Let loose the animal

Friday June 28, 2013

BENNINGTON -- Contrasting the African impala with the Chevrolet version proves an interesting comparison.

While the animal is a medium-sized antelope able to leap and zigzag, the Chevrolet is full-sized and capable of outpacing its competition with a 303-horsepower 3.6-liter direct-injected V6.

The animal impala is lithe, the redesigned-for-2014 Chevrolet is muscularly creased.

In sum: One is prey while the other, predator.

The 10th generation Chevrolet Impala hitting dealership lots this month as a model year 2014 is slightly larger and more upscale than the version it replaces, better differentiating the big sedan from the middle-of-the-line Malibu.

Many components -- including the available V6 and its 6-speed automatic transmission -- are shared with the current Cadillac CTS, supporting the original Impala's premise of "more car for the money" than the Chevy bowtie itself might belie.

Stepping into the new Impala, the finely stitched leather dashboard lends a precursory feeling of premium comfort that's really brought home once you land on a sumptuous seat and close the door.

With seats and headrests that bear some resemblance to sentient beings (maybe those of the Will Smith vehicle "I, Robot"?), the "driver-centric" cabin is comfortable and expansive with room for all occupants' legs, heads, and torsos.

Whisper quiet parked, that tranquility continues around town and on the highway courtesy of good insulating and active noise cancellation -- there's no semblance of wind noise at any speed.

The more powerful powertrain, available in the as-tested 2LT mid-range trim, is supremely silky and punchy when pressed -- Chevy claims 0 to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds -- while still returning good relative economy: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway.

On a jaunt to Williamstown, Mass., for lunch, traveling back north along routes 100 and 8 through Stamford and Readsboro, the Impala's computer estimated 27.7 mpg round trip.

I like this powerplant.

Compared to the competing six-cylinder in the Toyota Avalon, the Chevy has the performance advantage (35 horses) but cedes a little fuel economy.

The Impala also has wee larger dimensions than the Avalon and another contender in the segment, the Hyundai Sonata, both of which have been highlighted in these pages previously. Carrying some additional heft -- it's the heaviest by several hundred pounds -- the Impala dives when yanked into a corner but tracks well enough for its girth around curvy roads.

All three are never to be confused for sports cars.

But they also never feel like sea vessels, either.

In top trims the Impala offers a similar range of options as the competition, including high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights; active safety features including adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, side-blind zone alert, and rear cross-traffic alert (whew!); a total infotainment system (Chevy's "MyLink"); and heated and "ventilated" (read: air-cooled) seats.

The 2014 Chevrolet Impala starts at $26,725 in LS trim, while the as-tested 2LT with options came to $30,890 not including destination charges.

Got the dough and want the ride? Get to a dealer before they all gallop off.

Follow @Zeke_Wright on Twitter or email ewright@benningtonbanner.com


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