Chevrolet Impala LS Review
Again, forget the Impala SS. That’s the fancy one with a V8 engine and a $28k price tag that tells you precious little about Chevy’s gestalt (save the fact that they don’t mind putting 303hp through the front wheels). Clock the LS– if you can find one. Oh there are plenty of them out there. It’s just that the model’s design is inoffensive to the point of invisibility. Admittedly, the new Impala looks better than the old Impala, but it’s not a patch on the really old Impalas or all the great Bel-Airs from the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. Why did GM’s designers settle on an update of a late-90’s Chevy Lumina? That design defined generic in 1998. Park the Impala next to a Dodge Charger or a new Camry and the Chevy disappears.
Other than bland, the one word that describes the Impala’s driving experience is “adequate.” Adequate power from its pushrod 3.5-liter V-6 for keeping up with traffic. Adequate comfort for mindless interstate cruising. Adequate steering, handling and braking for avoiding accidents. Adequate sound insulation to keep road noise from interfering with the adequate AM/FM radio. After a few miles driving– I mean “operating” the Impala, you begin to manipulate the controls with all the emotional engagement you normally lavish upon your toaster. You find yourself wondering if the engineers who designed the Impala ever drove a base-model Accord or Camry– of any vintage.
No amount of money will buy you a modern transmission. The competition may offer five or six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, but the Impala buyer’s only option (which equates to no option) is a 1980’s-era four speed Hydra-Matic. It handles the changes well enough, but it’s not exactly what you’d call a paragon of cog swapping precision. Of course, this deficiency is something of an American tradition: the Impala is made by the same company that continued selling two-speed Powerglide automatics into the 70’s, when others had moved on to three and four-speed designs.
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