(first posted 3/3/2016) Don’t take that headline to mean any of GM’s current fleet wouldn’t make a sound used car buy. On the contrary. However, the 2006 Impala – still sold to fleets as the Impala Limited – was the last car from an era of General Motors’ history where there was less of a commitment to product leadership. A thorough revision of an ageing car on an even older platform, the 2006 Impala broke no new ground. When new, it was average at best, mediocre at worst; as a used car buy, it is much more compelling.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the “good used car” was what GM seemed to do best. Few of their offerings could have been considered best in class and many were sold well past their use-by dates. When Toyota introduced the high-quality, American-sized Camry of 1992, Chevrolet’s response was a new body for its Lumina in 1995. While Ford was disassembling Camrys in a basement and trying to match the insurgent Japanese car in quality, GM took their upper mid-size offering and priced it to sell. There was no need to best in class if they could be the best-seller in the class, GM must have thought. As it turned out, they were nowhere close to either with the Lumina.
GM’s menagerie of brands still assured them a sizeable chunk of the market but also siphoned away development money: instead of one exceptional intermediate, they had a collection of average models. By 2000, the Lumina had been replaced by the Impala. It didn’t advance the game much either. At best, Chevrolet had a mid-pack offering. It sold well, but again not to Camry/Accord levels.
The W-Body had always been rather awkwardly sized: the ’90 Lumina had been 9.2 inches longer than the rival Taurus but no more spacious. Now, Chevrolet was recentering their lineup on the Malibu. The 2004 Malibu sat on the global Epsilon platform shared with the Saab 9-3 and Opel Vectra, and the Pontiac G6, Saturn Aura and subsequent 2008 Malibu featured a stretched wheelbase that put those sedans uncomfortably close to the Impala in size.
GM invested $7 billion in the Epsilon platform. Rather than move the Impala to this platform, though, for 2006 the Impala was thoroughly revised but kept the same 1988-vintage W-Body underpinnings. Mechanical improvements were limited to a more robust front-end structure and a stiffer engine cradle, reducing vibration and allowing for a smoother ride. The chassis’ frame rails were also strengthened. Otherwise, it was business as usual for the W-Body platform with the same MacPherson strut front suspension and tri-link, trailing arm independent rear.
The Impala’s old engine lineup was tossed, in favor of the new High Value 3.5 and 3.9 overhead-valve V6 engines from the Chevrolet 60-degree V6 engine family. Both of these engines were available in the Malibu and Pontiac G6. The 3.5 represented a sizeable improvement in power and torque over the previous base 3.4, with 211 hp and 214 ft-lbs. The 3.9 had an even healthier 242 hp and 242 ft-lbs. A 5.3 V8 was also available in the SS; this will be featured later.
The exterior had a wholesale revamp, with clean but inoffensive new sheetmetal. The retro throwback taillights, squared-off wheel arches and blackened headlights were all ditched in favor of a more graceful if anonymous visage. It didn’t scream “Impala” but it didn’t offend, either; classic cues like the Hofmeister-esque beltline kink and the heritage badges remained for tradition’s sake.
The interior was a much more pleasant and serene place to be than before. Thicker side glass and more sound deadening material reduced cabin noise, while the old, plasticky, hodge-podge dashboard design was scrapped and substituted with a clean, simple design similar to the more expensive Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS. Like those larger sedans, the Impala could be had with a front bench and column shifter, an increasingly rare set-up.
Despite its overall larger dimensions, the Impala’s cabin was still scarcely more spacious than that of a Camry or Accord and there were still some cheap materials. However, the ambience was for the most part improved and there was even a standard MP3 compatible stereo with AUX input.
The Impala was keenly priced. A base LS 3.5 retailed for just a tick over $20k, reduced from the base price of the 2005 Impala to more accurately reflect real transaction prices. A base Camry’s MSRP was less than a grand below but it came with a four-cylinder engine. In fact, the cheapest Malibu V6 was scarcely cheaper than the Impala LS and, while the Impala’s dimensions weren’t quite full-sized, it still boasted an extra 3 inches in width and 4 inches in wheelbase over its little brother.
There were some noticeable omissions, however. Anti-lock brakes, once a safety feature heavily touted and proliferated through the Chevrolet lineup, were standard only on LTZ and SS models despite the standard fitment across the range of side-curtain airbags. The only transmission with each of the three engines was a four-speed automatic. The shifter was not gated like in the Buick Lucerne, nor did it feature a manual shift mode like the Malibu SS. Most rivals had moved onto five- and six-speed automatics by 2006, although fuel economy was still a laudable 18/28 mpg with the 3.5; those figures dropped to 17/25 with the 3.9 and a still impressive 16/26 with the 5.3.
The Impala may have utilized an old platform, but crash safety was commendable. The NHTSA gave it five stars for driver and front passenger protection in frontal impacts; four stars were given for side impacts. The old platform did hamstring handling, however. The LTZ and SS had a slightly different suspension tune but no Impala was especially fun-to-drive. Instead, these cars had a compliant ride and were able cruisers, especially on the highway. For most buyers in this segment, that was enough.
For 2007, the 3.9 gained Active Fuel Management, allowing cylinders to be deactivated in light-throttle and cruising situations and consequently improving fuel economy to 18/28 mpg. The addition of AFM coincided with a small dip in horsepower for the 3.9 (down to 233 hp) but the engine gained FlexFuel capability as in the 3.5.
After 2007, the Impala settled in for a period of little changes. 2009 models belatedly received standard ABS and traction control across the board; the SS was also gone after this year.
Sales reached a high in 2007 with 311,128 Impalas sold. That would not last: the following year, slipped by around 5k units and in 2009 they slid by a whopping 100k units, or 37%. What happened in 2009? Well, the new, bigger and very handsome Malibu had by then rolled out to all Chevrolet dealerships. The Malibu was better-looking, had a more powerful V6 available and had a stylish cabin that was just as roomy. As the chart above shows, this is when the Malibu finally, properly usurped the Impala as Chevrolet’s intermediate breadwinner.
300 horses featured once again under the hood of Impalas in 2012 when the Malibu’s 3.6 High Feature V6 and a six-speed automatic transmission became the standard (and only) powertrain in the lineup. With 262 ft-lbs of torque, the new engine was a significant step-up in performance over the old High Value engines and put the Impala on an even footing with Camry, Altima and Accord V6s.
The new 3.6 V6 was the first major change for the Impala in years and will likely be the last for the W-Body Impala. A new, thoroughly up-to-date sedan on the Epsilon platform would wear the Impala nameplate after 2013; the W-Body continues as the Impala Limited and is sold only to fleets. Finally, the 2013 Impala offered a compelling reason once again to choose it over the Malibu, with handsome styling, an available V6 (the Malibu’s biggest engine is a turbocharged four) and a more spacious cabin.
The new Epsilon-based Impala has earned critical acclaim, ranking as Consumer Reports’ favorite full-size sedan and winning comparison tests regularly. The W-Body Impala enjoyed no such glory. But the value proposition it offered new has been enhanced by weak resale values. The cheapest Camry in 2006 retailed for $19,275 with the 2.4 four-cylinder and automatic transmission. Edmunds puts that Camry’s dealer retail price at $5,804. In comparison, the cheapest Impala in 2006 – which cost ever so slightly more than the Camry but had a standard V6 – is expected to have a dealer retail price of $5,151.
With a comfortable interior, decent feature list and no major alarm bells for reliability, the Impala is a very sensible used car buy. A friend of mine recently purchased one and an acquaintance of mine has owned one for five years with no mechanical issues. Neither of these young guys are car enthusiasts and they simply required safe, comfortable and reliable transportation. The Impala delivers and dealer prices and financing are much more palatable than with an Accord or Camry.
General Motors realized good enough was no longer good enough with its passenger car lineup somewhere around the late-2000s. The 2006 Impala was a pleasant refresh of an ageing sedan but although it had its strong suits, it was yet another “good enough” sedan. The Impala had bang for your buck – a standard V6, a big trunk, the promise of incentives – but for many, a four-cylinder mid-size sedan was sufficient car for their $20k. In the context of its competition, the Impala was competent but no class-leader and ultimately needed keen pricing to be worthy of purchase. Now, its a great value used buy.
Photos courtesy of Brendan Saur
Curbside Classic: 2006 Ford Taurus
Curbside Classic: 2004 Toyota Camry
I would take a marquis over this for its bigger size, nicer interior and v8 along with better reliability. These impala cars were ok but boring and generic looking and kind of dated, it would have made a great 1993- 1996 malibu to sell along side the b body unpalatable and caprice.
Well reasoned and written, warren.
GM lengthened the wheelbase and re-shaped the interior significantly when it became the Impala in 2000. It’s a gray area that differs depending on which website or review you read, but I never really thought of these as mid-sized cars at that point. Especially when the Malibu was so directly aimed at the Camry/Accord in terms of dimensions, interiors, engines, and styling.
The Lumina was already very large and heavy for the class, and with the enhanced dimensions I would call these full-size sedans. At the very least, they were marketed as such – the retro styling, bench seat, standard V6, and extremely soft suspension (seriously, these make a Camry seem firm) were calculated decisions, not just phoned-in holdovers. I think what they were trying to create was a sort of chintzy successor to the Caprice using a recycled platform – think Avalon more than Camry. It was still apparent the underlying platform used to be mid-sized… try sitting in the middle of that bench seat without one of your butt cheeks getting stabbed by the fixed, upright seatbelt buckles. But these drive like old-school American cars, and have the look to go with it (more so the ’00-’05), which can’t be said of the Taurus or Camry.
The formula must’ve worked because these are the Camrys of the Midwest; you are always within sight of at least one. The looooooong production run and bland styling kind of makes it the perfect socio-economic cloak. An older one doesn’t make you look broke, but a newer one doesn’t make you look flush. Driving one of these in traffic doesn’t really communicate anything other than “I Own A Car”.
My father (recently deceased) had a 2006 and (before that) a 2000 Impala. Before that he had owned 3 Sables in a row, and I recommended he check out the 2000 Impala…the salesguy pulled the “I misplaced the keys on your Sable” trick when he was looking it over as a tradein, but it worked..my Dad drove the 2000 for the weekend and ended up buying it the next Monday.
I preferred the 2000 to the 2006; especially the rear seat which seemed very roomy in the 2000 which is less so in the 2006. Both cars got very good gas mileage (I got 39 MPG once on the highway, but I’m a slow driver nowdays). The 2006 has had some odd problems with heating/cooling system, once a fan module went out, and I had to replace the stripped out stepper motors on the blend door (they make an awful racket when they give out). My mother has taken over driving the 2006, having given her 2009 Focus to my sister.
That’s a pretty good summary.
It’s either the Camry in mid-west, or Camry is the Impala in coast.
W-Body Impala is the only car in mid-west can be captured in one picture with 5 or more.
These are fabulous fleet cars.
That’s not a knock, that is a compliment. The only flaw I’ve ever seen out of these cars in 150k+ miles of fleet service is they need frequent front and rear alignments. Other than that, they are flawless. This is also counting assignments where different people are in them everyday and any given unit may have several hundred drivers in its service life.
I’ve driven dozens of these and purchased about a half-dozen during my tenure (another assigned duty) as a fleet manager. My only complaint with them was the steering wheel feels a few inches too large in diameter. Minor gripe.
These were a distinct improvement over the 2000 to 2005 Impala. These are more comfortable, have much better power, and have marginally better visibility. I was assigned a new 2009 Impala and I asked for the gear selector to be on the column; that was a $250 option at the time.
Max P. is correct – these are the Camry of the Midwest. Sitting here, thinking of the parking lot at work, there is one Accord, two Camry’s, and about eight Impala’s of the 2006 and up vintage. One man I work with owns two of these as his wife also has a lengthy commute, so they each drive an Impala.
These aren’t exciting, but they are drama free. That’s not a bad thing.
These aren’t exciting, but they are drama free. That’s not a bad thing. – Exactly. I think that is exactly what Chevy had in mind. One great thing these cars accomplished is convice people that GM made reliable and dependable cars.
The concept of a “fabulous fleet car” as a compliment reminds me of what my grandfather once told me (specifically about used cars, no less) “See what the Police departments and cab companies use, then by the civilian version.” There’s certainly logic in that!
If this were true the Checker Marathon would have been a huge sales hit. Ditto for the AMC Matador that the LAPD bought in the seventies. Realistically, after meeting certain minimum standards, police departments and cab companies usually buy the cheapest car.
Not every cab company used Checker, and they were a “speciality” manufacturer that doesn’t count. AMC might be a better argument. In the Pittsburgh area (outside of the Center city itself,where the Yellow Cab Co. was a monopoly)
the new taxis were largely “B” body Chevys (Biscaynes/Bel-Air) Most of the police departments used ‘C” or “B” body MoPars.
Solid fleet cars often aren’t huge sales hits with the public at large.
I think the Grandfather is right – AMC Matador was a fine car compared to it’s peers, as was the Crown Vic, Caprice, and so on. Nothing wrong with any of them.
I think your grandfather’s advice is spot on. Having owned a Crown Vic, and a Mercedes 240d (used as a cab in Europe), any vehicle that can last with police and taxi use is winner for durability and usually cheap parts.
I definitely see more of these than Accords and Camrys. A lot more. I’m willing to bet they are the most popular car around here by a large margin. Mostly bought used from fleets, I’m sure.
Great analysis. If I needed a new but moderately priced used car roomier than my Focus, this would be on my list.
Thanks William for this informative writeup on this future cc. It was impressive to me how high the real world mileage got while retaining the old 60 degree pushrod engine and four speed transmission. Since the car already offered a smooth, quiet ride and had proven durability, I very much agree with you that these are great used cars.
With Impala being among the last of the GM old school, high volume cars, it will be interesting to see what replaces them in the used car market. The Cancords perhaps stay with their first retail owner longer and when they do trade are more often exported. Also CUVs are ever more prominent. Given that, I predict that the Equinox, Escape, Santa Fe and Patriot will be the used specials 10 years from now.
I own a 2005 Impala which I bought new and which now has over 164,000 miles on it…and I have no plans to get rid of it.
With 3000 mile oil changes on the classic 3800 V6, that car will run for years to come….I feel that styling took a step backward in the 2006 refresh. It looks more bland….and an Impala needs round taillights…not triangular ones….an oversight seen again in the 2013 redesign….If it weren’t for the big Chevy bowtie emblem on the rear of the 2013 and up Impala, I would think that it was one of the many foreign cars with look alike rear end styling and taillight design running around today….
I recall seeing one of the early promotional commercials for the 2013 Impala which showed a 65 Impala,morphing into a 2013 Impala…….The 65 is still a better looking car…..My Dad owned a 65 way back when those 6 round taillights shouted “Impala”
Exactly. When the new Impala first came out, my Dad and I were checking it out at an auto show. It was still really new, so they had it up on a turn table with a booth babe. She was showing it off as it spun around. We were impressed with this new beautiful car, and then the ass end came around. I said to my Dad, nice car, but it looked like they phoned in the taillight design. He said, “I know, right? Where are the three lights on each side?” That would’ve looked much better. A missed opportunity here, especially with the popularity of retro themed cars these days. Perhaps they’ll do something like that on the 2018 refresh. ;o)
I agree. I like the new Impala from the front to the B-pillar. From the B-pillar back I find it awkward and anonymous.
My wife’s father had one of these when we first met. The SS model, 2006 I think. It probably is a microcosm of our short and not very pleasant relationship. At the time I was driving a 1995 Mercedes-Benz E300 Diesel. Which was about as big a contrast you could get in two cars with a similar size interior.
I was stunned that GM thought they could actually sell a $30,000 “luxury sedan” with such crappy plastics and quite clearly bonded leather. The number of nicer cars offering similar features and performance for similar money was a long one, too- Toyota Avalon, Suburu Legacy 2.5 Turbo, Nissan Altima 3.5. Just off the top of my head.
We haven’t talked in years- and she hasn’t talked to her parents since the wedding. No idea what he drives now.
Interesting take on this car, and I think you’ve nailed it.
I’ve driven several Impalas of this era, either as rentals or as fleet cars at my workplace. Each time, I’ve admired them but not enough to consider buying one. But if I was in the market for a sensible and anonymous new car, I do think these would be at the top of my list. (My biggest gripe has been that the transmission does not have an overdrive-off control; a feature that I use a lot.)
Incidentally, were these the last passenger cars offered in the US with a bench seat?
The W body was the last American platform with that option.
And it still is. The Impala Limited fleet special (going away after MY16) still has the bench as an option.
An assessment that rings quite true. What makes an appealing new car is often quite different from what makes an appealing used car.
Used cars need to be mechanically sound and not that well loved when new. A W body, particularly one with the 3.8 makes a great used car in an era where the list of good used cars seems to get shorter all the time.
I understand the amount of car for the money these have become on the used car market, but I can never view this generation Impala in a positive light.
The sheer lack of effort with these cars was just embarrassing. Dated drivetrain and mechanics, unoriginal styling, bargain-basement interior. Mainstream large cars don’t have to be exciting, but they can at least be moderately pleasant and up-to-date, just look at the Ford Five Hundred/Taurus.
And on top of that I’ve had many times to experience these cars in person. An aunt owned an ’07 LT (which was a former fleet vehicle she bought used) and we’ve had several as rentals over the years. Uncomfortable and unsupportive seats, harsh and sloppy ride quality, and the cheapest hard and flimsy plastics. I shudder at the thought of riding in one of these penalty boxes, even for a short taxi ride.
The fact that so many of these are former fleet vehicles (and thus beaten to hell) would make me apprehensive about recommending anyone to buy one used. I’d go for a now similarly-valued used Buick Lucerne.
Having driven hundreds of fleet vehicles in my career, I’m hesitant to agree with you about all fleet vehicles being beat to hell. A good number, yes, but it just depends on the assignment. As example, I drove an ’06 Impala back in ’10 or ’11 with nearly 200k on it and it was pristine on the inside and outside. Few had driven it and they were all finicky about the appearance of their vehicle.
I don’t disagree about the interior, but the seat fabric on these is quite durable. The pool vehicle seats I see look great despite age or mileage and that accounts for the vast spectrum of butt sizes that have been plopped on their surface.
Hoping you see this Brendan, despite this being an older thread, as I always find your posts well done. I think for many of us, the used car market strategy is something I like to call “hit ’em where they ain’t” which is exactly where this Impala can be found. Current fleet includes:
1999 Ford Ranger XLT 2.5l, auto with A/C 2WD regular cab, a fortunate score from the last dealership that I twisted wrenches in (just prior to it’s bankruptcy as the great recession hit). Got it for $600 in 2006 with 99,000 miles. Still have it, 150,000 miles and it is surprisingly rust free, despite about the first 7 years of it’s life on Cape Cod. Only major work has been a timing belt and water pump, rotted brake lines, and front suspension bits. What I consider a Model T of the modern era. To me, it’s a perfect trucklet for a homeowner on a budget.
2008 Ford Taurus X Eddie Bauer, bought in 2010. My better half had just ended a 3 year lease on a 2007 Toyota 4Runner that had all the bells and whistles including the V8. The lease was odious, near $500/month as I recall (she had made the purchase a few months before we met that involved an upside down trade-in of a 2006 Explorer). That dealership, not mentioning names but in Framingham on route 9 took her for a very expensive ride. It was a reliable vehicle, but I honestly couldn’t see the appeal. The ride was harsh, bouncy and pitchy on anything but smooth roads and despite my not tall by any means 5′ 8″ height, I found entry/exit a pain, and the interior cramped. With her daughter away in France for a semester in 2010, we spent about 3 months searching used cars while she had use of her daughter’s 2001 Beetle (a disaster of a car, purchased just as we began dating unfortunately). She’d never bought used before for herself, and was glad I was around to hopefully increase her chances of a good buy. The T-rex had about 20,000 miles on it, and the price was about $20,000, including Ford ESP to 7 years/100k miles. Still have the car, her son is driving it, and with 3 kids at 4, 6, and 8 they like it better than the 2013 Town and Country that they also have. It needed nothing more than normal maintenance for the first 200k, during which I replaced one hub and bearing assembly and an A/C compressor, both well after 100k miles. After 200k, I completely overhauled the suspension (springs, shocks, struts, strut bearings, front/rear control arms and bushings etc.). At about 230k, I dropped the engine and trans out the bottom and replaced the timing chains, water pump, and alternator (pump had just begin to leak and took out the alternator). It now has 270,000 miles on it. The body is a bit rough but presentable, and the transmission is showing it’s age, but as I have a lift, tools and ability, replacing the transmission might not be out of the question.
2012 Lincoln MKX Limited. Purchased in 2016 with 65,000 miles for $20k. We’d looked at Cadillac SRX and Lexus RX and honestly didn’t find them as well equipped or as comfortable as the Lincoln in the same price range. Caddy was close, but you had to go newer by a couple or three years to get a similar blue tooth and touchscreen (and subsequent higher price), and Lexus had to be a few years older for a similar price. Lincoln certified used, that extended the warranty to 7 years 100k bumper to bumper. As I already knew the 3.5/3.7 6F combo to be fairly bulletproof (I know, I know, timing chain driven water pump, stick to the proper maintenance schedule and you’re not likely to have a problem, witness the T-rex above) the mileage was not concerning in the least. The previous owner was meticulous, all maintenance done at the dealership of purchase and ultimate trade in. I’m guessing they had Weather Tech mats, as the interior was flawless, and the original carpeted floor mats were still in the sealed plastic bags from the factory. Sadly I presume someone in the used car department acquired them as they were no longer with the car. We put a set of Husky liners in, as they were a few hundred less than Weather Tech. It just recently crossed 200k, and beyond regular maintenance I replaced a leaky TX valve for the A/C and front struts and strut bearings. The digital back-up camera has become cranky, the image is now upside down on the screen. I’m guessing some data signal that tells the module how to orient the image is corrupted in some fashion. A new camera is likely the fix (pricey, over $300 last I checked and must be factory only). For now we live with it. I’m hoping that cleaning contacts here and there might help, but I’m waiting for some warmer weather before disassembly of plastic interior panels. I’ll probably do the timing chain/water pump this summer as preventative maintenance, along with a now slightly overdue set of spark plugs.
2003 Buick LeSabre Limited purchased in 2016 for $3000 with 95,000 miles. Classic older folks car/final purchase. It spent winters in Florida, as a result the body is quite clean. Craigslist purchase, from the original owner’s daughter. I replaced the intake gaskets in 2020 along with a used lower manifold, as the original had some serious corrosion. Aside from that, rear air shocks, front strut assemblies, an A/C compressor, and normal maintenance. I’ll be redoing the sagging headliner, all those summers down south have taken their toll. A local fabric chain, JoAnn’s has the material at an incredibly low price. Again, another warmer weather project It gets a consistent 23 mpg in mixed driving, and is well suited to long highway excursions, of which there have been many. The 3.8/4T65E may be dated, but it is smooth and reliable. I have to keep reminding myself the car is old enough to vote.
Many do complain about the comfort of W bodies, you’re clearly one of them. Surpisingly, I’ve never been in one in all these years, but as the saying goes your mileage may vary.
I have one of these. Mine is a 2012, so it has the nice 3.6 engine and 6-speed trans. LTZ trim level. It was a former fleet car, probably from Enterprise, from what I can tell on the build sheet & Carfax. I bought it in January of 2014, as a Certified Used car from my local Chevrolet dealer. I would have never considered one of these new, but as a 2 year old, low mileage, certified used car for over half off original MSRP, I think it’s a pretty good deal. It may have inoffensive, anonymous styling, but I think it still looks pretty good. Better than the Camry or Taurus of that generation. It gets good mileage, has some get up and go, can seat 5 people and has a huge trunk. Just fine for getting me to work everyday, around town, or even on vacation.
We supplied these to our field staff as company vehicles and they were bulletproof. They also engendered some loyalty, as many of our people bought them from us after replacement for their kids. Personally, I thought this particular Impala looked tastefully elegant.
It is a Chevrolet.
I remember growing up around the Impala and Caprice. They were always more attractive than dependable or enjoyable. Good enough, was good enough. Back then a family of eight would wear out a car within four years. You wouldn’t want to put a lot of money into a car when you had six kids.
The Impala was what families had. They were the pre-minivan family vehicles during the 1960s and 1970s.
What this generation of Impala did was rediscover that “good enough” sweet spot. Good for them! There is absolutely nothing wrong with a good enough family vehicle. When you have a big family, you don’t give two figs about which sedan is considered “tops” in the class. You just have to get Morgan, Hunter, Gunner and Landon and Isabel off to gymnastics before you run to Aldi to grab breakfast cereal and milk.
I used to care about more than this, but being a parent changes your perception to what is important in your car.
Now that I have a slew of elementary school kids, I now fully understand why a Chevrolet might not turn heads among my single kid-less friends, but I’ll be damned if I put two car seats and three other energetic school kids in anything costing me more than $450 a month.
Nice cars are for empty nesters – I have to haul dirty diapers, sippy cups, a trumpet and 50 loose, crushed and broken goldfish crackers to Grandma’s so the wife and I could get some time to ourselves for a few hours.
Good analysis of how “good enough” can work in a family role, but how many people with two or more kids are using a sedan as a family vehicle anymore? Very, very few, I’d wager. Minivans or 3-row SUVs are the order of the day.
I actually considered an 06 or 07 but never saw myself driving such a huge car. I agree with most here that the 2000 to 2005 model looks like a rough first draft that never got past the “just make it look vaguely Chevyish” idea.
Some people call the 91 to 97 Impala/Caprice “the whale”, I think the 2000 to 2005s look like a dead whale. Not even all that attractive on the inside, either.
“Cheap materials” is an unconvincing criticism so long as they’re durable & don’t resonate. The “luxury materials” on our Toyota Sienna were of no real benefit in the long run, & worse, cloth of any kind in high-wear areas like arm- & head-rests is inferior to vinyl if you want to keep the car decent-looking inside.
The VW Beetle set a good precedent: plain but durable vinyl.
This write up almost seems too kind.
This is the Generic Car. The perfect car for someone that just needs 4 wheels and an engine.
Toyota did that for decades. To some extent, they still do.
Er,ah,…Some people just want/need 4 wheels and an engine. There’s something wrong with that? The Camrys and Accords are no more exiting, but get high praise. H*ll, the original Type 1 VW Bug is a beloved icon that was underpowered and lacked a working heater (and wouldn’t make a patch on a Corvair’s A$$), but beloved….. And yet somehow a reasonable,unoffending and popular car is a bad thing? Yeah, it’s not a 3 series BMW or an Escalade, (or whatever one desires as a lust mobile…) But the Impala gets it’s job done….Paraphrasing Toyota: “Who can ask for anything more?”
My parents have a 2011 Impala.
This car makes the cheap 1970s GM interiors look luxurious.
The door “cards” are solid plastic top to bottom.
The PlastiWood on the dash is delaminating and congealing into a strange sticky mess.
The seats are terrible. Flat and hard they feel worn out.
How much damage do you think a couple of 70 year olds can do to a car in 5 years? Yeah, I’m blaming the car.
They don’t look too bad on the outside but this is the first modern car that makes my worn out 1995 F150 feel like a Cadillac.
I defend a lot of odd cars. I defend a lot of “Deadly Sins” but I will never defend this generation of Impala. Not even the SS. It’s just not that good.
I had one from the previous generation. Sure, but its not near as refridgerator-esque as econoboxes. One with a bench seat/column shifter, c pillar badges and a pinstripe (which was basically my old one) would do well as a “poor man’s Cadillac”, which is what Chevy seemed to often pawn itself off as.
Some folks don’t want sports cars or super fancy luxury or whatever. I replaced that Impala with something with quite a bit more panache but it did what I needed it to do when I needed it to do it and didn’t look bad doing it.
I rented an Impala for the day while my F-150 was in the shop. I was still recuperating from a recent surgery, and I had unlimited miles on the rental, so I spent all day just driving it around.
Surprisingly, I liked it with the exception of the cheap rental car interior. It was solid, quiet and decent to drive. I was expecting more of a POS from GM of this era.
On the other hand, there is no way I would buy one new, but as the above says it would probably make a decent used car.
I probably won’t buy anything that’s late model GM and I realize that might not be fair. Had too many problems with my last couple GM vehicles and even the S10 that I really liked took quite a bit of money to get right. However, I am pretty sure that I had one of these as an insurance car and was very impressed.
I was probably just the sort of guy they were looking for at the time because I had a 100 mile daily commute. Had the car 2-3 weeks and that was long enough to impress. It seemed very durable and would tote a lot.
I recently moved from Boston to Oklahoma, and this car is one of the main points of difference in the automotive fleets: Back in Boston, NO ONE drove this generation Impala except as rentals. I knew just one a couple who owned one, and they considered their car to be weird. Here in Oklahoma, they’re easily as common as Camrys and Accords back in Boston.
Yup. I have almost decided I want a cheap late model car with about the same footprint as a 75-80 Granada. After looking at the spec’s, I grabbed onto the 2000-2005 Impala. They are indeed everywhere. Just a 5 minute walk around the Lubbock mall while I was delivering a load to Sears netted 19 of ’em! Four were parked in the same row. Everywhere I look now, I see them. I would venture to say they are our local ( i run only Texas and Oklahoma and live in Wichita Falls) “cockroaches” of the road. And best of all, they are cheap. I like cheap. I may take the plunge yet.
The Impala was what the Chevrolet brand was known for: competent, reliable, reasonably priced value. WTH is wrong with that ? It’s what Chevrolet built it’s name on.
My brother recently purchased an off lease 14 Impala. Black, fancy wheels, all the features one could need. It was also neatly assembled and comfortable to sit in.
Took it on a long trip from Salt Lake City to Logan and it was quiet, smooth riding, competent and capable of hitting 90 before my brother knew how far above the limit he was going.
Because one owns these does not mean the owner is “not an enthusiast”. “Safe, comfortable,reliable transportation” is not the exclusive province of non car people, I would think. I am enthusiastic for just that sort of vehicle, regardless of whether the enthusiast crowd approves.
Brendan: I’m sorry, but I have to disagree about the “better looking” Malibu of 2008. It always looked dumpy and the tail lights were totally confused in their shape and detail. The Impala looked sleek in comparison.
And given the boring boomerang shaped uni-tails used on every car from Toyota to Chrysler to Ford to Nissan and even VW, the triangular lights of the W Body Malibu are refreshingly different.
Too large for me, but love the idea of one with column shifter and no lousy space robbing console cluttering up the interior and eating up space.
“love the idea of one with column shifter and no lousy space robbing console cluttering up the interior and eating up space.”
Me too, only full size pickups offer that now and even those are getting harder to find in that configuration.
Amen. I actually thought that GM had found about the perfect compromise when it comes to storage (which generally means just random crap you should have just thrown away and pens waiting to explode, but I digress) with this approximate era Impala/Lucerne/Deville with the bench seat/column shifter. You had the extra leg room but the arm rest and even the middle seat opened up to give you storage and the cup holders flipped out of that middle seat. I thought it was just about perfect, but alas, GM axed it.
Always thought this Impala was a clean design, used for about a thousand years. Weren’t some of the recent rental fleet cars “decontented” in terms of airbags, etc.? (Fewer Takatas may be a good thing!)
LOL!, I’d rather rely on me using seatbelts anyway. It took me years to get accustomed to driving with a bomb in my face!
Here is the information:
https://www.cars.com/articles/2010/02/some-used-chevy-impalas-have-missing-side-airbags/. Looks like 2006-2008 Impalas, at least those from–surprise– Enterprise.
I drove one of these W-bodies with the 3.6 a couple years ago…hot-rod quick, my one issue was that cheap GM feel when driving it, just a little loose, not as solid as it could be. Definitely not as planted to the road or solid-feeling as newer designs like my wife’s 2011 Equinox or the 2014 Sonic I drove a year or so ago. But the points about the W-body Impala’s merits are well-taken and, I think, quite accurate.
I just hope they keep up the good work with the new Malibu, and Cruze and Sonic that are on the way. Higher resale values were a Chevy hallmark 50 and 60 years ago and I don’t think that’s a bad goal to reattain.
Yeah, reviews at the time seemed to think 3.6 Impalas were all that. If accurate, that would be one of the ones to get. Probably the last hurrah for the old school Chevy rental.
The most noteworthy thing is that this was the very last car in which you could get an honest to god front bench seat. It was a sad passing of an Era.
The Chevrolet Lumina and then later the 3 iterations of Impala if these cars were produced in the mid-1970s, guess what? they would only be considered compacts in exterior sizes since they were NOT significantly any larger than the 1975-79 Chevrolet Nova. To prove my point, compare the Chevrolet Cars made between 1964 through current and there you will see that they were ALL in the same size ranges with one another. In other words, it would not be a significant size difference like a 1975 Chevrolet Nova 4 Door Sedan at 196.7″ compared to lets say a 1975 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu 4 Door Colonnade Hardtop at 209.3″. That’s like a little more than a foot in size difference.
It always took me a while to explain why my Volare is a compact car even though it’s longer than a current Chrysler 300.
That is very much the truth. What was yesterday’s (meaning mid-1970s to early-1980s) “so-called” Compact cars are now considered Standard sized or Full sized cars. Compact cars after the mid-1980s through today were much smaller like the Chevy Cruze which is the Chevy Vega’s “spiritual successor” barely larger than subcompacts. Same can be said with the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra and others which ironically ALL had subcompact beginnings.
I would probably drive one of these cars and find it to be quite acceptable. But then, I’m quite happy with my 2004 Focus wagon. It does what I want, is reasonably comfy, competent on the road and very reliable. Sometimes you don’t really need more than that.
I actually pined for the 2006 Impala when they came out, but as my 2004 Impala was only a year or so old, it would have been financially irresponsible.
I waited until 2012 to buy one.
In my 12 years of Impala W-body ownership, I have never had a problem, just maintenance. My bought new 2004 had the 3.4L engine, split bench, column shift, base model w/sport appearance upgrade. Drove it for over 8 years.
I bought my 2012 LTZ brand new as well, and with 85K already on the clock due to my stupid, long commute, never a single problem.
I love this car and will keep it long past retirement in a year.
PS: I’m still on the original Goodyear tires, too, and they’re still good at least for a while longer.
Future CC? You’d better believe it!
A couple that Mrs. Jason and I are friends with has a 2004 or 2005 Impala…it has nearly 300,000 trouble-free miles on it.
My baby – nicely pin-striped and added badges & name to the side as should have been done all along. I would have posted the photo last night, but was on the wrong computer.
I was wondering when you were going to chime in!
I’ve probably said this before on this site, but I think it bears repeating on this article: In my opinion, GM should’ve kept the W-body as the Lumina and Monte Carlo and saved the Impala name for a truly full-size sedan on the 112.2″ G-body with the Bonneville, Aurora, LeSabre, and Seville.
The future was so bad in the imagination of planning: only the buyer of Buick/Olds/Pontiac would be able to afford a car that large.
My wife and I bought a 2006 Impala LTZ in April of ’06 during a GM Sales Drive (they’d give GM card owners up to $2000 off a brand new car based on how many points they’d accumulated). We got the 3.9L and our car looked like the blue car in the publicity shot in this post, save for the color. Our car was a color called Fawn Beige, or something like that, with an leather interior that looked like the interior shot in this post. My wife liked the Impala after driving one as a rental while her Infiniti was in the shop getting repairs after an accident.
We traded two cars in on it and paid the car off free and clear. At the time I thought GM cribbed some design elements from Honda for the Impala. For the first three years of ownership (April 06 – April / May 09) the car was pretty trouble free. We did basic maintenance and took it in for dealer suggested checkups. Then came the last few months of ownership.
1.) My wife complained the power steering would lock up at low speed. I didn’t believe her until I drove the car and found at 10 mph and less (like say backing out of a parking spot), both hands were needed to muscle the wheel to turn. Back to the dealer for a new rack and pinion assembly, replaced under the extended warranty.
2.) Late one night as my wife was driving home from a teaching job, the Impala puked its coolant out and the dash lit up like a Christmas tree. One panicked roadside cell call and a tow to the local Chevrolet dealer revealed a water pump failure. The water pump was replaced under the extended warranty.
3.) Early one morning I got a frustrated cell phone call from my wife that the car was “impossible to steer at any speed”. I told her to drive home and put the car back in the garage. She then called to mention a “big puddle” of something in the driveway. It was the power steering fluid. After a tow to the local Chevrolet dealer, it turns out a power steering line cracked and the fluid poured out. That was replaced under the extended warranty, and that was the car’s third strike.
We fixed the car up and traded it in on a new Mazda 6 in February 2010. We still have the Mazda and it’s got 93K on it and still going strong. We traded the Impala with < 60K on it. While others here have had good experiences with this era of Impala, sadly ours wasn't so memorable.
The military base where I worked once had a sh*tload of these. I found them pleasant enough, with a good highway ride, but tempered by those Fisher-Price level interior plastics. A great car to have whenever we drove down to Washington for meetings. Eventually they all got replaced with Fusion hybrids, which I liked even better.
These are effectively the perfect grandparent-mobile. My grandma has had one for 4 years (since new), and has had no issues with it thus far. Comfortable, reliable, and GM (Grandpa is a GM pensioner) are all that really matter to her, and it has all three of those in spades.
Definitely a sensible and (in most people’s experience) reliable car from Chevrolet. No excitement whatsoever, but not everyone needs or wants that. It made a ton of sense as a fleet vehicle, and I saw quite a few in law enforcement use as well–since there were so many fleet and private ones on the roads, less so than a Crown Vic, they made perfect unmarked units.
If they offered a wagon, I might consider one as a used vehicle, since affordable used wagons are a rarity. But there are so many more interesting (to me) options that I don’t think I’d consider a sedan.
My family had one of these as a rental car in San Francisco for a few days in the summer of ’11. Unlike most rental cars, it had only a couple of thousand miles on it (still smelled new) and was loaded, including alloy wheels, leather seats, a sunroof, and was a sharp black over tan. I hated to give it back when it came time to catch the Coast Starlight to Los Angeles. Our rental car in LA for ten days was more typical of my rental car experience – a tired, used-up, low-to-mid-level Malibu with 40k+ hard rental miles on it. It’s the luck of the rental car draw. I would have much rather spent ten days with our Impala and three with the Malibu rather than the other way around.
Right now (january 2019) there are at least 20 used impalas on craigslist around the stl area. Many of them are just around the 100K mile mark and around $5K. Not a bad deal for a reasonable cruiser. It will haul your groceries just fine. Not sure how these do in the snow – but then again we dont often get too much of that around here. I drove one as a rental one time and it was fine. A bit large for my liking, and it might be too tight of a fit in my garage – but if I totaled the saab today, I’d truthfully consider one of these.
The 2000 Impala was just weird – looking; especially the balloon-within-balloon taillights, which have to be among the strangest ever put on a car.
The featured generation was a solid car but not really memorable.
In 2014, the Impala became as handsome as any Japanese sedan, and hearkened back to the great large Chevys of the 1960’s.
Of course, by 2020, it was dead.
I wouldn’t mind getting a deal on the last iteration.
I bought a 2005 Impala new and kept it for 17 years and put 251,000 miles on it until the body started rotting apart.
I bought a used 2017 newest generation Impala as a replacement and the 2017 is leaps and bounds above the 2005 in terms of power, looks and features….The only thing I am not crazy about on the ’17 is the shape of the taillights….they look too generic….not unique to an Impala.
I am a bit biased in that regard as I grew up riding in my Dad’s ’65 Impala which had the classic 6 round taillights.
They look and sound like their corporate cuzzie from Holden, good average cars that mostly just keep going, the Malibu we got direct from Opel via Port Elesmere where the RHD versions are built as Vauxhalls V6 or 4 banger gas or diesel make your choice, my sister bought V6 had several problems so I’ll just stay away.
Where are the rest of the tail lights I mean Impalas have 3 each side
Interesting how regional car sales can be. BMWs, at least somewhat less than new ones, are just everyday middle class daily drivers here in California. Used ones, 10+ year old ones, not new ones. I’m not saying everyone here has late model German car income. But they sold a lot and they’re still on the road. Asian marques dominate the car market at least, and have for some time.
Contrast with this chassis Impala and they’re nowhere. At least not here. Granted they’re pretty generic styling and I’m not a Chevy fan, but I bet sales in California were next to nothing. Granted styling is pretty bland, not gnaw your arm off to get out ugly like the whale Impalas, but not memorably good either. Remember there used to be UJC, universal Japanese cars? This is a UAC. Now there is absolutely a need for U*Cs/fleet vehicles, but I was working for a local county government at this time, sharing the parking lot with them so I saw what they had in the fleet on a daily basis, and I don’t even remember them. Now I suppose it’s possible the fleet manager got so burned with the Cavaliers he bought slightly before these were out, which were absolutely vile devices, but still, I just don’t remember them out there then, let alone now.
When my wife and I visited southern California in early 2006, I was surprised at how popular BMWs were. They were everywhere.
Meanwhile, our rental Monte Carlo, as a GM passenger car, stuck out like a sore thumb. If it hadn’t been for the large pickups and SUVs, and the Corvette, GM would have been out of business in the Golden State.
The Impala’s we had in our fleet were decent cars but we had to buy the flex fuel engines and use E85. Gas mileage was horrendous. I switched to buying Malibu’s and Fusion Hybrids, no E85 and excellent fuel economy over the Impala’s and Taurus’ with the flex fuel engines.
Did your company require the use of E85 only?
Flex fuel offers the choice of using E85 or unleaded..My 2017 Impala V6 is flexfuel capable but I use 87 octane unleaded and the car gets 30 mpg highway and low to mid 20’s local.
We had to buy flex fuel vehicles and use E85. Fuel reporting would give us a list of who needed to be reminded. Exceptions for cars required highway rating of 35 mpg or higher. Fusion Hybrid’s and Malibu’s met the standards. So 15-17 mpg for the flex fuel Impala 40-42 mpg for the Fusion Hybrid’s, 32-35 mpg for the Malibu’s. The problem was the “I want an Impala crowd” and the offices did not pay for the fuel they used. Some of this improved when the upper levels figured out that you need to hit the offices in their pocketbook (budget). The Fusion Hybrid’s became so popular that I was buying used ones as fast as I could find them at a reasonable price.