Just a few months from now, the last of the W-Body Impalas will be rolling off the line. By the late Oughts it had been largely reduced to fleet status, with the Malibu being the popular retail model. But it carried on, and plenty were still seen in traffic, especially here in the Midwest. But now, the end of the road is in sight. The fat lady hasn’t yet sung, but she’s on the podium and clearing her throat…
Introduced in Chevy form in 1989 as the Lumina, it was meant as Chevy’s mainstream family sedan, with the B-body Caprice being more of a luxury/fleet/police offering. It lasted in Lumina form until 2000, when the redesigned W was rechristened Impala. Well into the mid ’00s it battled the Taurus, first for retail buyers, and later on for fleet sales, though a small but dedicated group of GM lifers kept buying them.
And why not? While not quite in line with more modern mid-size sedans on the market, the Impala was roomy, got decent mileage for its size, and had lots of trunk space. And if you wanted a good-sized, reliable three or four year old car, an Impala was a bargain. I still see fairly new Impalas in the paper for well under $10K.
The W-body was introduced in 1988 as the Buick Regal, Olds Cutlass Supreme and Pontiac Grand Prix coupes, to be followed in 1989 with the Lumina coupe and sedan. While the early models had their share of problems, the platform was upgraded through the years and the bugs worked out. Just like there was not a ton in common between a Panther ’80 Continental and ’11 Signature Limited, so too was the case with an ’89 Lumina and ’12 Impala.
And while the current Impala is a lot smoother (and has lost the 1989-94 Lumina’s underbite) the overall proportions are not drastically different. The alloys are a nice touch, too, but I miss distinct greenhouses on modern cars–and the resulting shrunken glass area.
While there were plenty of Impalas on the lot back in September when I took these photos, all of them were LT or LS models with cloth seats–except for one loaded black LTZ, our featured car. These look so much nicer with the leather seats, but they are not seen very often, as rental companies–a big fan of the Impala, they are–tend to order the base-spec version.
This black over beige LTZ may have been a customer order, as the top-trim version is pretty thin on the ground around here. I have driven a couple of LSs that my dad used to have as company cars and found them to be comfy, pleasant cruisers. While both of those cars had the bucket seats and floor shift, I believe these Impalas are the last remaining GM car with an available bench seat–unless that’s been discontinued the last couple of model years.
At the time I took these pictures, I thought the ’12 was the last model year, but apparently it is making one final curtain-call for 2013. While not too many people will miss the last W-body–they are, after all, a bread-and-butter family car, not a 911–I will. However, the new ’14 Impala looks very good, and if the commercials are any indication, they’ll be much closer to the Caprice Classics of yore. I’m all for that.