2013 Chevrolet Impala

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2006 Chevrolet Impala

This 2006 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2013.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Chevrolet shows it can still make a very competitive large family sedan.
Pros:
  • Roomy
  • Better styling
  • First V8 since 1996
Cons:
  • Only a 4-speed automatic transmission
  • Highway wind noise
  • No rear-obstacle detection system

The star of Chevrolet's all-new 1958 line was the Impala, which soon became the most popular model from this decades-long producer of top-selling large family cars.

The Impala was so popular that it was nicknamed "America's sweetheart" in the 1960s, when Impala sales totaled a whopping 889,600 units in 1964 and still reached nearly 800,000 units in 1969.

But times change and mostly Japanese competition long ago knocked the Impala from the top of sales charts. Impala sales in 2004 totaled 290,259 cars, and it has been one of Chevrolet's top sellers in recent years.

For Younger Crowd
The 2006 Impala likely should find more than 300,000 buyers because it looks good and has improved construction and an array of impressive, economical engines. In fact, this is the first Impala to get a V8 since 1996. Chevy is targeting the car at the 35-54-year-old crowd. Many previous buyers have been in their early 50s.

Trim levels have been increased to broaden the Impala range and prices have been lowered from 2005. There are the base $21,330 LS, the $21,860 LT 3.5, $24,760 LT 3.9, $26,870 LTZ and $27,130 SS.

Well Equipped
Even the LS is fairly well equipped with such items as air conditioning, power doors, windows and locks with remote keyless entry. It's the old story with the other versions—the higher you go, the more equipment you get.

For instance, the LT 3.5 adds remote engine starting, the LT 3.9 adds a 3.9-liter V6 with a floor shifter, the LTZ has leather upholstery and the top dog SS has the V8, performance suspension and wider tires on 18-inch wheels (Other Impalas get 16- or 17-inch wheels.)

The Impala technically competes in the giant midsize car market, but is generally considered Chevrolet's full-size family auto. Impala marketing manager Mark Clawson said surveys show the Impala has favorably compared with the midsize car leaders—the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord—for five years in a row in quality, reliability, durability, safety and roominess.

Improved Styling
The 2006 Impala has better styling than the last-generation model, which had a bland, rather disjointed design despite its 1960s retro round taillights, which are gone.

But the last Impala was affordable, roomy and had a good chassis and surprisingly agile handling. It even was offered with a supercharged 240-horsepower V6—replaced by the new V8—in the high-performance SS (Super Sport) model.

The new Impala is an easy car to quickly get comfortable with, although only four tall adults fit comfortably even with the front split bench seat because the center area of the front and rear seats are too hard for comfort.

The interior is nicely designed and quiet, except for some wind noise at highway speeds. It also has supportive front seats, easily read gauges and mostly large controls.

Better Car
This is just a better car than the 2005 version, with such features as a reworked suspension with a wider track and more powerful V6 engines, besides the new 303-horsepower V8.

The Impala is no sports sedan, but steering is precise enough and has solid handling, a smooth ride and an easily modulated brake pedal for smooth stops.

Improvements
Other improvements include standard side-curtain airbags, enhanced anti-lock brake system, new family of audio systems, remote vehicle starter standard on all except the base version and flip-and-fold rear seats standard for most trim levels that enlarge the trunk's large cargo area.

Options include a $900 sunroof and $600 anti-lock brakes with traction control for the LT and LT 3.5 versions.

Chevy expects that about 55 percent of Impala buyers will opt for the LS and LT 3.5, with 25 percent opting for the LT 3.9 and 20 percent buying the SS.

New Engines
Engines are a new 3.5-liter V6 with 210 horsepower (up 30 from the 2005 base V6), a 3.9-liter 240-horsepower V6 and the 5.3-liter V8. Even the 3.5 V6 provides lively acceleration (0-60 mph in 8.4 seconds.)

All engines have a traditional pushrod design, with no overhead camshaft or multivalve cylinder designs. But these are the first U.S. pushrod V6 engines with variable valve timing for better throttle response. Moreover, the V8 seamlessly deactivates four cylinders under light throttle conditions to save gasoline.

Fastest Chevy
Chevy says the V8 in the SS makes it the fastest high-performance Impala SS in Chevy history. That's saying a lot because a 1960s SS could be had with a 425-horsepower V8. However, tires and suspensions couldn't efficiently deliver lots of power to the road in those days. And, while 1960s V8s often had optimistic factory power ratings, the new Impala V8 's horsepower is understated in accordance with new rating procedures.

All 2006 Impalas have a 4-speed automatic transmission. It's responsive, but not a modern 5-speed unit that would provide slightly faster acceleration, better fuel economy and less engine strain when cruising.

Good Fuel Economy
Estimated fuel economy still is good with all engines. The 3.5 delivers 21 mpg in the city and 31 on highways. Figures with the 3.9 are 19 city and 27 highway and the 5.3 provides 18 and 28.

Despite large outside mirrors, it's impossible to see exactly where the back or front of the Impala ends and no rear obstacle detection system is offered. Such a system would seem to make lots of sense for a family sedan, which often is parked in a garage or driveway loaded with kids' bicycles, toys and such.

However, in all, the new Impala shows that Chevrolet hasn't lost its touch when it comes to making a good family sedan.

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BB02 - 9/14/2014 9:38:32 PM