The Impala LS has made my life miserable. Last fall, my wife bought a new family sedan. (Its identity shall remain hidden for obvious reasons. Thankfully, buying it wasn't my idea.) She was happy with it until I brought home the LS, which cost less, had more features, and actually was more satisfying to drive. This put my wife in a deep funk for the week I had the car. Eventually she refused to go near the LS.

Let this anecdote be a warning. At least look at the Impala if you are shopping for a new car in the family-sedan class. It's roomy with 105 ft3-worth of passenger compartment. There is plenty of space in which to spread out, as well as over 17 ft3 of trunk capacity. And there is a pleasant surprise when you step on the gas. The LS model comes with a 200-hp 3.8-liter V6. This 90 engine gives the big car some zip.

By comparison, the base Impala carries a 3.4-liter 60 V6 that puts out 180 hp. I have not driven an Impala with the smaller engine, but I am not sure I would want to. I have a hunch the experience would be much less interesting.

The suspension seems tight with no untoward swaying or rocking. Compared to another sedan I could name (but won't), there is no waddling and shimmying over bumps and curbs.

Promotional material about the car makes a point that it employs 25 mm more suspension travel than other GM vehicles built on the same platform, such as the Lumina. There are sway bars front and rear for better cornering, and the LS version we drove comes equipped with a Touring Package that features stiffer springs for less body roll. Steering was about what you might expect with a car this size - no sports-car dartiness but not mushy. The brakes, discs all around, were solid. Front discs measure 11.9 3 1.25-in., large enough for police-package cars. Another point in the LS's favor is that a front-wheel traction-control system is standard.

Numerous comfort and convenience features are standard on the LS. Of particular note are the OnStar system which calls for help in an emergency, and a system for monitoring tire inflation. Also found on the LS (but optional for the base Impala) are side-impact air bags, a center console with a lot of storage, an information center with a compass, outside temperature thermometer, garage door opener, and an antitheft system.

The only knocks on the interior were exposed screwheads here and there and a big "airbag" label on the dash. The fake wood highlight strips look fake. Externally, people generally seem to like the car's styling, though its big round taillights don't appeal to everyone. Our only complaint was that the spoiler on the back deck tended to obscure the view from the rearview mirror.

Additional options on the car we drove included heated leather bucket seats and a power passenger seat, as well as a radio upgrade that included features such as speed-compensated volume and the ability to pull in radio-data system (RDS) info. The total with a $600 destination charge came to $25,494. It's possible to find less-expensive sedans, but all in all the LS stacks up well in performance, features, and safety gear.

Lee Teschler