2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ
The Chevrolet Impala received a styling makeover for the 2006 model year, but the look is still bland. The interior on our test car, which had the LTZ trim level, was refined and well built, but not everyone will find the seats comfortable. The LTZ trim includes a nice Bose stereo unit that offers a number of customization and sorting options for radio, XM Satellite Radio, and MP3 CDs, and it also has an auxiliary jack for an iPod or other MP3 player. Unfortunately, both Bluetooth and GPS navigation are absent from the options list. The 2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ has telephone service available through OnStar, but that means the car must get its own telephone number.
The 2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ gets a 3.9-liter V-6 engine with variable valve timing, which is a first for a pushrod engine. With 242 horsepower delivered to the front wheels, acceleration is acceptable but not remarkable. On the highway, the Impala LTZ behaves very well, but this isn't the car for a fun drive on the back roads. Passenger safety comes in the form of traction control, ABS brakes, and front and side air bags. The model we tested lists for $27,530, including destination charge. Other trim levels are available, such as the $20,990 LS, which doesn't include the Bose stereo system and shaves 0.4 liter off the engine. If you look in the opposite direction, the SS comes with a 5.3-liter V-8 for about $500 more than the LTZ.
For the most part, the styling on the 2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ is plain and undistinguished, but the grille and the headlights might attract a look or two. The interior of our test car was surprisingly luxurious, dressed with leather and burled-walnut trim. The fit and finish are excellent, as is the quality of the switch gear--no cheap plastic here. We particularly liked the dials, which were all fitted with tactile-rubber rims, providing us with a surprisingly pleasant grip. The only slight letdown is the steering wheel, which even with excellent cruise and stereo controls doesn't quite measure up to the rest of the interior. One odd thing we noticed was the lack of a gear indicator on the floor-mounted shift, but the instrument panel included a gear display. The 2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ's front seats have many amenities, such as heat and leather, as well as eight-way power adjustment for the driver and six-way for the passenger. But we never could quite get comfortable, possibly due to a lack of support behind the shoulders. Lateral support in the bucket seats is virtually nonexistent, so we found ourselves sliding about quite a bit, even on moderate cornering. Rear legroom is acceptable, and as long as the front seats aren't all the way back, tall passengers can find enough headroom by sliding down in the seats a little bit. When we folded the rear-seat cushions forward, they revealed some shallow bins, which would be perfect for hiding high-tech toys. By leaving them folded forward, we could either turn the area into a small cargo bay or let the 60/40 seat backs fold completely flat with the floor of the already huge trunk.
The Bose audio system sounds good, offers flexible preset lists, and even includes an auxiliary input.
We enjoyed the 2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ's eight-speaker Bose premium sound system, which features a single-disc MP3 CD player, AM/FM radio (with radio data display), XM Satellite Radio, and an auxiliary jack for other music devices. Even at high volumes, everything is crisp and clean, and it handled the low-frequency sounds of Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" with aplomb. However, we would have liked some low-volume bass boost so that we could feel the bass without it blowing out our ears. Our improvised solution of dropping the treble and midrange to their lowest levels helped but wasn't perfect.
The tab-and-button-based menu system on the 2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ's two-line, 32-character display is quite effective and took us only a minute to learn. We were able to sort the music on our MP3 CDs based on the folder or the ID3 tags for song, artist, or album. But first, the stereo needed to load all the ID3 information, which requires a fair bit of time--we clocked 5 minutes, 20 seconds for a fairly full MP3 CD. The stereo loads the ID3 information every time the disc is changed, although the disc can be played immediately if you just want to listen to the tracks in order. Fortunately, the sorting is done in the background, so we were able to listen to the satellite radio while waiting.
One nice touch with XM Satellite Radio is the ability to hide unwanted categories so that they are skipped when using the category button. We also like that instead of the usual 6 to 12 presets per source (AM/FM/satellite), there are six menu pages available, each with 6 presets. We were able to program any mix of sources on each page and also quickly change how many pages were available, with the highest page number hidden first. We thought this to be especially useful for commuters who might want to scroll through favorite channels, without regard to band, using the steering-wheel controls.
The audio controls on the 2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ's steering wheel are well laid out on the right side of the wheel. The top and the bottom buttons are for track/station select, while the middle button mutes the audio. Volume can be adjusted with two small paddles behind the wheel. Cruise-control buttons occupy the left side of the wheel. The driver also has easy access to the driver information center (DIC), with a set of buttons on the instrument panel surround. There is standard information such as odometer, fuel range, and economy, but vehicle information such as oil life remaining and tire pressure can also be displayed. The DIC will warn you if it's cold enough outside for icy roads, if the battery in the remote key needs replacing, if there was a theft attempted, and if the washer fluid is low.
Instead of giving you a Bluetooth system that lets you use your own phone, the 2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ has phone service as an OnStar option. The OnStar service can be activated through prepaid minutes or as an additional line to a Verizon Wireless America's Choice Family SharePlan. The prepaid minutes are expensive, ranging from 30 minutes for $15 to 1,000 minutes for $299.99. Both methods require at least the basic OnStar subscription of $16.95 per month and will also mean a separate telephone number for the car. There also is no navigation option, which we think is a real drawback in this category of car. However, it does have remote vehicle start, a universal home-remote system, and three accessory power outlets.
Powering the front-wheel-drive 2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ is a 242-horsepower, 3.9-liter V-6 that features a variable-length intake manifold, as well as variable valve timing, which according to GM is a first for a pushrod engine. The system alters the angular orientation of the camshaft to simultaneously change the timing of the intake and exhaust valves for improved power, efficiency, and emissions. The engine is mated to an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission. EPA mileage is rated at 19mpg in the city and 27mpg on the highway. In our tests, we saw 21.8mpg in a good mix of freeway and city driving. On the road, the 2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ's power feels adequate but not exceptional, and when we wanted full power, the automatic transmission seemed a bit slow to kick down. From a standing start, 60mph should arrive in just less than 8 seconds. We were quite pleased with the Impala LTZ's highway manners, as the four-wheel independent suspension delivered a smooth ride, and the car didn't wander when encountering bumps. The Impala LTZ definitely doesn't encourage spirited driving; in fact, it seemed to lull us into a sense of complacency. We blame this mostly on the automatic transmission and nonsporty front seats. However, when pushed a little, we found the 17-inch tires provided more grip and less understeer than expected.
A new antilock braking system that helps provide improved steering control while braking is standard equipment on the 2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ. The system also features electronic brake-force distribution and corner brake-control systems, which distribute brake pressure to all four wheels independently and improve brake balance, particularly in corners. The Impala LTZ also has electronic traction control, which maintains grip by adjusting both the engine power and the ABS brakes. Other safety equipment on the 2006 Chevrolet Impala LTZ includes standard dual-stage front air bags; standard side-curtain air bags for front and rear passengers; front seat-belt pretensioners; and a tire-pressure monitoring system. In government crash tests, the Impala LTZ earned five stars for front (driver and passenger) and front-side impacts, as well as four stars for rear-side and rollover crashes. The Impala LTZ is covered by GM's three-year/36,000-mile new-vehicle limited warranty and six-year/100,000-mile corrosion-protection warranty.