2006-2012 Chevrolet Impala
Buyer's remorse could mean big savings
Having bailed out General Motors, President Barack Obama may yet feel buyer?s remorse.
GM is being sued by a Chevrolet Impala owner who claims the company recalled police versions of the car to fix a suspension issue, but ignored civilian Impalas with the same problem.
GM recalled 2007 and 2008 police-spec Impalas for faulty ?spindle rods? (TSB 08032), which misaligned the rear wheels and led to rapid tire wear. No such luck for the owners of 423,000 everyday Impalas ? despite widespread grumbling online about weird tire wear.
?I bought a 2007 Chevy Impala and I?m having to replace tires every three months,? reads one online post. Some tires have revealed their steel belts in as little as 10,000 km.
GM claims the lawsuit doesn?t apply to it, since ?Old GM? was reorganized in 2009, so the repairs might conceivably fall upon part-owner Obama and the government.
Chevrolet updated its largest sedan for 2006 with new engines, reworked suspensions and fresh styling, but retained the same front-drive ?W? platform tweaked innumerable times since 1982. Quiet Steel in the firewall added to the Impala?s already hushed character.
The cabin featured a redesigned instrument panel, new seats, updated audio systems and an available fold-flat rear seat. The front bench seat and column shifter in the base model made the Impala one of the few six-passenger sedans left on the market. Taxi fleet operators especially appreciated the huge trunk.
Entry models came with a 211-hp 3.5 L V6, a gain of 30 hp over the old base model, but that was mitigated by the new car?s 100-kg weight gain. LTZ Impalas used a new 3.9 L V6, good for 240 hp.
The Impala SS returned, this time with a 303-hp small-block 5.3 L V8 mounted sideways. The engine featured Displacement on Demand, which shut down four cylinders under light-throttle conditions to save fuel.
All Impalas were wedded to GM?s venerable four-speed automatic transmission, even while competing sedans had embraced five- and six-speed automatics. Head-protecting side curtain airbags were standard and front torso side airbags were optional.
For 2007, engineers added cylinder deactivation technology to the 3.9 L V6, which converted the smooth runner into a three-cylinder gas sipper. The V8-powered SS was dropped after 2009.
The Impala received an imperceptible styling refresh for 2012, while a new 303-hp DOHC 3.6 L V6 became the lone available engine. The grizzled four-speed slushbox was finally replaced with a six-speed automatic.
Today, the ninth-generation model remains in production in Oshawa solely as a rental fleet and police car, aptly rechristened the Impala Limited.
ON THE ROAD
Like all preceding generations of Impalas, the 2006 model was a competent sedan for its day, performing all the tasks expected of a family conveyance while offering some appealing safety features.
It accelerated to highway velocity in 8.0 seconds and generated 0.81 g of grip on a circular skidpad on its optional 18-inch tires. With its tall gearing and aero-smooth profile, it was good on gas, too, bettering 9.0 L/100 km on the open road with either V6.
The V8-powered Impala SS was swifter still, requiring just 5.6 seconds to reach 96 km/h ? significantly faster than its fat, rear-drive 1990s ancestor. Torque steer was pronounced, however, making the SS a handful under hard acceleration on anything other than freshly pressed blacktop.
WHAT OWNERS REPORTED
The dated Impala has earned a decent reputation among fleet operators, and even nostalgic consumers recognize it as a good, safe buy. Unfortunately, this rental-car staple can be a handful as the mileage racks up.
Beyond the rear suspension issue ? which can be fixed by elongating the mounting holes or using aftermarket parts to allow camber adjustment ? the front end is troublesome, too. Owners have reported clunking intermediate steering shafts, fast-wearing tie-rods and ball joints, failed power-steering pumps and wheel hubs, and more.
The high-pressure power steering hose is reputed to leak, as well as the water pump. The automatic transmission shifter may fail, causing the key to become stuck in the ignition lock cylinder.
The all-aluminum V8 can consume oil excessively; in fact, all three engines may exhibit consumption. Other complaints include harsh-shifting transmissions, headgasket failures in the 3.5 L V6, paint delamination and electrical snafus.
Ravaged by depreciation, a late-model Impala can be a good buy ? especially when it?s backed by the President.
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2006-2012 Chevrolet Impala
WHAT?S BEST: Oodles of trunk space, good on gas, joyous depreciation.
WHAT?S WORST: Eats Goodyears for breakfast, oil consumption, getting mistaken for a cab.
TYPICAL GTA PRICES: 2006: $6,500, 2011: $12,500