DRIVE AMERICAN: Chevrolet Impala an American institution

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By KEVIN WEAKS

IN PRODUCTION since the 1958 model year, General Motors recently announced that it would temporarily keep making the Chevrolet Impala through January 2020. Shown is the 2019 Impala.

Back in the day, Dinah Shore opened her television show singing, “See the USA in your Chevrolet,” which is a good reason on this July 4 to feature the iconic Chevrolet Impala, one of the last of the full-sized American sedans.

Unfortunately, get ready to say good-bye to it.

General Motors recently announced that it would temporarily keep making two – the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac CT6 – of the five car models that it was expected to discontinue this summer when it idled the North American plants that produce them. The Impala and CT6 will instead be built through January 2020, keeping the lights on at GM’s last factory in its hometown, the historic Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly.

Production of the Chevrolet Volt hybrid and Buick LaCrosse ended in February, and neither model will be replaced. North American production of the Chevy Cruze ended in March.

If the Impala and the CT6 do finally bite the dust, it’s because of this: Sales of the $28,000 Impala were down nearly 50 percent in 2018, with just over 56,000 sold, while Cadillac delivered 9,668 of its $52,000 CT6, about the same as the prior year. A sad demise for the Impala, once America’s best-selling full-size car.

For GM it is all about saving costs as consumer sentiments shift toward trucks and SUVs, abandoning the sedans that were once a keystone of the American car-buying experience. By canceling a number of vehicles and idling several manufacturing facilities, GM says it expects to free up about $6 billion in cash flow by the end of 2020, which it hopes to invest in more alluring vehicles and future technologies like electrification and automation.

SAVED BY THE CT6?
The Impala is built on the same assembly line as the CT6 by members of UAW Local 22 at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant. (DHAM’s name comes from Detroit-Hamtramck.) The sprawling plant spans two cities; the body shop belongs to the city of Hamtramck and general assembly to Detroit. More than four million vehicles have been made there since it opened.

CHEVY’S LARGEST FOUR-DOOR is both spacious and comfortable, while also delivering solid fuel-economy numbers. The Impala also offers the widest bucket seats and most rear-seat leg room in the segment.

In a statement, the United Auto Workers union said the news was “a sense of relief for their families and communities,” despite the plant still being slated for closure in January. The UAW’s statement also said that “the UAW will leave no stone unturned in seeking to keep [other plants slated for closure] open.”

Automotive News noted that the contract between GM and the UAW expires in September, and the two will begin the bargaining process later this year.

The U.S. factories can’t technically be closed permanently unless an agreement is reached with the United Auto Workers union. The Impala is also produced at a GM factory in Oshawa, Canada, that is scheduled to be idled at the end of 2019. The other plants potentially slated for closure include Lordstown Assembly in Ohio and powertrain factories in Michigan and Maryland.

Roughly 3,300 UAW members are expected to be impacted by GM’s plans, many of whom were retirement eligible or have been placed in jobs at other company plants.

Ironically, it is the Cadillac CT6, manufactured on the same line as the Impala, that apparently is keeping the Impala alive one more year.

At January’s Detroit Auto Show, Cadillac President Steve Carlisle clarified that the company was looking for a way to keep offering the CT6, which had been updated with a new high-performance model and is the only vehicle in GM’s lineup to feature the Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving aid.

THE 2019 IMPALA
The Impala was introduced for the 1958 model year as top-of-the-line Bel Air hardtops and convertibles. Prices started at $1,735 for the hardtop coupe and $2,700 for the more popular convertible. A sedan version followed in 1959 from around $2,600 along with a station wagon for about two grand more.

THE IMPALA WAS INTRODUCED for the 1958 model year as top-of-the-line Bel Air hardtops and convertibles. Prices started at $1,735 for the hardtop coupe and $2,700 for the more popular convertible.

The 2019 Chevrolet Impala is a four-door, five-passenger sedan that’s available in three trim levels. The Impala has an MSRP that starts at $28,020 for the base LS model. That jumps to $29,115 with the 3.6-liter V-6. The better-equipped LT with the inline-4 starts at $30,520. Thanks to equipment upgrades last year, the base LS trim is more than just bare-bones transportation. Moving up to the LT trim gets you upgraded interior materials and access to several option packages. The range-topping Premier trim offers an extensive and upscale list of standard features.

Two engines are available. A 2.5-liter, 197-horsepower four-cylinder is standard on the LS and LT trim levels, while a 3.6-liter, 305 hp six-cylinder is standard for the Premier and optional in the others. Both engines use a six-speed automatic transmission and are only available with front-wheel drive.

THE 2019 CHEVROLET IMPALA is available in three trim levels. Starting at $28,020, the base LS model includes sound-insulating laminated windows, automatic headlights, cruise control, keyless entry and ignition, a rearview camera, air conditioning, an eight-way power driver’s seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split folding rear seats and OnStar.

The LS trim has a hearty selection of standard features. You get 18-inch steel wheels, sound-insulating laminated windows, automatic headlights, cruise control, keyless entry and ignition, a rearview camera, air conditioning, an eight-way power driver’s seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split folding rear seats, OnStar (includes 4G LTE and Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity), a six-speaker audio system, satellite radio, and Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system that includes an eight-inch touchscreen interface, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Moving up to the LT adds 18-inch alloy wheels, remote engine start, heated mirrors, dual-zone climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, rear air vents, extra headrest adjustments, and a few other small interior trim upgrades.

The Impala LT also offers many upgrade packages. The Driver Confidence package includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors. The LT Entertainment package pads on navigation, an 11-speaker Bose stereo system, a CD player, ambient interior lighting and a 120-volt outlet. You can even get a sunroof and a rear spoiler.

There’s also the LT Convenience package, which includes heated front seats and a heated steering wheel as well as an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Convenience package can be upgraded with the LT Leather package, which adds leather upholstery and a power-adjustable front passenger seat.

The top-trim Impala Premier gets 19-inch wheels, xenon headlights, heated power seats and leather upholstery, a wireless smartphone charging pad, and some unique exterior accents. It also includes the contents of the LT’s Driver Confidence, Entertainment, and Sunroof and Spoiler packages.

Packages for the Premier trim include the Premier Confidence package, which adds adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and 20-inch wheels. The Premier Convenience package adds ventilated front seats, a heated and power-adjustable steering wheel, driver memory settings, and auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors.

FAMILY FRIENDLY
In an era when utility vehicles dominate the sales chart, there’s good reason to check out a family-friendly sedan like the 2019 Chevrolet Impala while you still can. Chevy’s largest four-door is both spacious and comfortable, while also delivering solid fuel-economy numbers. It also offers the widest bucket seats in the segment.

You’ll like this car if you want a large and plushly appointed sedan with good design, great comfort (the most rear-seat leg room in the segment) and trunk space that actually tops many SUVs. It also offers plenty of high-tech features.

Like all tenth-generation units of the Chevrolet Impala, the 2020 Impala likely will continue to ride on a long-wheelbase variant of the GM Epsilon II platform called Super Epsilon. The architecture is shared with the second-generation Buick LaCrosse and first-generation Cadillac XTS. By the way, the Chevrolet Malibu is technically the Impala’s little brother, although it offers almost as much passenger space. The midsize Malibu also benefits from a more recent redesign.

Impala was among Kelley Blue Book’s (KBB.com) 15 Best Family Cars of 2015, and Impala and Suburban were selected among U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 Best Cars for Families. At the time KBB.com judges called Impala a “very modern take on the classic full-size family sedan.” But with few real updates, the Impala may be nearing the end of its life. If you want to see the USA in your Chevrolet Impala, better hurry.

Contact Kevin Weaks at kweaks@labortribune.com


 

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