More 1996 Lincoln Town Car than 1996 Chevy Impala
This weeks ride was initially a let down, but I’m happy to report I liked it more than I thought I would. I headed down to Georgia for a quick holiday visit with mom and my brother and my first choice of chariots was a Toyota Avalon. Mom is still debating (5 years and counting) on replacing her ’05 Camry. No Avalons were in sight at pickup time, so a co-worker graciously retrieved this beauty from another lot where it was on hold as a ‘stand-by’ for one of our satellite locations.
This is the “Premiere” trim level and it’s maxed out as far as options go for any Impala in 2018. The front leather seats were top tier and adjustable to fit anyone of any height or weight.
I really liked the mocha colored piping and stitching that was an extremely well done accent color in an otherwise complete black interior. It was easily spacious enough for 5 adults.
The front seats could have used a few more lumbar positions, but were fine during my longest stretch of 300 mile non-stop driving. The floormats felt super cheap and thin. No doubt they were the rental car fleet specials.
The center console was a big hit with mom and the blazing fast heated seats. A carmaker would be golden if they could figure out how to heat the cabin as fast as these seats warmed up! I really liked the dark gray/black wood trimmed inlays in the console and door area leading me to believe this color scheme could be ready for ‘black car’ sedan service in a fleet of limos. I didn’t try the manual transmission setting. The hidden compartment above the gear shifter features wireless charging. My old LG phone isn’t compatible, but I think that will be standard issue in nearly all cars in a few years.
The 18.8 cu ft trunk could easily swallow bags for 5 adult passengers, but a full-size baby stroller would be snug. The trunk lining/insulation was a little loose so the trunk light on was visible through the crack pictured above. I noticed the light was mounted and wired onto the top of the lining. I hope that light never gets too hot!
The V6 engine and 6-speed automatic were a good match for the Impala. The blend of power and fuel economy worked well for a car of this size and weight. I tried for the first time ever E85 gasoline. I was curious on how proportional the price per gallon savings would be to miles per gallon and if it had an effect on performance. On my first tank of regular gas (at the start of rental) I achieved 30.6 MPG and on the way back home the trip computer said I was less than 30 miles to empty. At that point I filled up with E85 and I got 27.8 MPG. Roughly 10% less efficiency and exactly 10% less cost. It wasn’t long ago that the cost of E85 was a full 30% less here locally, so the need for alternative fuel is lost on me at this point. Unless the price of E85 nosedives again, I’d honestly rather just use regular gas and have fewer pit stops.
The dashboard is unmistakably Chevy. According to Chevy’s website, peak power comes at 6800RPM, but doesn’t indicate what is redline. I thought it was odd that the Pacifica of last week didn’t have a redline on the RPM gauge either. It’s probably never a question with the Pacifica or Impala target audience, but I’m always curious about how far a vehicle can be pushed. I thought I had a ‘me-only’ gripe about the Impala’s odd steering wheel, but after talking with a competing rental agent, he had the same complaint also. When I’m highway cruising, my right hand is in the 4 o’clock position while resting on the armrest. But after only about 100 miles, my hand was getting cramped and I was having to change driving positions frequently with both hands. It looks like a normal steering wheel, so all I can figure is that the spoke spacing or steering wheel thickness just doesn’t work well with my hands
The center stack shared of lot of cues from the much lesser Malibu, but with a few appearance upgrades. Mom (and I for that matter) were very impressed by the LED trim around the dash and the doors when the headlights were on. She was also impressed with the separate climate controls for the driver and passenger. I got a kick out of that because that’s standard issue in many cars of several classes, but compared to her 13 year old Camry, that’s notable! I know die-hard audiophiles aren’t typically fans of Bose products, but the standard stereo in the Premiere trim was excellent at all volumes for music and talk radio.
LED daytime running lamps are on each side of the bottom grille, which appear to be able to house fog lights. LED’s are an upgrade from regular incandescent bulbs on the lower trims.
The “Premiere” and “V6” logos on the trunk are the only things that differentiate this from the less optioned Impalas at this angle. Again, a lot of Malibu styling influence from this view.
The ride was excellent and the suspension hid road flaws like a boss, but handling was not as I expected and ‘floaty’ like an old Lincoln Town Car. The Maxima from 2 weeks ago set the bar really high in cornering for this class in our fleet. But high performance cornering isn’t an issue if the primary mode of travel is cruising down the interstate at 85 MP . . . I mean 70MPH.
Things of note:
MSRP sits at a tad over $38,500.
Odd at this price point not to have memory seats as standard.
Achieved an impressive 28.9 mpg. The EPA states 19CITY/28HWY.
305 hp was enjoyable, the 198hp in the lesser trims would probably be unpleasant and the fuel economy difference is negligible.
Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
If I had a job that required an American company car, this would be definitely be in the running. If said job required a lot of highway driving with passengers, the Impala would be on near the top of the list. I’m curious what the 2.5 liter 4-cyl Impalas are like, but 107 fewer horsepower would be a huge letdown after driving the V6. I imagine it’d be a similar experience to the disappointing LaCrosse of a few weeks ago. I’d rent an Impala again for a multi-state trip, but would opt for the similarly classed Maxima for city driving. Bose has come through with a stellar sound system.
Chevy if you’re listening . . .
Just this week everyone learned of the Impala getting the ax next year. Since the similar Taurus is getting chopped at Ford also, what will fill the void for those buyers who don’t like SUVs? Good call on dumping the overpriced Lacrosse, but I think sending the Impala to the grave is a mistake.
On a scale from 1-100: (1- overdue to die Mrs. Barra / 100- big mistake Mrs. Barra)
Buy it now – 35
Buy it later at half the current price – 65
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 30
Oooh and ahhh factor – 40
Recommended to rent – 75