General Motors revealed the long-delayed revamp of the Chevrolet Impala at the New York Auto Show. The 2014 Impala is aimed at bringing the vehicle more upscale, boosting retail demand while regaining fleet sales. The 10th variant of the nameplate was launched in 1958; the next-generation model marks the vehicle's first refurbishment in eight years.
It also marks the car's first platform change since the late 1990s. The Impala has been a few years past due for a redesign because of the deep cost-cutting measures during the bankruptcy and restructuring of GM. But the model has fought on. In fact, its U.S. sales of 171,434 last year far surpassed those of its large sedan rivals. However, they were lubricated by fleet sales, which comprised around three-quarters of its volume.
Analyst Aaron Bragman at IHS Automotive commented that GM is marking its position in the large vehicle segment with a "significantly better product," which is not a fleet special but a "higher-priced car, a higher-positioned car, a higher-margin car." Vehicle manufacturers rarely reveal an automobile a year prior to its launch for sale because it could adversely affect the present model. However, the risk is lesser if most of the vehicle's purchasers are fleet operators.
GM executives believe that the arrival of the redesigned Impala in showrooms around a year from now will eliminate what even they recognize is the last lingering stain on the vehicle range of Chevy in terms of quality.
GM wants to take retail market share away from the Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Ford Taurus and other competitors in the large sedan segment, which has been declining for years since buyers have shifted to crossovers and SUVs. Chevrolet's vice president of global marketing Chris Perry noted that the full-sized category has been "a bit dormant, adding that the entry could "re-spark" some interest in the full-sized sedan.
Unlike the previous generation, the wheelbase of the new Impala is longer by around 1 inch. Combined with the rear track that is a bit wider, this allows the new version to offer better control with comfort enhanced further, no matter what the situation is on the road. Since there was a need to ensure that performance targets were met under the minimum amount of mass, the engineers at the company optimized not only the shape of the upper body structure but also the metal gage and the material.
The mass is then implemented in a strategic manner to other parts of the model. Because the engineers were indeed able to lower the mass, these allowed them to put in that strut tower reinforcement in the front and thus enhance the structural feel of the new Impala. While the body structure is indeed now more robust, the main factor why this new model has a more responsive and confident driving experience is its powertrains. In addition, the powertrains have also been tuned in order to deliver comfortable performance.
For the new Impala, a total of three powertrains will be offered with each one not only having lightweight parts but also installed with fuel-saving direct injection. The first is the Ecotec 2.4-liter engine with eAssist. The eAssist is a feature that, depending on what the current condition is, will send electrical assistance. Output has been rated at 182 hp (134 kW) with fuel economy of 35 mpg. This engine though will only be made available by the later part of the year. Already available though is the Ecotec 2.5-liter engine which, being a four-cylinder unit, has better refinement and improved efficiency. Power is estimated at 196 hp (145 kW) with torque measured at 186 lb.-ft. (253 Nm).
The third powertrain, available as well, is the 3.6-lioter V6 engine with power of 305 hp (227 kW) and maximum torque of 264 lb.-ft. (358 Nm). This is not just the powertrain that has the highest output among the three but in fact for the whole segment that is equipped with the V6 engine. The different lightweight features ensure that driving experience is more balanced compared to others. With a design that integrates the cylinder head/exhaust manifold, the new Impala is able to have weight that is lower by 13 lbs. (6 kg) for each engine. All of the engines though will be paired with the automatic six-speed transmissions.