---- — Chevrolet started selling the big, new, 2014 Impala sedan about four months ago. But only in the last two weeks have drivers started to race in to Bill DeLuca Chevrolet Buick GMC to check out the re-made cruiser.
The surge in interest coincides with the recent start of advertising and promotion by Chevrolet, explained Jim Fichera, general sales manager at the Haverhill dealership.
That’s a common pattern, he said. A car maker often launches a new model but lays low for a spell while its factories fill dealer lots. When inventories are sufficient, the company lets loose with advertising.
With Impala, the recent rush of enthusiasm repeats another pattern Fichera sees with other models from General Motors – Detroit-based GM makes Buick, Cadillac and GMC vehicles, in addition to Chevy cars and trucks. Drivers of other brands, especially high-flying foreign brands, are being lured by new introductions arriving at DeLuca.
Fichera first saw the trend with Buick. Now about 50 percent of the cars traded for a new Buick are foreign models.
“Over the past 18 months, I’ve traded more foreign cars than ever before,” he noted. “American cars are built better and they’re more attractive in appearance than they ever have been. We just have to get the foreign car buyer in here to try the product. Then they see the value.”
With Chevy’s 4-month-old, redesigned sedan, Fichera said, “we’re seeing both the traditional Impala customer coming in, and we’re seeing people trade some high-line foreign cars as well.”
Examples from last week include a sedan from luxury-car maker Acura, and a Toyota Avalon, said the sales manager.
The 2014 Impala is the 10th generation of the auto that Chevy first introduced in 1958. Re-engineered and restyled from the tires to the antenna, the new model tips aggressively toward high style and even luxury.
On the outside, Chevy followed the current impulse among car makers to go bold and distinctive rather than safely sedate.
A long, sloping roof that trails to just over the back bumper, along with prominent side creases arcing over the rear wheels, make the Impala appear powerfully elevated in the back, like a sprinter in starting blocks ready to dash ahead. Body creases along the doors create a luxuriously long, arrow-like look, while a chevron-shaped grille and middle points on the hood and front bumper reinforce the effect.
Inside, the cabin of the new Impala provides more passenger space than its predecessor, especially in terms of leg room.
The interior design aims at elegance, with a pillow-top dashboard that recedes from the front passenger side to create a more spacious aspect, while it usefully clusters instruments and controls around the driver.
Curved and contoured surfaces wrap from the dash to the doors. Materials are soft and pleasing to touch.
The cabin is quieter, too, after GM engineers stiffened the body to reduce flexes and rattles, and added sound-absorbing and sound-suppressing fillers around the passenger compartment.
Impala versions equipped with four-cylinder engines even get a technology called active noise cancellation. It detects penetrating engine noise and sends counteracting sound waves through the audio system’s speakers, basically creating quiet.
The level of advanced tech available in the 2014 Impala matches the equipment you find in many luxury cars. That includes all the information, entertainment, navigation and communication gear that drivers order to make their autos more efficient, productive and enjoyable – including the first Bose audio system offered on a Chevrolet model.
But available safety equipment is Impala’s stand-out feature. Every model comes with 10 airbags. You can purchase options that outfit the big Chevy with all-speed adaptive cruise control (automatically keeping you away from forward cars), collision alert and crash-imminent braking, lane-departure warning, blind zone alert, rear cross-traffic alert, backup camera with guide markers, and ultrasonic parking aids.
Chevrolet boasts that the car’s sensors and monitors bundle it inside 360 degrees of protection.
Such safety features are particularly popular at Bill DeLuca Chevrolet Buick GMC, said Fichera.
“They’re not hard to use, and when they’re switched on, the systems can only benefit,” he stated.
Fichera praised Chevy for making all the advanced equipment in the new model unintimidating and easy to operate. He explained that a separate manual for infotainment systems aims to be accessible and easy to read.
He noted that the new-vehicle delivery process for the Impala and models like it now stretches to 45 minutes or an hour, as DeLuca staffers tutor buyers on how to operate and profit from the car’s features.
“It’s no longer just a case of handing the keys to the customer,” he quipped.
The Impala comes with a choice of three engines.
The largest, a 305-horsepower V6, has a fuel-economy rating of 19 miles per gallon in city driving, and 29 mpg on the highway.
The model’s 196-horsepower four-cylinder earns a rating of 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway.
The third option, soon to be introduced, will incorporate hybrid-drive technology that General Motors calls eAssist. It will use limited electrical power to boost Impala’s fuel economy to an estimated 25 mpg city, 35 mpg highway.
So far the V6 appears to be Impala’s most popular engine. But Fichera noted that the four-cylinder motor is winning converts among people who encounter it.
“They’re not necessarily people who come in looking for the four-cylinder,” he explained. “But their mind is changed by the test drive. They’re surprised that there is hardly a discernible difference between the two engines.”
Rising gasoline prices might boost the popularity of the fuel-efficient four-cylinder even more, Fichera speculated. But whichever engine buyers choose, they’re finding a lot to like in the new Chevrolet Impala.
Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction and non-fiction books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.
2014 Chevrolet Impala Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-wheel-drive full-size sedan Price range: $27,535 to $36,580 (plus options) Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic warranty; 5 years/100,000 miles powertrain warranty; 3 years/36,000 miles corrosion warranty; 5 years/100,000 miles roadside assistance Base engine: 2.5-liter I4 Power: 196 horsepower at 6,300 rpm; 186 lb.-ft. torque at 4,400 rpm Transmission: 6-speed automatic Fuel economy: 21 mpg city; 31 mpg highway Wheelbase: 112 inches Length: 201 inches Width: 74 inches Height: 59 inches Weight: 3,800 pounds Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons Turning circle: 38.8 feet