Pondering how to approach this 20,773 mile update, it occurred to me….General Motors may want to thank me. It’s their call of course, but my obtaining this Impala for work purposes has benefitted GM in a way I hadn’t realized until I sat down to put my various Impala thoughts and experiences into something cohesive.
Now aren’t you curious to learn what has prompted that statement?
This gray Impala came into my life with less than 200 miles on the odometer in October 2017, as revealed here. When first delivered it created a bit of stir around the office, a mild ruckus I didn’t mention in the previous article. The stir stemmed from it being so different in appearance, and “fancier”, than the decades old W-body Impalas that had been floating around forever.
One person was surprised this new car wasn’t one of the old W-bodies as they viewed them to be perfectly fine. My response was along the lines of how Henry Ford finally quit making the Model T due to times changing and GM likely didn’t want a 21st Century Model T.
The response was a blank, glassy eyed stare. Really, why would GM keep making a car that had been physically unchanged since 2006 with the chassis having been around since 1988? High profit margins are great but everything has to come to an end eventually.
A few people critiqued its “leather” seats. This is a profound yet uncredited success for somebody in marketing. When in the world did people start to confuse vinyl with leather? It quickly got to the point of my using Jim Klein’s statement of it being vegan leather, which worked great for prompting realizations. Nobody detected my sarcasm when stating it was leatherette or MB Tex.
The attention generated by this particular Impala has reaped benefits for General Motors as people were paying attention to it, a novel concept for a fleet vehicle. Soon after taking possession I was traveling around my eighteen county area to a series of employee meetings. A field supervisor had seen this Impala previously, commenting it was about time GM finally euthanized the old W-body. Telling him about the various reactions, I asked him to speculate how much fuss there would be among field personnel since I try to minimize rumors. He said the fuss would be one time so I may as well tackle it head-on.
On the day we met in his area a group of employees were standing by the front door of the facility. There was an open parking space adjacent to where they were standing.
I wheeled that Impala up to the front door and got out, smiling pleasantly and being chatty. Several of the people were quite complimentary of the car saying we had stepped up in the world as a business entity.
My current supervisor was at a different one of this series of meetings, having driven his W-body Impala to get there. He had been curious about my car and asked to take it for a spin on some local rural roads.
Arriving back a short time later his response was “Damn, I like that.” He then pulled out his phone to take a look at colors on the Chevrolet website and followed that up with an email to the fleet manager, telling him to order him a new Impala like mine, but in white.
So that’s one I sold for General Motors.
Incidentally, he had a new Ford Fusion about three years ago. He couldn’t stand it and it was shuffled away in exchange for a then-new W-body Impala, viewing it as an upgrade.
A few months later there was a meeting the fleet manager and I needed to attend. The meeting was twenty-five miles away, we were leaving well past lunchtime, and I had not yet eaten. Telling him I needed to swing by a drive-through, he offered to drive. Before we even left the parking lot he remarked about how this Impala drove so much better than any of the older ones in the fleet.
For me automotive styling is a superficial thing, much like clothing. Sure there are the hard points such as the cowl, but the same is true with the shoulders and waist of the human body. Clothing simply drapes off a person, much the same as sheetmetal drapes off a chassis. I view cars the same way I do people – I don’t care about the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
And the 3.6 liter V6 in this Impala is an amazing engine. Adding to its allure is a transmission that is immune to the incessant gear hunting that seems to be in vogue these days. And did I mention the 3.6 is amazing?
Fuel economy has been admirable, with this Impala achieving 27.4 miles per gallon over its service life, with my having been the operator for well over 90% of those miles. This is quite near the EPA highway rating of 28 mpg, and it exceeds the city ratings of 19 mpg city and 22 mpg combined. But the real appeal of the 3.6 is what happens when a person tickles the happy pedal. For example….
I was in the Lake of the Ozarks area one day, Osage Beach to be exact.
As an aside, I have yet to see any episode of the television show “Ozark” which is set in Osage Beach. It’s too bad the show in filmed in Georgia.
Anyway, one day I was entering an onramp to go north/east on US 54. This particular onramp has a nearly 200 degree bend to it. Space to enter 54 was rapidly dwindling due to two eighteen-wheelers barreling down the road side-by-side. Sticking the spurs to that Impala at 40 miles per hour prompted the front wheels to start hopping as those 303 ponies were wanting to gallop. Letting off the throttle ever so slightly allowed me to slingshot onto the highway.
Did I mention this 3.6 is amazing?
Last December I took off the week between Christmas and New Year’s. A day or two before Christmas a contemporary came to my office asking if he could use my Impala one day. Telling him where I kept the key, I asked if he was up for a new car knowing his old W-body Impala was rather long in the tooth. He said he was and was test driving examples of what he could choose from.
When I returned in early January I asked him about what he thought. He said it was phenomenal and he was going to be choosing an Impala from his options.
So that’s two I’ve sold for General Motors.
With there now being a more diverse number of automotive offerings in a given price range due to the rapid acceptance of SUVs and CUVs in the market, our fleet at work has started to reflect this diversity.
For years there was a standard passenger car, with little to no choice offered or provided. When I started my career in the mid-90s, it was the Ford Taurus. Prior to that it was the Dodge Dynasty. After about 2003, the standard car migrated to being the Impala, where it stayed until just a few years ago.
Currently, for roughly the same amount of money (we don’t pay retail prices where I work), one can choose from an Impala, a Ford Fusion, a Ford Escape, or a Chevrolet Equinox. This new-found choice is also reflected in the parking garage at my district office where I am one of four people with a dedicated parking space. Two years ago there were four W-body Impalas parked there. Now, there are two Epsilon Impalas and two Chevrolet Equinii.
While the Impala I’m driving has consumed only about one-eighth of its likely service life, problems have been non-existent. In the interest of full-disclosure there was a bent wheel but that can happen to any car with the right pothole. Otherwise, it’s been delightfully boring.
All cars have their own particular quirks and I just discovered one the other day. A July heatwave with ambient temperatures of 98 degrees Fahrenheit revealed this quirk.
This Impala has bluetooth connectivity for voice and music. Does this mean it has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto? I neither know nor care. What I do know is using the bluetooth for the phone while the car is in motion (I was not driving at this particular time) significantly lowers the blower speed of the air-conditioning. The blower resumes the selected speed upon terminating the call.
This is a quirk that is easily managed and avoided, particularly since in many states cell phone use has become a more frequent cause of automobile wrecks than drunk driving.
Earlier this week another new Impala arrived. The service attendant had it and was transferring items from an old W-body Impala to the new one. He called me over and he was a pleasant combination of highly amused and mildly annoyed. His general demeanor always elevates my mood.
“Shafer,” he grinned, “you see all that shit on the floor of this new car?”
“I just wanted to let you know I put it there. Guy had it that way in the old one so I figured he must like it. He’s got all sorts of other shit piled up in this old car and I’m moving the whole son of a bitching mess over. I have to assume he likes it that way.”
Containing my laughter, I told him I would do the same thing. It’s ridiculous a brand new car had to be trashed to make a point but I suspect the point was taken.
This new Impala is assigned to somebody on the team of my contemporary who chose a new Impala after borrowing mine. So I’ll take (part of) the credit.
That’s now three Impalas I’ve sold for General Motors.
Perhaps a key question is what I would choose if my current Impala was rendered useless. If limited to the Impala, Fusion, Escape, or Equinox I would choose the Impala again without hesitation. I’ve driven the others and, while well suited for the job, they simply don’t possess the same degree of smoothness and comfort combined with feeling so well-planted to the road. Sure there may be a fuel economy advantage with one of the others but fuel economy isn’t everything. For the distances I drive comfort and smoothness mean a lot.
Writing an update at 20,773 miles may seem premature. I’d argue it isn’t. Any of us who have ever regretted our choice in automotive purchases likely realized the regret within 20,000 miles. For me, regret has never been a word that’s entered my mind in regard to this Impala. I hope to keep it assigned to me for years to come.