Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Discuss this story in the forum at CarTalkCanada 2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ
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In its first major redesign since 2000, the front-wheel drive Chevrolet Impala sedan has been given a major styling make-over, an all-new interior, two new V6 engines and an all-new V8, re-tuned suspension, newly designed flip and fold rear seatbacks, and new standard side curtain airbags.

Since 2000, the Oshawa-built Impala has been known for its roomy but unattractive interior, powerful optional 3.8 litre V6 engine, huge trunk, better-than-average reliability, and good crash test scores. A favourite with taxi firms and police departments, the Impala has proved to be a roomy, durable vehicle that’s relatively cheap to fix.

The 2006 Impala addresses some of the previous model’s weaknesses, notably its poor fit and finish, uncomfortable rear seat, and road noise. In addition, the new Impala offers two new technologically-sophisticated V6 engines with the first use of variable valve timing in an overhead valve engine; and a new V8 engine equipped with cylinder deactivation to improve fuel economy by up to 8% in certain low-load driving conditions.

The 2005 Impala’s 180 hp 3.4-litre V6, 200 hp 3.8-litre V6, and 240 hp supercharged 3.8-litre V6 have been replaced by a new 211 hp 3.5-litre V6 on 2006 Impala LS and LT models, a new 240 hp 3.9-litre V6 engine on LTZ trim, and a 303 hp 5.3-litre V8 with Displacement on Demand on the Impala SS.

2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ
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As a result of “employee pricing discounts” and competitive pricing pressures this year, 2006 MSRPs have been reduced substantially, often by thousands of dollars. Manufacturer’s suggested retail prices for the 2006 Impala are as follows: LS $24,685; LT $26,200; LTZ $29,840, and SS $32,855. Our Impala LTZ test car with the standard 3.9 litre V6 and 4-speed automatic transmission, and optional leather upholstery came to $31,730 plus $1,150 for Freight and A/C tax for a total of $32,880.


Though the new Impala is about the same length and width as the old one, it has a completely different, but more generic appearance – guaranteed not to offend anyone.

2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ
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Unfortunately, it resembles some other sedans on the market and it’s certainly not as distinctive as the previous model, in my opinion. Still, it’s a clean, controversy-free styling effort with tighter tolerances between body panels, new grab-style door handles, and new flat-blade wipers for improved wet weather performance.

2006 Impala LS, LT and LTZ models look fairly similar except that the LTZ has 17-inch tires and a trunk spoiler. The Impala SS has 18-inch tires, a distinct front-end that includes a dual-split grille with a black-diamond crosshatch pattern, and at the rear, chrome dual exhaust tips.

Interior impressions

The cabin is a big improvement over the previous Impala. Our Impala LTZ model featured attractive two-tone upper/lower dash plastic, wood and chrome accents, and simple, easy to use controls. The LTZ comes with a leather wrapped steering wheel with cruise and radio controls on the wheel, and floor shifter for the automatic transmission. Note to GM: get rid of the light-coloured floor mats and carpets.

2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ

2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ

2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ

2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ

2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ

2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ

2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ
Click image to enlarge

The driver’s seat is positioned fairly high for an upright seating position. It features power height, tilt and rake adjustment, and manual lumbar adjustment for comfort, but even in its lowest position, it seems a bit high for tall drivers. The passenger seat also has power adjustability, and both seats offer heaters. The front seats are wide, which is good for larger people, but I found the seatbacks a bit firm. My car had the optional Nuance leather which is smooth rather than textured.

One odd thing about the Impala’s interior: the floor shift lever does not have a transmission gear indicator beside it. The driver must look up into the instrument cluster to see what gear has been engaged.

The new three-gauge instrument cluster is attractive and easy to read, and includes a tachometer. A digital display integrated into the speedometer includes the transmission gear indicator, compass, outside temperature display, and odometer.

In the upper centre dash, the radio/CD player features a bright, green-on-black display that’s easy to read day or night. It includes a standard auxiliary input jack for external devices, such as iPod or MP3 players, to be played through the vehicle’s audio system. But even on the Impala LTZ, a 6-disc CD changer is optional.

The dual temperature automatic climate control in my LTZ has sensible round dials for the fan speed and ventilation choices, but the temperature controls are two vertical wheels that I found awkward to operate.

Below that is a roomy, open storage bin with two 12-volt powerpoints, and behind the shift lever is an open storage area that can be turned into two cupholders by sliding a divider into the middle – very ingenious!

Between the front seats is an armrest with a large bi-level storage bin. However, the upper compartment must be physically removed before the driver can access the lower compartment – which I found awkward. Usually, both upper and lower storage areas can be accessed with two separate releases.

The rear bench seat accommodates three adults and has three fixed head restraints. There is plenty of legroom and headroom for rear passengers.

The new 70/30 split folding seatbacks are unique: the seat cushions flip up and forwards, and only the inner portion of the rear seatbacks folds down flat. But the seatbacks aren’t lockable. As well, the rear seat cushions have a covered storage area beneath them when down, and there are grocery bag hooks on the back of the cushions when flipped forward.

The Impala’s 527-litre (18.6 cu. ft.) trunk is huge, and fully lined.

Driving impressions

Techno-weenies will appreciate the fact that the new variable valve timing system in the new 3.9-litre OHV 60 degree V6 is capable of changing the angular orientation of the camshaft, thereby adjusting the timing of the exhaust and intake valves to optimize performance and fuel economy, and reduce emissions. This engine has already received Popular Mechanics’ “Breakthrough Award” for its “innovative adaptation of variable valve timing.”

2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ
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But for most of us, the main thing is that it has more power and torque than the 3.8-litre V6, better all-around performance, and only marginally worse fuel economy.

The 3.9 litre engine uses both variable valve timing and a variable-length intake manifold to produce 240 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 242 lb-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm. 90 percent of its torque is available from 1800 to 5800 rpm. That compares to the 3.8 litre V6 with 200 hp @ 5200 rpm, and 225 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm.

2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ
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Though the 3.9-litre engine has 42 more horsepower and 17 more foot pounds of torque, fuel economy suffers by only about 5%. Official fuel economy numbers for the 3.9 are: City 12.1 L/100 km (23 mpg Imperial) and Hwy: 7.9 L/100 km (36 mpg Imperial). The 3.8 V6 offers City 11.9 (24 mpg Imperial), and Hwy 7.3 (39 mpg Imperial).

Perhaps almost as important as the engine’s performance is its improved quietness and lower vibration levels. A number of improvements were made to reduce NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) including a stiffer front body structure and an aluminum engine cradle. Around town and on the highway, the Impala is quieter with less engine and road noise seeping into the cabin. The engine turns over just 1900 at 100 km/h and 2300 at 120 km/h, and the four-speed automatic transmission is very smooth. On the freeway, the cabin is very quiet with just a little bit of wind noise coming from the oddly shaped left mirror.

2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ
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The driver has good visibility forwards, and to the side – the third side window does help when changing lanes. However, the rear window is quite high because of the high trunklid. It makes it impossible to see the front of the car directly behind you when parallel parking, or backing into a space at the mall. As well, the optional trunk spoiler on my test car didn’t help visibility. Curiously, the three rear fixed head restraints didn’t impede rear visibility. A concern for city dwellers: the Impala is a fairly long car – over 200 inches long. Parking and manoeuvring in tight spots can be challenging.

2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ
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While it’s a comfortable daily driver with very nice highway manners, the Impala LTZ balks at any kind of aggressive driving manoeuvres. It tends to lean and understeer in tight corners even though it has fairly meaty Goodyear Eagle LS 225/55R-17 inch radials; and the steering is fairly vague on the highway although satisfactory in town. New four-wheel-disc brakes with larger front brakes and standard ABS and electronic brake differential provide quicker stops and have a linear pedal feel – but ABS is optional on LS and LT models. Those drivers seeking a performance-oriented sedan should look at the Impala SS which has a performance-tuned suspension.

One more thing: I disliked the sound of the turn signal indicator. It sounds like a metal spoon being banged inside a tin can. Cheap! And doesn’t reflect the rest of the car.

Safety features

For 2006, the Impala offers new standard side-curtain air bags, which offer head protection for outboard passengers in a side collision. Mounted in the roof rails, the side curtain air bags deploy down to the lower edge of the windows from the A-pillar to the C-pillar.

Dual stage front airbags for front passengers are standard, and the airbag sensor for front passenger seat is capable of differentiating between adults, 5th percentile females and larger and small children or child seats, in its deployment speed. This is to avoid injuring smaller passengers.

At the rear, there are LATCH anchors and tethers for up to three child seats, three 3-point seatbelts, and three head restraints.
The 2006 Impala features a strengthened “safety cage” passenger compartment for improved energy dissipation in the event of a crash. No crash tests of the 2006 Impala have been performed yet, but the 2005 Impala received a “Good” rating in the 40 mph frontal offset crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; and 5 Stars for the driver and front passenger in 35 mph frontal crash tests, and 4 stars for front and rear passengers in side impact crash tests conducted by the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).


The Impala is bigger than most mid-size sedans and smaller than some large sedans, so it’s difficult to say exactly which cars it competes with, but I would include the Buick Allure, Ford Five-Hundred, Chrysler 300, Pontiac Bonneville, and some of the larger imports like the Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and the new VW Passat.

With new powertrains, it’s too early to say how reliable the 2006 Impala will be, but Consumer Reports rated the previous Impala’s predicted reliability as “better than average”. As well, the 2005 Impala was ranked second (to the Buick Century) in the 2005 Initial Quality Survey conducted by J.D. Power and Associates


An improved interior, quieter ride, more power, improved safety, and a lower price are the highlights of the redesigned 2006 Chevrolet Impala, but the visibility to the rear is hampered by a tall trunk, handling is mediocre, and the new styling lacks individuality.

Technical Data: 2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ

Base price LTZ $29,840
Options $1,790
Freight $1,150
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $32,880 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 4-door, 5/6-passenger full size sedan
Layout Front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.9-litre V6, OHV, 12 valves, VVT
Horsepower 240 @ 6000 rpm
Torque 242 @ 4400 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Tires P225/55R-17 AL2 Goodyear Eagle touring
Curb weight N/A (app. 1660 kg)
Wheelbase 2807 mm (110.5 in.)
Length 5091 mm (200.4 in.)
Width 1851 mm (72.9 in.)
Height 1487 mm (58.7 in.)
Cargo capacity 527 litres (18.6 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 12.1 L/100 km (23 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 7.9 L/100 km (36 mpg Imperial)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Assembly location Oshawa, Ontario

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