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CHEVROLET IMPALA LS

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Jul 7, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

A DEER WAY TO SAVE YOUR STARBUCKS

By DAVID GARDNER

Here's a good thing about the Chevy Impala: my single grande non-fat latte fits perfectly into the cup holder, even with the crinkly cardboard sleeve.

Now that may not be an important factor to some people. But those among us who have spilt our precious Starbucks $3.10 coffee just because most auto manufacturers build their cup holders to fit the Big Gulps they need to get through the day in Detroit will fully comprehend just how big a thing this is. In Southern California we have different priorities. Who wants to wobble a latte on your knee every morning as you desperately try and make up minutes to get to work on time? Not me. I like my foam gently in place every time I take a little sip at a stop light. If it was up to me, the Impala would have a nice flat tray you could pull out by the driver's seat for my cranberry orange muffin. I'd probably buy one then.

One of the biggest negatives about the Impala is also one of the things I like about it? At first glance, it's so dull I'd never have to worry about it being stolen. I looked out of my front door yesterday morning to look where I parked it and it took me about five minutes to realize it was sitting right out front. It's an anonymous car. And yet... And yet I was having dinner with the family tonight, all puffed up an apologizing to the kids because I had a boring car to review and my 10-year-old daughter interrupted (for which, naturally, she was admonished) to tell me: "It's not boring. It has loads of room and is really comfortable and it has a cute silver deer on the side." As she usually bases her likes and dislikes of a car on its color, this was a significant remark and it got me to thinking and the more I thought about the Impala the more difficult I found it to criticize it. And that's a shame because I was warming up my Simon Cowell impression. I decided that the cheap shot about it being dull isn't based on much more than churlishness. The Impala wouldn't still be around if it didn't have a considerable fan base around the country who are confident that it gets the job done. Just because it looks a little out of place where I live on the beach doesn't mean it doesn't give you a very comfortable, stress-free ride. Some cars look great the moment you see them and then you start noticing little things that can get irritating: the convertible with the roof that fills the rearview mirror, the window controls that need the hand of a three-year-old to operate, a seat belt designed by the Boston Strangler. Then there are cars like the Impala which have a smooth, simple design that eases into your life so thoroughly you don't appreciate just how good they are.

That thought was compounded in the parking lot of Albertson's the other day when I saw a bunch of young hoodlums getting into this sleek black car I assumed to be a Beemer or a Merc. A second look quickly told me it was indeed an Impala. Who'd have thought the Impala would be the choice of the rap crowd? Perhaps they don't like spilling their Starbucks, either. Until then I'd also assumed the Impalas were favored by older, more sedate drivers, but by the way these guys squealed out of the parking lot I'd say they fully intended to test the 200-hp 3800 V6 engine to its upper limits. A little research soon tells me that the new Impala was put together by former Corvette designer John Cafaro and his team, who was looking to lure punters into a double take at his car. Looks like he succeeded. The Corvette influence is more apparent on the LS with the sports package, which soups the Impala up with diamond-cut wheels, a 'Vette-inspired body-color rear tailamp panel, and extra doses of chrome and leather. But my LS in a typically understated "Galaxy Silver" takes a more traditional mid-range luxury car route. It sells for $24,920, a grand or so less than the new Honda Accord Sedan and a couple of thousand more than the Camry LE V6.

The 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission is as smooth as silk, but the velvety changes probably seemed especially good because I'd been driving stick shifts for the previous couple of weeks and, coming from that strange country across the Atlantic where they drive on the left side of the road, my left hand is always grabbing an imaginary gearstick in manual transmission cars over here.

The Impala boasts 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS and a Tire Pressure Monitor, which is an obvious and excellent safety feature which rarely comes standard for reasons I'm completely at a loss to fathom. There are people who check their tire pressure regularly and there are those (like me) who don't. When your tires blow out at 95 mph in the diamond lane of the I-5, at least the Impala can say, 'I told you so!'

The all-speed electronic traction control keeps you grounded, the sports touring suspension is extremely effective and the rear-deck spoiler adds a little flash to an unflashy car. Give me a paint job, a couple tanks of NOS, and a radical hair cut and I'll take Vin Diesel in an Impala any time.

The stereo's okay, but a CD doesn't come standard, which seems daft in a smooth luxury car like this. In fact, any car without a CD player of some fashion these days is going to lose sales. It may sound silly to the car nuts who look at this site, but there are people out there who buy cars based on things like CD players, vanity mirrors or the size of the cup holder. Speaking for myself, I'm a big fan of shiny hubcaps.

For the couple who can never agree on whether to have the a/c on or off or low or high, there are dual temperature controls for driver and front passenger and a 6-way power driver bucket seat for those days when the commute is really getting your back up.

The 18.6 cubic ft trunk is nice and big and a split folding rear seat adds space for things like skis, carpets and sleeping basketball players. The p225/60R-16 touring tires fit the bill nicely, as well.

Chevrolet boasts that the Impala got 5-stars last year in US Government safety tests for the driver and front passenger. That's all very important, but browsing through the manufacturer's web site I finally found the deal-maker that proved I have been on the right tracks all along with this review.

Chevrolet knows what's important in a car. They have not only designed the cup holders for us Starbucks customers - you can even buy an Impala in Cappuccino Frost Metallic.

Now if only they had an iced double white mocha frappuccino...

Impala LS with the Sport Appearance Package (note the taillights).

Please check www.chevrolet.com for more info.

Specifications

Engine type: 3800 3.8-liter Series II OHV 12-valve V6 with cast iron block and heads

Horsepower: 200 hp @ 5,200 rpm Torque: 225 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/front-wheel drive Transmission type: 4-speed Hydramatic Front suspension: Independent MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar and coil springs Rear suspension: Independent MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar and coil springs Wheels and tires: 16" 5-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels, P225/60R16 touring radial tires Brakes: Front: 11.93" x 1.26" power-assisted disc Rear: 10.9" x 0.43" power-assisted disc Brake Assist/Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) Overall length (inches): 200 Overall width: 73 Overall height: 57.3 Curb weight (lbs.): 3,476 Mileage estimates City/ Highway/Combined: 20/30/26 mpg

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