- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 18, 2005

Chevrolet is introducing a new Impala for 2006 and it is a far different vehicle. Four or five decades ago Impala meant big in every way, exterior, interior and engine. If you drove an Impala in the 1950s or 1960s, you had a big powerful V-8 and lots of sheet metal around you and nearly living-room-sized space inside to stretch out.

Over decades, we and the Impala have gone through drastic changes. Today, the Impala continues to offer plenty of space and power.

Chevrolet also has the Impala return to V-8 power. And, all of this is wrapped in a practical, contemporary vehicle. The Impala offers room for five in an attractive and accommodating space. Chevrolet designers and engineers have fashioned the interior into a space that is packed with features today’s driver will be delighted to find.

The dash incorporates stylish curves and lines that make it very attractive. While I am not a big fan of faux wood trim, a couple of the examples I saw on the Impala were quite good looking. Chevrolet gives you a choice of substituting a brushed-meal trim, which I liked best of all.

The instrument panel, center stack and instruments and switches are not like the ones used in past Chevrolets. Everything has changed, for the better. Interior components are contemporary and attractive.

A feature I really liked was the design of the folding rear seat. Nearly all sedans offer some sort of folding rear seat. However, Chevrolet trumps them all in the new Impala. The 60/40 split seat offers more flexibility. Fold one or both cushions sections forward and you revel a cargo-holding trough that holds items more secure. There are also hangers formed in the bottom of the cushion to hold those unruly plastic grocery bags. Fold the seatbacks down and you get a very expansive cargo area because the trunk is accessible. This is the flattest cargo floor area I have ever seen in a sedan. We were able to carry 21 cardboard file storage boxes without blocking the driver’s visibility . All sat below the top of the front seatbacks. This also helped keep them from shifting about.

If you would rather carry passengers, as a sedan is supposed to, you will be happy to know that your passengers will be comfortable. I was able to place the front seats in a comfortable position for my large frame and then jump into the back seat to discover that I also had plenty of room to sit comfortably. Though sitting three across might prove to be quite snug, it can be done with few complaints from your passengers.

The exterior is completely redesigned with a new double front grille, lights, hood and fenders. There are slight fender bulges at the rear that give the Impala a muscular stance. The rear lights are bright and visible The trunk lid swings up, making a clear access to the large trunk opening for easy loading and unloading.

There are three new engines offered in three trim levels. The LT gets a new 3.5-liter V-6, while the LTZ receives a 3.9-liter V-6, while the SS sees the return of a V-8 to the Impala. All of these engines are available matched to a four-speed automatic transmission.

The 3.5-liter V-6 offers a first in this class with variable-valve timing in an overhead-valve engine. Offered as the base engine, it produces 211 horsepower and 214 foot-pounds of torque and offers more standard power than the previous model. Adding another factor to the mix, this engine is compatible with E85 ethanol fuel.

The standard engine in the LTZ, also available as an option in the LT, is a new 3.9-liter V-6 that produces a healthy 242 horsepower and 242 foot-pounds of torque. This engine makes use of variable-valve timing and variable-length intake manifold runners to make this kind of power.

Harking back to that time when horsepower was king and the Impala meant horsepower, we now have a reemergence of the small-block V-8. This 303 horsepower, 5.3-liter all-aluminum engine not only produces power, it saves on fuel by incorporating GM’s Displacement on Demand (DOD). This system shuts off half the cylinders if demand is low and can reduce fuel consumption as much as 8 percent.

Not only do we see the reemergence of the small-block V-8, we see this front-wheel-drive Impala gain power along with fuel economy that rivals smaller cars. The Impala sets forth a whole new generation of midsized sedans for Chevrolet.

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