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HEAVY CHEVY

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 Sat, Apr 29, 2006

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

A CHEVY FOR THE LEVEE By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

It's been 10 years since Chevrolet offered a V8 in an Impala model. For 2006, you can see the USA in your Chevrolet with more power, performance, comfort, luxury, and safety. Many thousands of consumers have done just that as sales improved to a total of 1.2 million units sold since Chevy re-introduced the Impala in 1999. The all-new version features more refined styling, more powerful engines and an interior with more room, comfort, convenience, and luxury appointments. The optional SS package comes with the new 5.3-liter, small block V8, pumping out 302 horsepower and 323 pound-feet of torque. This Chevy also features 'Displacement On Demand' technology that shuts down four cylinders in light throttle operations, improving miles per gallon by up to eight percent. A sport-tuned suspension also comes standard with the SS package. It's good to see a powerful, cruising Impala back on the road. It is a definite improvement on the last generation Impala. This all-new Impala is headed in the right direction. The base Impala comes standard with the new 3.5-liter V6, making 215 horsepower, while the new, mid-level 3.9-liter V6 makes 240 horsepower (available in the LS, LTZ and LT models). Both V6 engines feature variable valve timing to optimize fuel economy. All engines are mated to the proven, GM 4T65-E four-speed Hydra-Matic electronically controlled transmission, delivering the power to the front wheels. That's a choice to fit most family needs and budgets, as the all-new Impala prices start at just $20,330 and top out at just $27,130.00 for the SS. This makes the SS the fastest four-door sedan under $30,000. The SS gets to 60 mph from a standstill in just 6.0 seconds. That's pretty quick for a sedan weighing over 3,700 pounds.

The new styling features an aggressive wedge shape with rising beltline starting up front, and a more angular shape all-around. Larger, cat's-eye headlamps have a premium, jeweled appearance with three independent light units. The front fascia features a slit for a front grille with a wide lower air-intake cut below. Tighter tolerances between body panels and grab-style door handles give the Impala a more sculpted look. The new rear fascia features a more angular look with a bold rear bumper, and triangular shaped, wraparound lamp cluster. The SS receives a distinct front-end appearance with dual-split grille and SS-signature black diamond crosshatch pattern, Chevy Bowtie emblem, and projector-beam fog lamps at the sides. The rear features a spoiler on the trunk lid, a SS badge, and bright, dual exhaust tips. The Impala SS gets its flared fenders stuffed with big 18X7 chrome wheels wrapped with 235/50R18 performance tires. The 3.5-liter powered Impala rides on 16X6.5 wheels wrapped with 225/60R16 all-season radials, while the 3.9-liter powered Impala rides on 17X6.5 aluminum wheels wrapped with 225/55R17 touring tires. All four doors open wide, and there are grab handles above all passenger door to ease entry and exit. The inside is roomier and packed with useful features, including clever, segment-exclusive, 60/40, flip-and-fold flat rear seats. The forward-flip rear seat cushions create a covered storage area beneath the seat with cushions down and offer convenient grocery bag hooks when the cushions are flipped forward. The seatback also folds down flat to create a generous pass-through from the trunk. The seats feature cleaner, simpler and more tailored looks. The seat cushions are firmer with increased lumbar support that provides more comfort during long drives. I didn't like the seatbacks in the SS, because there was very little side bolstering to firmly keep you in place during hard cornering. With 300 horsepower on tap and a sport-tuned suspension, Chevy knows that enthusiasts will want to take the Impala SS to the edge when cornering to quicken the pulse and get the excitement going. Better side bolstering will go a long way to improve driving comfort.

The Impala has a new instrument panel and dashboard design that is easier to see and understand with big 140mph speedometer, 7,000 rpm tachometer and fuel/engine temperature gauges. Bright LED readouts warn of safety or system failure. The center stack features easy to use switches for the climate control, traction control and radio. All buttons and switches are fully illuminated for safe nighttime driving. The new instrument panel design wraps around into the door panels and has a double-hump design reminiscent of early Corvette's. Impala LS, LT and LTZ models have a wood-trimmed appearance, while a sportier, brushed sterling-appearance trim is optional. The Impala SS comes standard with a techno-metallic pattern trim panel, with the wood-trimmed appearance optional. Interior features include plenty of storage space in the door edges, in the soft-topped center console storage bin, in the dual cupholders, a deep space at the beginning of the center console, and in the glove box, which is 20 percent larger than before. The rear seat features a pull-down center console with dual cupholders. The interior also features a tilting steering wheel with optional radio controls/cruise-control buttons, optional dual-zone climate control system, optional factory installed remote starter, informative gauge cluster with expanded driver information center-more than 50 alerts, optional eight-way, heated power driver's seat and six-way, heated front passenger seat with leather trim. Thick cut pile carpeting and sound-deadening material help keep the cabin quiet. There also is a new family of audio systems. The three systems feature new, simple-to-operate radios that are compatible with the enhanced Generation 6 OnStar system. The base CD-radio includes a six-speaker system. An up-level MP3/CD-radio is configured for XM Satellite Radio, with a two-line, 32-character reconfigurable display and the capacity to select between AM, FM and XM stations without having to reset the band. An up-level ICDX radio adds an in-dash six-CD changer. Impala also offers a premium Bose audio system. All radios include a standard auxiliary input jack for external devices such as an iPod or remote cassette player.

Quiet, smoothness and refinement are the ride and handling characteristics conveyed through the Impala's revised chassis and suspension systems. A strong front-end structure provides a firmer foundation to help reduce noise, vibration and harshness, while also enhancing steering and handling performance. Impala's fully boxed upper frame rail assemblies have a wider, deeper and structurally stronger upper front tie bar. Stronger ties between the upper and lower rails stiffen the front structure for improved ride and handling. Also, the lower front-of-dash panel has been strengthened and is constructed of Quiet Laminated Steel, which consists of sound deadening material bonded between sheets of steel and is designed to reduce resonant sound. An extruded aluminum engine cradle is used and contributes to a smoother, vibration-free ride. The new Impala felt like a large luxury sedan when it traveled over poorly paved roads. All harsh bumps were well damped out of the cabin. I was impressed with the improvement to the suspension system. The front suspension features a MacPherson strut coil-over shock with a stabilizer bar. Taller jounce bumpers in the front suspension help enhance stability and control. The rear suspension uses a trailing arm, tri-link setup with gas-charged struts and coil springs. A rear stabilizer bar is standard on all models. Based on the basic front and rear suspension designs, the Impala offers three levels of suspension tuning, each matched to the power and standard tires. The sport-tuned SS model gets a larger 34mm hollow front stabilizer bar, variable-rate coil-over-twin tube dampers up front, and coil-over-twin-tube dampers, with a bigger 19.4 mm hollow stabilizer bar in the rear to further enhance control with less body lean in the corners. Competent it is for the lower trim and power levels, but with a majority of the weight up front, you still feel a little soft and queasy when entering turns at higher speeds with the SS. To really feel confident the SS needs close to 50/50 weight distribution for a neutral feel and better cornering ability. That can only come with rear-wheel-drive and the SS model really needs that to be a real performer, like all the other 300+hp sedans out there. Also, let us not forget the dreaded torque-steer, which is in evidence during heavy launch. With its 320 pound feet of torque, hold on tightly. Since the SS is performance driven, Chevy should really get-off the stool and make the Impala SS rear-wheel-drive. It works with the Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum and Charger - Chrysler can barely keep up with the demand.

A power rack and pinion steering system is standard with a quieter, improved performance power steering pump and fluid reservoirs. The new system optimizes internal flow of the hydraulic steering fluid with both the pump and the reservoirs. The feel was acceptable for a front-wheel-drive sedan, but felt a little over-boosted at slow speeds. The new brakes are very good. Up front are 12-inch vented discs with dual-piston calipers while 11-inch solid discs are clamped with single piston calipers in the rear. ABS and Electronic Brake Force Distribution are optional in the base Impala. Impala offers standard side-curtain airbags that provide optimum head protection for outboard passengers. Also standard are front dual-stage airbags, 5-3-point safety belts with front pretensioners/load limiters, LATCH child seat anchors, revised head protection from impacts to the upper interior structure provided by energy-absorbing material placed strategically along the roof rails behind the A/B/C pillars, front/rear crush zones, steel beams in each door, tire pressure monitor, and a strengthened front seat structure. The all-new 2006 Chevy Impala has plenty of competition in the family sedan class from the likes of the Ford Five-Hundred/Mercury Montego, Toyota Camry/Avalon, Nissan Maxima/Altima, Mitsubishi Galant - all well made and designed front-wheel-drive sedans, not to mention the Buick Lucerne and Pontiac Grand Prix. But so is the all-new Impala line which offers the most powerful sedan in the class. It's perfect for quick, exciting travels when you can get away from the family. For more information on Chevrolet products, go to www.chevrolet.com. More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com.

© Words and images by Harvey Schwartz SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2006 Chevrolet Impala SS Price of vehicle: $27,130 base/$29,320.00 as tested Engine type: 5.3 liter V8 OHV with Displacement on Demand Horsepower: 303 at 5,600 rpm Torque: 323 lb.ft. of torque at 4,300 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/front-wheel-drive Transmission: 4-speed automatic OD Front suspension: FE3-MacPherson struts with variable-rate coil over twin-tube gas shocks, 34mm hollow stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Tri-link coil-over strut twin-tube dampers, variable-rate coils, hallow 19.4 mm stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 18X7 aluminum alloy wheels/235/50R18 all-season radials Brakes: Front -12 in. vented rotors, dual-piston calipers Rear- 11 in. solid rotors, single-piston calipers Total length: 200.4 in. Total width: 72.9 in. Total height: 58.7 in. Curb weight: 3,712 lbs. EPA mileage: 18 mpg/city, 28 mpg/highway (5.3 liter V8)

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