Larger than the Lumina, the new 2000 Impala is a front-wheel-drive family sedan with a roomy interior, large trunk, and two powerful V6 engines. Prices start at $24,495.
Practical mid-size sedan is roomier than Lumina
Contrary to what you might expect, the 2000 Chevrolet Impala is not a replacement for the Impala SS and Caprice, last seen in 1996. They were full-size rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered sedans with a body-on-frame design. The 2000 Impala is a mid-size, front-wheel-drive, V6-powered sedan with unit-body construction.
The Impala is actually a replacement for the Lumina, which will be discontinued for 2000. The new Impala is slightly shorter than the Lumina, but has a longer wheelbase and a taller roofline which means a bigger, roomier cabin. GM says the Impala’s cabin is four percent bigger than the Lumina, and the trunk is nine percent bigger. Impala’s are built in the same plant as the Lumina and the new Monte Carlo in Oshawa, Ontario.
By today’s aerodynamic styling standards, the new Impala has rather conservative ‘three-box’ sedan styling – it’s certainly not as racy as the Chrysler Intrepid or Pontiac Grand Prix. The Impala’s most distinctive features are its covered headlamps, and full-width tail lamp lenses with four round tail lights, a vague throwback to earlier Impala’s. Uplevel LS models add five-spoke alloy wheels and a rear spoiler for a sportier look, but even this Impala is rather conservative.
Personal styling preferences aside, the Impala is an eminently practical and powerful automobile. Impalas offer two traditional overhead valve V6 powerplants: a 180 horsepower 3.4 litre V6 in base models, and a 200 horsepower 3.8 litre V6 engine in LS Impalas. Standard on all models is a 4-speed automatic transmission, a fully independent MacPherson strut suspension, 16 inch tires, and four wheel disc brakes, the latter unusual in the family sedan class. Anti-lock brakes, however are optional on base models.
Along with the bigger 3.8 litre V6 engine, uplevel LS models add full-function traction control which works at any speed to reduce wheel spin in slippery situations. LS models also add standard automatic climate control with separate driver/passenger temperature adjustments, split folding rear seatbacks, driver’s side-airbag, CD player, and anti-lock brakes.
My test-vehicle was an LS with the 3.8 litre engine. This pushrod powerplant has lots of low-end torque which means quick acceleration from a standing start, and nearly-instant throttle response at lower speeds. Low-end torque is becoming rare these days, and it’s nice to get into a sedan that responds when you want it to. At highway cruising speeds, the 3.8 litre engine is exceedingly quiet and smooth, due in part to its low engine revolutions of 1800 rpm at a steady 100 km/h. The standard 4-speed automatic transmission is also very smooth and capable.
At speed the Impala is very quiet – there’s little engine noise or wind noise, but there is some tire noise and suspension noise over rough surfaces.
With its fully independent MacPherson strut suspension and standard 16 inch tires, the Impala offers surprisingly good handling and stability, though there’s some compromise for a softer, sedan-like ride. The Impala’s big disc brakes provide excellent, fade-free stopping power, and pedal feel is firm and consistent. One quibble: the plastic spoiler under the front bumper scrapes on curbs and steep driveways.
Getting in to the Impala is relatively easy because of its large doors and tall roofline. The Impala’s interior isn’t particularly stylish, but the quality of the materials is quite good and the design is very functional with a lot of attention paid to details. For example, the inside door handles are unusually large and easy to grip, the stereo dials and buttons are within easy reach and easy to see and operate, the ignition keyhole is on the dashboard, and a large hazard button on the dashboard is easy to see when needed. In addition, the rotary dials and sliding levers for the heater are also easy to operate. One complaint: the exposed screws under the door handles and in the door grips look unfinished.
A centre console includes a floor-mounted shift lever, centre armrest with a deep storage bin, two cupholders, and a large open storage bin under the dash.
Base models have a three-person front bench with folding centre armrest, and LS models have two front bucket seats with a centre console. I found the driver’s seat very comfortable and the driving position very good. Visibility is excellent, helped by a third side window which makes lane-changing easier.
The rear bench seats three passengers, but unlike most rear seats, it doesn’t have a hump in the center cushion which can be uncomfortable for the centre passenger. A centre rear folding armrest however does protrude from the backrest. When folded down, it provides a handy armrest with two cupholders for outboard rear passengers. 60/40 split folding seatbacks are standard on uplevel LS models but optional on base Impalas.
All Impalas come with dual front airbags, but a driver’s-side side-airbag is optional on base models and standard on LS models. Curiously, a passenger side-airbag is not available. Standard on all Impalas are five three-point safety belts and five head restraints (the rear restraints are not height adjustable) and three tether anchors in the back seat for child seats.
The trunk is a very roomy 17.6 cubic feet with the rear seats up. It has side-mounted struts which don’t intrude into the luggage area, and a wide opening for easy loading of large suitcases. One potential problem: the centre bottom trunk latch can scratch luggage if it’s slid in over the lip.
For an MSRP of $24,495, base models include most things you’d expect in a $25,000 domestic car: a standard automatic transmission, power steering, 3-person front bench seat with centre armrest and storage, AM/FM/cassette stereo with four speakers, air conditioning, pollen filters in the ventilation system, power windows, power mirrors, power door locks, tilt steering column, intermittent wipers, woodgrain trim, front and rear 12 volt power outlets, P225/60R-16 inch tires, four wheel disc brakes, a fully independent MacPherson strut suspension, and engine block heater. Split folding rear seatbacks and anti-lock brakes are optional on the base model.
Uplevel Impala LS sedans, at $28,995, add a 200 horsepower 3.8 litre V6 engine, all-speed traction control, 16 inch tires with air pressure monitor, alloy wheels, rear spoiler, front fog lamps, and anti-lock brakes. Standard interior features on LS models include front and driver’s side airbags, 6-way power driver’s seat, AM/FM/CD player, cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls, and dual-zone climate control.
My test car with optional power sunroof, premium stereo, and heated power front seats came to $33,200.