2014 Chevrolet Impala LT review: Chevy sedan shakes off rental-car stigma

It was maddening, but there is another way: voice command. Whether you used the onboard voice recognition system or let OnStar do your destination entry, speaking to the car was usually very accurate and much faster than poking at its screen.

The $940 LT Convenience package is an odd collection of options that adds a rear camera with dynamic trajectory lines and distance markers, a rear proximity sensor that audibly beeps as you approach obstructions or people, remote start, a universal home remote for garage door openers and the like, and floor and trunk mats. If I could get the rear camera as part of the Navigation package, the Safety package, or better still as a standard feature, I'd skip this option altogether. Sadly, you can't.

The Premium audio package is another odd pairing of an 11-speaker Bose surround audio system and 19-inch wheels for $1,140. Chevy also throws in a rear spoiler and a 120V AC power outlet for the rear seat as part of this package.

2014 Chevrolet Impala LT
Front seat warmers with three settings and two heating zones are a good reason to option the Premium seating package. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The Premium seating package is a $945 check box that adds heated front seats and eight-way power adjustment for the front passenger seat that almost matches the standard power driver's seat, save the omission of four-way lumbar support for the passenger.

Finally, there's the Advanced Safety package that adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, and forward-collision warning to the Impala's suite of active safety technologies. I was a bit disappointed to find that adaptive cruise control wasn't part of this package -- typically it goes hand in hand with a forward-collision warning system. Then again, typical FCW systems are radar-based, where Chevy's appears to be optical. This lack of forward radar explains the Impala's lack of radar-guided cruise control. This package will add $890 to the bottom line.

2014 Chevrolet Impala LT
The Impala's forward-collision warning system uses optical detection rather than a radar array. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

These packages are all dependent on each other in a chain of prerequisites. You can't get the Navigation package without the Premium Audio package, which you can't get without the Seating package, which you can't get without the Safety package, which you can't get without the Convenience package. So, if you just want navigation, you may as well consider the whole thing one big $5,010 suite.

Power and performance
On the road, the 3.6L V6 engine feels competent in that laid-back, effortless, old-people's-car way. You get the feeling that there's a potent power train at work, but that it can't really be bothered to really flex its muscles without a bit of prodding.

Through the wonder of direct gasoline injection, the V6 outputs 305 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of torque, sending that power through a six-speed automatic transmission on its way to the front wheels.

The transmission lacks a sport program, but does have the goofiest manual shift mode that I've ever not wanted to use: a rocker switch atop the shift lever that, when triggered with a thumb, up- and downshifts. It's difficult to reach, tricky to engage, and thankfully, easy to totally disregard.

2014 Chevrolet Impala LT
The Impala's transmission can manually select gears with this rocker switch. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Let the gearbox do its thing and the engine sip its fuel and the EPA reckons that 21 miles will laze by for every gallon of gasoline used. That's the combined estimate, which breaks down to 18 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. Nail the pedal to the floor and you'll get significantly lower economy, but you'll also be rewarded with the full giddy-up of the 305 ponies. In a straight line, the Impala can feel remarkably quick for its size, but only when goaded.

One of the first things that I noted when getting behind the wheel of the Impala was its electronic power-steering system, which is ridiculously overboosted. The result is steering that is absurdly light -- you could drive this car with a pinky finger, if you wanted -- but also lacks any semblance of road feel. The Impala may have the face of a sports car, but it's got the ride of a land yacht. Despite infusing the Impala with a healthy dose of Camaro-inspired, muscular good looks on the outside, Chevy has managed to outbeige the Toyota Camry where driving is concerned.

2014 Chevrolet Impala
The Impala's looks may be sporty, but the driving experience is relaxed and laid-back. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Perhaps this isn't a bad thing; the light steering makes the sedan notably easy to drive around town, when exploring the limits of the tires' adhesion is less important than being able to dance around pothole and parking lots without muscling the wheel. The ride is remarkably smooth and quiet. It's quick when you need it to merge and relaxed when you just want to commute in peace, both very good traits in a large sedan.

Pricing and in sum
Our 2014 Chevrolet Impala started at $29,950 for our already well-equipped, V6 model, but we've also got $5,010 in options and packages. We've also got $810 in destination charges that bring us to our as-tested price of $35,770.

However, as annoying as the navigation system was, you could probably skip that $1,095 option and invest the money into continuing OnStar turn-by-turn navigation beyond the six-month trial, dropping the Impala's price below the $35K mark where it compares even more favorably with the likes of Toyota, Honda, and Ford, while still offering similar levels of functionality thanks to the standard MyLink infotainment and OnStar telematics systems.

Tech specs
Model 2014 Chevrolet Impala
Trim LT2
Power train 3.6-liter V6, six-speed automatic transmission, FWD
EPA fuel economy city, highway, combined mpg
Observed fuel economy n/a
Navigation Optional with traffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard for hands-free calling and audio
Disc player single slot CD
MP3 player support standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, 3 x USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod connection
Other digital audio SiriusXM Satellite Radio, HD Radio, Pandora app integration
Audio system 11-speaker Bose surround
Driver aids Rear camera, rear proximity sensor, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic warning, lane departure warning, forward-collision warning
Base price $29,950
Price as tested $35,770

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About The Author

Antuan Goodwin gained most of his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and performance to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable. Email Antuan, follow him on Twitter, or like him on Facebook. Antuan