Thursday, February 12, 2015

A tale of two Impalas

You are looking at a pair of 2014 Chevrolet Impala sedans. Both are finished with Crystal Red Tintcoat paint. Both are top-level LTZ models. Both are currently being built and are sold in the U.S. And yet, there is very little else about these cars that are the same. You see, the one on the left is an Impala Limited, the previous-generation Impala that GM only sells to fleet customers. The one on the right is the newest version of the Impala. Let’s do a little comparison of the two.

The Impala Limited was the “new” Impala in 2005. The biggest complaint that most people had with it was that the styling was too bland. The styling hasn’t changed much over the years. Still, I think the Impala Limited LTZ we used for the story is a pretty decent looking car. The wheel and tire combination works here, the fit and finish is nice, and when you get the right color combination, it still looks fresh. Some people might not get incredibly excited about the looks of this car, but I don’t think anyone could call it ugly.

In the context of 2005, this car was pretty loaded up. It has Sirius/XM radio, tire pressure monitors, sunroof, and leather interior. When you option one out like the car in our pictures, you will be lacking few accoutrements. Sure, there are gadgets out there that might be fun to have, but this has all the serious creature comforts. I like this setup because it’s simple, proven, and cheap. Even a dope like me can jump into an Impala Limited and immediately be able to run everything.

The Impala Limited has a nice surprise under the hood, too. That 3.6-liter VVT V6 is rated at 300-hp. That’s not chump change. It wasn’t that many years ago that a Corvette didn’t come with 300-hp. I wouldn’t say these cars are tire-smoking drag strip terrors, but they aren’t particularly heavy, and they’re far from underpowered. Not many people realize how much performance is actually hiding in this car.

The new Impala is a different animal altogether. While the Impala Limited is as comfortable as an old pair of jeans, the new Impala is more like a designer suit. This car looks light years ahead of the Limited, with bold, sharp creases and Camaro-like swagger. When you stand off and look at them, it’s hard to imagine that they’re both versions of the same car. This is not an evolutionary replacement for the Impala. It is a complete, radical makeover.

You’ll find that to be the case inside as well. The new Impala is crammed with technology, and it all works through an eight-inch touchscreen that raises and lowers with the touch of a button. With Chevy’s MyLink system, you can operate your GPS, weather maps, Bluetooth and Onstar, climate control, and more. Of course, the stereo is also in there, and you can listen to Sirius/XM, terrestrial radio, or sync it up to your personal mobile devices. The sound pours beautifully from six perfectly-positioned Bose speakers.

This car has the up-level 3.6-liter, direct injection V6 connected to a six-speed transmission. It’s basically the same plant that’s in the Impala Limited, but you can find this powertrain in everything from Camaros to Cadillacs these days. There’s a reason this engine is used as often as it is. This is a nice setup, churning out an impressive 305-hp and 264-lb/ft of torque in the new Impala. This car has strong, smooth power throughout the speed range.

So which is the better Impala? Well, they both have their advantages and disadvantages. The Impala Limited LTZ has an MSRP in the $32,000 range, but since they’re only available to fleet customers, you can’t buy one new off the Chevy showroom. You can buy one in the 15,000-mile range for around $20,000, making them a killer deal. These cars are reliable, proven, and tough as nails. They don’t have much cutting-edge technology, and they probably won’t impress your neighbors.

The new Impala LTZ can skirt the $40,000 mark. But really, it isn’t in the same league as the old Impala Limited. This car should cost a lot more. It’s bigger, safer, more modern, and state-of-the-art. When you look at one of these in person, you will be impressed. All things being equal, it’s a better car than the Limited—of course it is. But that doesn’t mean they don’t each have their strengths.

Whichever car you prefer, the tried-and-true Impala Limited or the upstart new Impala, you know you’ll get a decent, full-sized American family sedan that will meet your needs, whatever they may be. Pictures in the slideshow below, or see a nicer version at this link.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting comparison, Craig. This reminds me of the 40's and early 50's, when the year to year changes amounted to changing the grilles, headlights and taillights, etc. As I recall in the early 50's the Chevys and Pontiacs were done on the same assembly line. On one occasion, perhaps as an anonymous joke, we received a Chevy with a Pontiac dash. Enjoyed your article.....Roger Grotewold Grotewold Motor Company, Larchwood, Iowa