By Derek Price
A car like this, the roomy and remarkably quiet 2016 Chevy Impala, can make luxury cars seem awfully overpriced.
That’s the impression I had when parked in traffic behind a new Lexus LS. The car in front of me was extremely nice — don’t get me wrong. That big Lexus is one of the most silent, luxurious, well-built luxury cars on the market, as it should be with an as-tested price over $86,000 the last time I drove one.
But sitting in the roomy, leather-wrapped cocoon of the well-appointed Impala, even an expensive Lexus didn’t seem all that tempting. The Impala tester was priced a hair under $40,000 and offered a lot of the same upscale sensations that doctors and lawyers enjoy in their big Mercedes and BMW sedans.
Granted, no one will confuse the Impala with a prestige marque. With its all-American name and a hint of muscle-car styling in the body lines, it gets more respect in low-rider circles than at the symphony hall. And it makes the case for why full-size cars like this have been the continuous thread that runs through this country’s family transportation fabric since the 1950s.
Yes, families are turning to crossovers and SUVs as the trendy choices in recent years, but the tried-and-true sedan still makes more sense for many people. Its low center of gravity helps it to grip the road better than the tall, SUV-like boxes that are so popular today, and even with a 305-horsepower engine under the hood it earns a miserly 29-mpg highway rating from the EPA.
Luxury-car spaciousness, muscle-car power and compact car-gas mileage? Yes, please.
I don’t have much to complain about in this car, which is surprising for a vehicle that was once a staple of the rental-car fleet. I wish its base four-cylinder engine offered a bit more muscle, but I have no complaints about the brakes, suspension or transmission. They all work together to let you float down the highway in roomy American bliss.
Styling on the Impala has gotten better in recent years, and today’s version has morphed into something surprisingly handsome in a category where the unique and dramatic designs of the past have been decimated by the influence of bland imports and government rules.
The Impala has bulging fenders and a shapely hood that show some 1960s influence, but it’s not off the retro deep end. To my eyes, its boldness slots about halfway between the aggressive, upright Chrysler 300 and the more subdued Ford Taurus.
New for this year is a Midnight Edition appearance package, something that gave my test car a delightfully wicked look. A body-color grille, black bowtie logo, black painted wheels and rear spoiler combined to give it a bad-boy visual personality.
Other than the Midnight Edition, the 2016 Impala is largely a carryover model from 2015. Apple CarPlay and wireless charging are noticeable additions on the tech front, and there are five new paint colors available including two premium choices: Siren Red Tintcoat and Green Envy Metallic.
Pricing starts at $27,970.
At a Glance
What was tested?
2016 Impala 2LZ Sedan ($35,540). Options: Midnight Edition appearance package ($1,195), LTZ comfort and convenience package ($1,035), LTZ advance technology package ($735), MyLink with navigation ($495). Price as tested (including $825 destination charge): $39,825
Wheelbase: 111.7 in.
Length: 201.3 in.
Width: 73 in.
Height: 58.9 in.
Engine: 3.6-liter V6 (305 hp, 264 lb.-ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Mileage: 19 city, 29 highway
2016 Chevrolet Impala
Why buy it?
It’s spacious, quiet and comfortable, making it a dream car for highway trips. It’s stylish, especially with the new Midnight Edition appearance package, and has good performance with the optional 305-horsepower V6.