It’s often hard to separate previous perceptions from current impressions – especially when it comes to cars. A brand name, a model type, and the connotations associated with them generally transcend their actual evolution. Despite changing drastically in both form and function, the bane of the car manufacturer can be the ballistically difficult business of reshaping consumer ideals when it comes to their current roster of vehicles compared to a previous fleet.
Alas, Audi will always be reliable, well-engineered German workhorses. Hyuandai will remain an affordable Korean leader, and Chevrolet… well, after spending two days with their latest Impala, I may have successfully botched my entire argument.
Let me preface what I’m about to say with the following caveat: my objective opinion of Chevrolet and the cars in question were in no way swayed by the flock of exceptional auxiliary activities that surrounded my two-day Impala Drive Man-Venture.
Full disclosure: I got to spend time alongside one of my best buddies driving cars, getting pampered, playing golf, tasting rare scotch, eating delicious food and escaping the city. If I were a hollow soul whose opinion could be bought for the price of a few days of leisure then, yes, this would certainly be the way to do it. Unfortunately for my unflappable moral compass, and fortunately for the good folks at Chevrolet Canada, all hyperbole aside, the 2014 Impala blew away my mediocre expectations.
I’ve never really been a fan of the cars that come out of this country. My father worked for Volkswagen and Audi for over 15 years and I was raised on a company car rotation of what I consider to be extremely high caliber automobiles. Though I’ve always been a big fan of cars, I’ve snobbishly snubbed many of our domestic offerings. (Note: I drive a Buick – snobbery doesn’t extend beyond Grandpa’s hand-me-downs.) I visit auto shows annually, and I make a point to envision myself on the open road as I sit in nearly every car on the floor, caressing the upholstery, pushing buttons, opening compartments and ghost-shifting like a license-less child.
When I was invited on a two-day Man-Venture that would include face-time with the 2014 Impala design team, test drives with Chevy engineers, a visit to the assembly plant in Oshawa, as well as a solid amount of seat-time in the new Chevrolet flagship, I was less thrilled about the prospect of driving the car than any of the other components. Again, my predisposed notions were unfairly biased. I was close-minded to the idea that a Canadian car could thrill me. I was doubtful that a cockpit design could be detailed and driver friendly as well as luxurious. I was unaware of how many premium features could come along with such a modest price tag.
From the body shape to the machinery to the technology, the 2014 Impala is nothing like its predecessors. Though they start at a reasonable fee of $28,445 (MSRP), the Impala lineup we got to know hit levels of closer to $40k. The Impala LTZ comes with things like two-toned leather, detailed stitching, and a whack of tasteful chrome accents.
Technology like the MyLink dashboard with voice recognition, adaptive cruise control that will slow down and speed up your car to maintain designated distances from the driver in front of you, rear cross traffic alert and side blind zone alert… these are the types of things you’ll find in rides with much heftier price tags.
The Impala LTZ also packs a punch with its 3.6-litre V6 with 305 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque. Let’s just say that the drive up to Eganridge Resort could have taken much longer…
As my buddy and I reclined in the couch-like heated and cooled seats, and shredded up the open road, we kept pinching ourselves, expecting to wake up. This couldn’t have been a Chevy we were driving in! Where’s all the plastic? What happened to the Spartan dashboard and analogue controls? How come the pickup is so responsive?
Funny thing was – we never woke up – it felt good to be alive, and it felt good to be in an Impala.
All gallery images are in order of activity: Mankind Grooming Studio on Eglinton, Chevrolet Canadian Engineering Centre (with the Director of Exterior Design at Chevrolet, John Cafaro), Golf at Eganridge Inn and Spa, Single Malt Tasting with Edward Patrick from Keepers of the Quaich Society, Dinner at the Dunsford House at Eganridge, Tour of the GM Canada Oshawa Assembly Plant, Lunch at the Granite Brewery.