn’t see the bottom of the grille. Now it’s too close if I can’t see the base of the windshield.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    Ditto on the rentals of the older LTZ cars, they take a beating and have a lot of torque for a little bit of fun.
    While I agree the rear end of the 2014 is the ugly spot, it’s not as bad in person as Jack’s picture indicates. That shot almost looks like it used a fish eye lens, but I know it did not.

  • avatar
    Carlos Danger

    “New York, New York, a helluva town. The Bronx is up but the Battery’s down.”

    When I read that I thought you were going to review a Tesla…

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Looks like the Chevy version of a Taurus. Ridiculously high slab sides, check. Slit windows, check. Trunk too high to see over, check. Swoopy-coupy roofline so minimal rear headroom and annoyingly low seating position – even WORSE than the Taurus. Sounds like it has room in the front though, the Taurus is not as roomy as my 3-series. A decent effort, but nothing to get excited about. Will be interesting to see how the sales hold up long-term once the new wears off. Though at least they will probably make some money on this one.

    As to the old Impala, sticking 300hp in a steaming pile of crap just makes for a fast steaming pile of crap. The novelty wears off in about 15 minutes for me, even in a fully insured rental car. Count me as one who prefers the Altima 2.5s as the rental barge of last resort.

  • avatar
    Kevin

    Having driven both a 2013 Impala and a 2012 Altima S, I vastly preferred the Impala. I can’t wait to drive a new 2014 model.

  • 0 avatar
    danio3834

    While the Rendezvous certainly wasn’t the worst, the Cobalt was definitely more reliable.

  • 0 avatar
    bball40dtw

    Hahahahaha.

  • 0 avatar
    bball40dtw

    The Cobalt is a cockroach. Loved by no one, but refuses to die.

  • 0 avatar
    danio3834

    Agree. By the time the Cobalt rolled around, GM had figured out how to make a fairly relaible small car, they just didn’t make it very attractive.

  • 0 avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’m fairly certain the Rendezvous was A) ugly, and B) usually suffered many, MANY electrical faults and trim issues.

  • 0 avatar
    bball40dtw

    If there was a list of least maintained cars per mile, or something similar, I would bet the Cobalt would be on that list.


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  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
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  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
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