Future CC Drive Report And COCAC (Company Owned Car of A Career): 2018 Chevrolet Impala – A Tale Of Four Impalas

A while back I wrote about my long-term experiences with a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado that had been assigned to me at work.  The article ended with my disclosure of having been promoted and the resultant assignment of a 2008 Chevrolet Impala.

The last sentence of the first comment, by editor Jim Klein, was highly prescient:

May your new-to-you Impala perform as well, although I have every confidence that if it doesn’t, you will wheeler-dealer it off in short order.

It makes for a terrific lead-in to what did ultimately happen as that Impala stuck with me for only about two weeks.

I had been around that particular Impala since it was new.  While it only been assigned to three people in its service life, thus never having to endure being a pool vehicle, it still presented mechanical foibles unusual for an Impala.  Upon taking delivery I noticed it was quite doggy when taking off from a stop and after a few miles of driving the engine speed would quickly jump up and down, evidenced by a tachometer needle that kept bouncing by 200 rpm when at highway speed.

Paying closer attention, I realized it was taking off in second gear.  Upon informing the fleet manager it was given a physical that revealed a dying transmission.  As it had 130,000 miles it was decided to simply sell it and order me a new ride.

As an aside, this car brought $3,800 at auction.  I was surprised, but remembered how W-body Impalas are the preferred sedan of Missouri and much of the Midwest.

To tide me over, I was given this 2010 Impala from the pool.  Pigmented something much nicer than white, it was free of any vices except for one isolated incidence of taking off in second gear.  For reference, this particular Impala has nearly 140,000 miles.

Early in September my supervisor and I scheduled a visit to one of our satellite locations to make the employees breakfast.  She had loaded up her car the day before and asked me to drive upon our very early departure.  Knowing it was a 2016 Impala (fleet version) with the 300 horsepower V6, I was excited.  Starting it revealed a completely new sound in a very familiar car.

We didn’t get very far.  This is the aftermath of annihilating Bambi’s mother upon her running in front of me.  I had been driving 65 mph (on a four lane, 70 mph section of US 63) and was down to about 40 mph when I hit her broadside.

It was a weird experience, my first ever collision; the loud “THWUMP!” had happened but the deer vanished and I could see no damage from the driver’s seat.  As luck would have it, a coworker who was headed to the same place was behind us and witnessed the sausage making.  I immediately pulled onto the shoulder to learn I had knocked that doe a good ten feet into the air and she spun around twice before landing in the ditch.

Having left my mark on three Impalas (and a deer) by this point, one of which required a cutting torch to repair, I figured the fourth new car of my career would devolve into a Schwinn.  Thankfully it didn’t.

So what did I get?

The fleet manager and I discussed what was on the bid sheet, a document that is a multi-award bid for every class of equipment (passenger car, SUVs, CUVs, pickups by weight rating, etc.).  My preference was for a sedan and we wanted to keep the cost around $20,000.

While I won’t say where I work, let’s just say the concepts of “retail” and “sticker price” are nowhere near applicable.  We bid it all out and get darn good prices, which are all approximately quoted below.

My first candidate was a 2018 Ford Fusion.  It would have been equipped with the base 2.5 liter four-pot and everything the good folks in Dearborn decided to bestow upon it as standard fare along with whatever color I desired.  The price was noticeably under $18,000.

My second candidate was a 2018 Ford Taurus.  The bid price for the 2017 Taurus was about $20,000 yet Ford would not honor that price for 2018, hoisting their price to $23,000, which is right at the retail price I included in this picture from the build and price section of Ford’s website.

Scratch the Taurus.

My third candidate was a 2018 Impala.  Doing the opposite of Ford, GM dropped their prices $3,000 for 2018 (at least where I work), netting a 303 horsepower, 3.6 liter V6 powered Impala, in my choice of color, for the same price as a 2017 Taurus.

So when given a choice, this Ford homer gleefully chose the Chevrolet Impala.

Like poison ivy, pictures don’t reveal the extent of the insidiousness

This picture of a Fusion’s interior is insight into what killed my enthusiasm about them.  The murder weapon is intrusive, obnoxious, corpulent, and an utter waste of space.  That is now two Fusions Ford has not sold due to this as I had shopped for a new one in 2014.

I’m not looking a gift-horse in the mouth, but I was given a choice.  For the record, I had never even sat in an Epsilon based Impala, let alone driven one, yet I was willing to gamble it had less invasive interior accoutrements than the Fusion.  The only insight I had was having driven a Cadillac XTS a time or two.

Several years ago Paul wrote about his experience with a new, 2014 Chevrolet Impala.  His was a rental and by virtue of its purpose, his time with it was short.  On the flip side, I will likely have this Impala for many years.

Upon taking receipt the last Thursday of September, it had 143 miles on the odometer due to having been delivered from a dealer in Kansas City.  I’ve put 1,200 miles on it as of October 13, with many more to come.

So what’s my take on it?

For starters, despite the ridiculous and inane fad of consoles the size of some eastern states, GM has mastered the art of making them.  I’ve said it at least twice before (here and here), so I’m not working from just one data point.  It’s better than the one in the Taurus, mentioned only due to their being direct competitors, but that is still faint praise for GM’s genius in building consoles that address the call of faddishness while not making the driver feel encapsulated in petroleum based solids.

A thought while writing:  Has anyone ever noticed that it seems as if the size of consoles has grown in direct correlation to the popularity of crew cab pickups?  And, how the sales of sedans so laden have dwindled in that same time period?

I digress.

This Impala appears to be in base LS trim, however examination of the window sticker (advantageously left in the glove box) reveals it as being an “Impala 1FL”.  It’s doubtful this car is unique as so many of these Impalas are being sold to various fleets as discussed here.

There is a certain sad irony that the best Impala ever will ultimately be the poorest selling.

But what a car it is.  Built on GM’s Epsilon platform, shared with the Cadillac XTS and Buick Lacrosse, the Impala is a sheer delight to drive.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it’s one of the most overall pleasing full-size cars I’ve ever driven – and I’ve owned and driven a slew of full-sizers in my time such as this, this, this, and this.

Having now driven it on a variety of roads, the Impala consistently delivers a smooth, non-floaty ride without injecting any harshness from bumps into the occupants.  Curved ramps are a delight; it takes what is given with calmness while remaining flat-footed.  It’s also quite capable of traversing curves well above the posted advisory speeds.  It’s a very well balanced platform and the accolades given this generation of Impala upon its introduction in 2014 are not unmerited.

The 3.6 liter engine, the sole option on this Impala, is a delight.  Smooth and powerful, the engine does not have the need to rev very high to provide abundant power to most any situation.  With peak torque of 264 ft-lbs at 5,200 rpm, it appears the engine has a delightfully fat torque curve.

It seems some cars quickly become lethargic with multiple people aboard; I’ve not discovered that with this Impala.

As a comparison, a coworker has a 2014 retail Impala with the 2.5 liter four.  Rated at 197 horsepower and 191 ft-lbs of torque, he told me his Impala will sometimes struggle to get out of its own way.  While it would be great to correlate that to curb weight, GM is pretty secretive about such things as this tidbit of information has yet to be found on either their website or several others with automotive specifications.  However, I’m guessing it to be 3,500 to 3,700 pounds.

Some car reviews talk about the quality and ease of use in the connectivity and entertainment systems found in the car.  Being a person who couldn’t care less about such things, all I can offer is GM gives all new Impala owners three months of free satellite radio and the car is its own mobile hotspot via their MyLink system.

I have yet to use the hotspot and listening to a wide variety of programming is great but I rather doubt I’ll miss it come December.  It has three USB ports; only one has been used and that was to charge a cell phone.  To be perfectly candid, I have little positive to say about such infotainment centers as it usually results in being a distraction, with distracted driving still growing as a formidable contributor to driver error in car wrecks.

Perhaps this equipment only perpetuates a well documented problem; perhaps I’m being grumpy as some outcomes are avoidable.  Simplicity can be quite elegant and it appears simplicity has taken a sabbatical.

The bluetooth has been used but only when parked.

Am I happy to have chosen the Impala?  Yes!  For carrying people it is superior to the most outrageous fantasies of any W-body, a car in which the commonality of name is about the only similarity.  This 2018 Impala is a car that is eager to please and quite forgiving of minor transgressions.

In life we will all experience a few long term automotive relationships.  This Impala will indeed be providing me one of them and I’m quite excited about it.  It’s not often a person gets so much say in what they get to drive at work and I’m pretty darned happy on how things are turning out.