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2014 Chevrolet Impala: GM?s restyled sedan pulls up its socks

San Diego, Calif.?On my way home from driving the all-new 2014 Chevrolet Impala, I rode in a last-generation Impala taxicab.

Nasty it was, with pebbly beige plastic and what can?t be called interior or exterior ?styling,? which is probably why 70 per cent went straight to fleet sales last year. The new model is so far removed that I might have expected it to receive a new name. Instead, it?s meant to return it to the flagship status the nameplate enjoyed when initially unveiled for 1958.

Three engines will eventually be available, all with six-speed automatic transmissions, starting with a carried-over 3.6 L V6 that produces 305 horsepower and 264 lb.-ft. of torque. The Impala shares this engine, and its platform, with such cars as the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XTS.

More: ?Impala makes surprising U-turn thanks to racy redesign

The V6 comes in two trims: the LT, starting at $32,945, and the LTZ, at $39,645.

The company will next add a 2.5 L four-cylinder, making 195 horsepower and 187 lb.-ft. of torque, starting in LS trim at $28,445; LT trim at $31,445; and LTZ at $36,445. Late in the year will be the eAssist, which uses a 2.4 L four-cylinder with an electric motor that adds power without using fuel, but isn?t a full hybrid system. Pricing on that will come later.

I?m not sure why GM will even offer it. In the Malibu, the combined fuel economy difference between the 2.5 L and the eAssist is a mere .08 L/100 km, but the tag is an extra $1,615. That?s probably why it?s only about 10 per cent of sales.

The V6 Impala will be built in Oshawa, which will also continue to build the old one. That one will be dubbed the Impala Limited, strictly for fleet sales, and it will carry on until demand wanes. It?s a good idea: the tooling is long paid-for so it?s cheap to make, and for many cabs and rentals, the new one is fancier than necessary. The 2014 four-cylinder Impalas will be made in Michigan.

Given the Impala?s considerable size, I can?t imagine either of the fours-bangers (which I didn?t get to drive) being any great shakes. But the V6 certainly is, moving out smartly from stoplights and easily passing at highway speeds on uphill inclines. GM expects it, in LT trim, to be the volume seller. Among its chief rivals, it?s more powerful than the Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, or V6-powered Chrysler 300, all of which cost more (by 2013 prices). It?s also stronger, but more expensive, than the regular V6-powered Ford Taurus. The turbocharged-V6 Taurus SHO outpowers the Impala with 365 horses, but it?s $49,199.

Don?t expect a high-performance Impala SS edition, though. The SS badge is going on a rear-wheel sedan that will be sold in the U.S., but not here. Seems we talk a lot about sportier Chevys, but we don?t actually go out and buy them.

The Impala handles better than I expected, with little body roll on some seriously twisty roads. The electric steering compensates for road crowns, so it?s smooth and pleasant to drive, without constantly correcting for bad roads. The ride?s nicely compliant, at least on the 18- or 19-inch wheels. The 20-inchers available on the LTZ look cool, but they ride harsh (and those tires are pricey to replace).

Front-wheel drive is the only choice, with no all-wheel option. GM says it?s because buyers won?t tick off that box on a front-wheel-drive car, only on a rear-wheel-drive model. I?m skeptical, and suspect the full answer is that buyers simply won?t pay what an all-wheel Chevy would cost.

The Impala?s interior has been seriously reworked and now features ?twin-cockpit? styling. It?s handsome, if a little busy with various curves and eyebrows on the dash. The seats are all-day comfortable, which will be good news for snowbirds, especially since the plan is to kick Buick to a higher level, and offer the Impala as an upscale but less-expensive alternative.

Along with ten standard airbags, the Impala can also be equipped with several new electronic safety nannies, including lane departure warning, blind zone alert, cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and automatic braking if you?re about to smack something.

The central touchscreen contains MyLink, which lets you pair up to 10 Bluetooth devices, customize the icons, and control it with the same swipe and pinch motions as smartphones. Push a button and the screen rises out of the dash, revealing a large cubby bin. You can stash your valuables and then enter a four-digit code if you want to securely lock it. The code also prevents anyone from accessing information in the system, such as contacts or directions to your house, for peace of mind when valet parking.

Overall, the Impala is nicely done. It?s very roomy and comfortable, it?s handsome, and the new platform makes a considerable difference in how it performs. It also proves two things: that the old Impala was as mediocre as they come, and when GM puts its mind to it, it really can do better.

2014 Chevrolet Impala

PRICE: $28,445 ? $39,645

ENGINE: 3.6 L V6; 2.5 L I4; 2.4 L I4 eAssist

POWER (hp/torque): 305/264 (V6); 195/187 (2.5); 182/172 (2.4)

FUEL CONSUMPTION: 11.1 city, 6.9 hwy. (V6); TBA (2.5, 2.4)

COMPETITION: Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon

WHAT?S BEST: Improved handling, handsome styling, roomy interior

WHAT?S WORST: Some visibility issues, no AWD available

WHAT?S INTERESTING: New corrosion-resistant brake rotors expected to double current brake rotor lifespan

Travel for freelance writer Jil McIntosh was provided by the manufacturer. Email: [email protected]

  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala: GM?s restyled sedan pulls up its socks
  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala: GM?s restyled sedan pulls up its socks
  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala: GM?s restyled sedan pulls up its socks
  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala: GM?s restyled sedan pulls up its socks
  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala: GM?s restyled sedan pulls up its socks
  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala: GM?s restyled sedan pulls up its socks

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