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Chevy Impala leaps into rare territory

Wednesday - 9/18/2013, 12:01pm  ET

This undated photo made available by General Motors shows the 2014 Chevrolet Impala 2.5L iVLC. (AP Photo/GM)

ANN M. JOB
For The Associated Press

The re-engineered 2014 Chevrolet Impala isn't just new, attractively styled and comfortable to ride in.

It's the first American-branded car in at least 20 years to be rated the top new sedan by Consumer Reports magazine.

In fact, the Consumer Reports score of 95 for the new Impala was higher than all other cars except the much higher-priced Tesla Model S hatchback and the BMW 135i coupe. Neither of these is a sedan.

The full-size, five-passenger Impala also received the top, overall, five-out-of-five-stars rating from the federal government for occupant protection in safety crash testing.

These ratings illustrate how far the 2014 Impala is from its predecessor, which scored a lowly 63 from Consumer Reports and earned an overall four out of five stars in government crash testing.

One note: Consumer Reports does not have the new Impala on its "recommended" buy list. Because the revamped Impala is so new, the influential magazine does not yet have owner data to determine a reliability rating.

Additionally, the 2014 Impala is pricier than the 2013 model.

Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $27,670 for the base Impala LS with 196-horsepower, direct-injection four cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission.

This is $985 more than the base, 2013 Impala LS, which came with a more powerful engine -- a 300-horsepower V-6. No four cylinder was offered.

Building a 2014 Impala with V-6 on Chevrolet's consumer website showed that a V-6 buyer for the nearly 17-foot-long Impala must move up to the 2LT trim version. So the lowest starting MSRP, including destination charge, for this 305-horsepower Impala with six-speed automatic is $30,895.

Unexpectedly, the federal government's fuel economy rating for combined city/highway travel in the 2014 Impala with V-6 is lower than that for the 2013 Impala -- 21 miles per gallon vs. 22 mpg.

Meantime, some competitors -- notably the 2014 Ford Taurus large sedan -- have slightly higher fuel economy ratings from the federal government than the corresponding four- and six-cylinder versions of the new Impala.

For example, the 2014 Ford Taurus with 288-horsepower V-6 is rated at 23 mpg in combined city/highway travel by the U.S. government, or 2 mpg more than the 2014 Impala with V-6. The 240-horsepower, turbocharged, four-cylinder version of 2014 Taurus is rated at 26 mpg compared with the 25 mpg rating of the non-turbo four cylinder with 196 horsepower that's in the 2014 Impala.

Starting retail price for the base, 2014 Taurus SE with V-6 is $27,495, while the base 2014 Taurus SE with turbo four cylinder starts at $28,490.

Another large sedan competitor, the 2013 Hyundai Azera, has a 293-horsepower V-6 and a starting retail price of $33,145. The Azera comes standard with luxury features such as leather-trimmed seats, navigation system and 10-way, power driver's seat that are extras on the Impala and Taurus.

The test 2014 Impala was a 2LT version with standard direct-injection V-6.

Power came on smoothly during relaxed, everyday driving and passengers scarcely noticed shift points.

But, when demanded, the 3.6-liter, double overhead cam, direct-injection V-6 produced power forcefully. Peak torque is 264 foot-pounds at 5,300 rpm compared with 254 foot-pounds of peak torque at 4,000 rpm in the V-6-powered Taurus.

Unfortunately, the power driving socked the fuel mileage, with the test car averaging just 18 mpg in city/highway travel where the majority of driving was in city traffic conditions. This translated into a lackluster 330-mile range on a single tank of regular gasoline.

At times, the Impala seemed to coast after the driver removed the right foot from the accelerator pedal. The car did not immediately slow the way some European cars do when pressure is let off of the accelerator.

The Impala is well-insulated against exterior noise. Engine sounds were muted much of the time, and passing cars and trucks were barely heard.

The 2014 Impala has an impressive ride. Passengers sit on well-cushioned seats, and the test car felt agile and responsive to the driver. In sweeping curves and corners, the Impala's body lean was minimal.

The new Impala is handsome, inside and out, and tastefully retains a certain American look while appearing much more upscale than its predecessor. The hood sits higher for a bold appearance, while side lines and proportions are pleasing.

The interior is visually interesting. Plastic textured interior pieces on the dashboard and doors give a quality look, and the swooping top piece that extends from one side of the dashboard to the other defines an airy space.

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