2015 Chevrolet Impala LTZ. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Steven Bochenek
GM recently hosted a fleet day. The company shows off all its latest models to their fleet customers and dealers at a massive convention centre slightly north of Toronto airport. These attendees can test drive the cars on a pre-determined loop. Auto writers were invited to the event also, getting access the vehicles outside all morning while the others are cooped up in presentations about sales, technology and what comes next for GM.
I attended the event but the 2015 Impala, the vehicle I wanted to drive, wasn’t available. The single unit they had onsite was so new and special, it was also inside the banquet hall, the guest of honour at the fleet presentation. But they gave me dibs as the first to sample it once the meeting ended at noon.
In the meantime, there were scores of other cars and trucks, including the 2014 Impala. It’s the tenth generation since the brand launched in the late ‘50s, an excellent ride for the money, which I thoroughly endorsed when they introduced it last year. It was winner of cars.com’s Best Car of 2014.
Given all that, it’s probably a good thing that this year’s model has barely changed. They got it right.
So what’s new?
There are three new exterior colours available for your 2015 Impala (when we said not much has changed, we weren’t joking): Rain Forest Green, Autumn Bronze Metallic and Blue Velvet Metallic. I’m not quite sure what any of those means; my tester was Fire Engine Red. Furthermore, all Impalas are now built-in wifi hotspots, courtesy of OnStar with 4G LTE.
The biggest news for the 2015 Impala is the introduction of stop/start technology with the base trim 2.5L four-cylinder engine. It automatically halts then restarts the engine when conditions are right (say, at a long light or idling). The computer observes conditions, including the climate control, then decides when shutting the engine would be more efficient. So much of this past winter it would’ve stayed active no matter how long the traffic light. GM claims it improves fuel economy by five percent, which is great.
The only thing is, the tester I drove was the LTZ, whose naturally aspirated six-cylinder engine is not to be bridled and doesn’t have the stop/start tech. But that’s OK.
2015 Chevrolet Impala LTZ engine bay, seating, trunk. Click image to enlarge
So what’s still good?
This beast of a V6 emits 305 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque in a car that weighs 1,754 kg, a favourable power-to-weight ratio for the impatient. For the exceptionally impatient, its six-speed automatic transmission is blessed with overdrive and Driver Shift Control. The difference in feel between the automatic and sport transmission is noticeable if not remarkable.
The ride is plenty comfortable without sacrificing a sporty dynamic. You could spend hours in there and remain focused on the drive. The comfortable seat drops low for a better sensation of speed. The long wide boulevards of Brampton Ontario were ideal for a quick experience. The steering is balanced and you can also feel the road really well at the 50 to 70 km/h range where so much urban and suburban driving is done. It gets a 9.2 L/100 km combined highway/city which sums up the route but which seems awfully good for such a big engine. Owners will be pleased that it runs on regular unleaded, a break for their wallet.
The hosts set up a short course within the parking lot for testing tight dynamics. The Impala has deft agility compared most other rides I tried on the day (step forward, Chevy Suburban!) though it was no Cadillac ATS-V. But again this is relative to the price.
2015 Chevrolet Impala LTZ dashboard, centre stack with hidden storage. Click image to enlarge
The Impala is a roomy sedan with a sexy European flair. It treats the driver well but offers passengers more than easy tweeting. There’s plenty of head-, leg- and shoulder-room: 952 mm, 935 mm and 1,450 respectively. (Despite a short time behind the wheel, I took in the effect of the rear, while photographing the cockpit from a wider angle behind.)
No wonder Chevy hasn’t modified that elongated and low-to-the-ground new look that came with the 2014s. It’s 5,113 mm long with a wheelbase of 2,387. They got it right.
And speaking of passengers, the Impala made the Kelley Blue Book shortlist for Best Family Cars of 2014. It would also be a safe choice for concerned parents and nervous drivers who read the newspaper too much. In fact, the Impala was the only 2014 non-luxury brand car to earn the top rating in crash tests by the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (they needed to make the organization sound as boring as possible, given that they get to smash cars all day).
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