I really wanted to make some clever comment about how the Chevy Impala name relates to the vehicle itself, but I gave up. According to Webster's dictionary, impala is an African antelope. If African antelopes are known for their speed and agility, then the nameplate works.
The Impala's sleek exterior has sculpted lines which are said to be trademarks of early Impalas. Ditto for the round rear taillights, a standard since the 1960s.
The 2000 Chevy Impala LS comes with the 3800 Series V6 which puts out 200 hp at 5,200 rpm and 225 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. What this boils down to is enough power to get around highway Sunday drivers. This powerplant is standard on the LS and optional on the base Impala. The base 3400 V6 engine delivers 180 hp at 5,200 rpm and 205 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. Both powerplants are linked to a four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.
Contributing to its smooth ride is an aluminum engine cradle which gives a stable base for the power train, front suspension, and front end sheet metal. The cradle is lighter than traditional steel, stiffer, and corrosion resistant. Front strut tower braces reduce twisting and enhance the car's cornering. Also, a magnesium beam spans the width of the vehicle behind the instrument panel and helps reduce vibrations from HVAC and audio systems as well as idle shake.
The four-wheel independent MacPherson strut suspension is 25-mm higher than other GM vehicles built on the same platform, giving a more comfortable ride. A touring suspension on the LS uses upgraded components for more precise handling, such as higher spring rates to control body roll.
Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on both models. The 3800 V6 has ABS with integrated traction control and a tire-inflation monitoring system. For more stopping power, Chevy engineers sized the rotors, pads, and calipers to the 16-in. wheels. Also, heat buildup is reduced in the front brakes by a cooling groove cut into the front wheel wells. I can attest to the responsive braking. A squirrel, evidently trying to commit suicide, dashed into the road but was saved thanks to the Impala's excellent stopping power.
The interior is spacious, and our test vehicle had optional leather seats with a comfort seating package which includes heated, six-way power driver and passenger seats. The controls for the heated seats are located on the side of the driver and passenger seats, an odd and awkward place for them to be. On an editorial foray to Toledo, Ohio, I was able to gain firsthand experience of the back seat while one of my colleagues drove. While it's a good idea that Chevy engineers raised the rear seat to make passengers feel a part of the overall driving experience, they should have made the seats more comfortable. There was plenty of legroom, but the upright, stiff positioning of the seatbacks managed to give me a backache. Another bone of contention: where are the HVAC vents for rear passengers? I looked, but couldn't find them. This made it quite stuffy, adding to the discomfort in the back seat.
A preferred equipment package contains a driver information center which includes a trip computer, compass and outside temperature, steering-wheel radio controls, alarm, electrochromic rearview mirror, and universal garage opener. For pack rats, there is plenty of storage in the center console as well as in the driver and passenger door pockets for CDs, maps, and ibuprofen for backaches. Our test vehicle had an audio upgrade consisting of an AM/FM stereo with CD/cassette and eight speakers. And last, but not least, our test vehicle had one of my favorite options, a sunroof.
Base price for the Impala LS is $22,365. Option packages and a $560 destination charge bumped the price up to $25,415. Considering the cost of most midsize sedans today, it's not a bad price for a redesigned, well-equipped ... antelope?
--Sherri L. Koucky