The history of the Chevrolet Impala is beginning to look a lot like a plot from a soap opera, with the main character continually being killed off and then resurrected and brought back as someone else. Impala’s last demise was in 1996, after a brief run as a high performance Caprice. But for 2000 the Impala lives once again. So, inquiring minds want to know, what’s it going to be like this time around?
Well, hopefully, a car with enough individuality to stand apart from both the competition and its own General Motors relatives.
Loosely based on Chevrolet’s Lumina sedan, but with a much stiffer chassis, the first front-wheel drive Impala is meant for large car drivers who want a more continental driving experience. To that end, Chevy designers gave the new Impala a sharp, aggressive, more European styling, which from the front bears a rather strong resemblance to its distant GM cousin, the Saab 9-5. The tail, however, is very much its own. The huge round lights are real attention getters, but most of our staff didn’t care for the sweeping ruby-red fascia that surrounds them.
Impala rides on a 3-inch longer wheelbase than the bread-and-butter Lumina, a roomy 110.5-inches, and a wider track as well, adding 2.5-inches up front and an extra 1.3-inches in the rear. It all meets the road through 16-inch wheels, steel on the base Impala, aluminum alloy on our LS-grade test car. The LS wears Goodyear Eagle touring tires, as well.
Suspension is straightforward, MacPherson struts front and rear. Our LS test car has a standard Touring Package, which includes higher rate springs and quicker power steering.
Impala pushrod power starts with GM’s familiar 180 horsepower, 3.4-liter V6 in the base car. Our LS gets the bullet-proof 3.8-liter V6, that delivers 200 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque. No V8 SS model sighted yet. All Impalas get the same electronically-controlled 4-speed automatic transmission. No manual is available.
Nevertheless, the 3.8 LS is capable of a very respectable 0 to 60 time of 7.5-seconds. The quarter-mile takes 15.7-seconds at 91 miles-per-hour. Power delivery is deceptively smooth, though shifts are a bit on the stiff side under hard acceleration.
Turn a corner, and the Impala will also surprise you with its agility. While hardly a hard-core sport sedan, Impala offers significantly better handling and more feel than the Lumina it will eventually replace. In fact, Impala feels as planted and solid as one of Pontiac’s more overtly sporting machines. The only down side to our LS is a rather harsh suspension feel over big bumps. Buyers looking for a softer ride will prefer the base Impala’s Ride Preference package.
Brakes are 4-wheel discs, with standard anti-lock for 3.8-liter engined cars. Stops from 60 averaged a fine 123 feet. Our car exhibited a slight front end weave under hard braking, but we were impressed with the excellent pedal feedback. After its contemporary styling and performance, the Impala’s interior seems a bit out of place. It’s roomy and comfortable, but, frankly, looks dated.
As Chevy’s only full-size car, Impala is aimed both at younger buyers with families and older traditional big car owners. So, while the dash is wide and rather plain, we can’t fault the efficiency of its layout. The analog gauges are easy to read with just enough data for a family driver. Whom will be in one of GM’s most comfortable seats. The buckets may look like something out of Dad’s car, but offer very contemporary levels of support and comfort.
The center control pod is closer to the occupants than the rest of the dash, making the high-mounted optional cassette-and-CD stereo even easier to use. Ditto the LS’s dual-zone climate controls with their brightly colored graphics.
The rear bench seat looks even more out-of-date than the front. But it offers high levels of long haul comfort, as well as true full-size sedan head and leg room. Trunk room is also healthy at 17.6 cubic-feet. It is a long reach to the back of the trunk, however, and older folks won’t care for the high liftover when loading.
But taken as a package, the latest Impala is an impressive effort. Though we have to say that we still miss the nameplate’s previous full-size hot-rod configuration.
If the latest Impala’s looks, performance and comfort appeal to you, you’ll find the price even more so. Base Impala sticker is only $19,265. That’s over 5-grand less than a Toyota Avalon! The LS begins at $22,925. With options like heated leather seats, and the upgraded stereo, our test car comes to $24,524.
While the new Impala is not the muscle sedan of a few years ago, it is true to the original Impala’s image as a very distinctive, more upscale, very well-equipped family sedan at a still reasonable price. In fact, on that last point, the 2000 Chevrolet Impala is the first new car super bargain of the new century.
Engine: 3.8-Liter V6
Torque: 225 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 7.5 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 15.7 Seconds @ 91 MPH
60-0 MPH: 123 Feet