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2014 Chevrolet Impala 2.5-Liter Four-Cylinder: Quick Drive

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2014 Chevrolet Impala, test drive in Hell, Michigan

2014 Chevrolet Impala, test drive in Hell, Michigan

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The new 2014 Chevrolet Impala is a big five-passenger family sedan, the largest one Chevy sells.

While it was launched earlier this year with a 303-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine, it can now also be ordered with a 196-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder Ecotec engine that produces 186 lb-ft of torque.

That would seem to be a small engine in a big car, but it’s in the service of—naturally—fuel economy. The four-cylinder Impala is rated at 25 mpg (21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway) by the EPA, better than the 22-mpg combined rating of the V-6 version.

We got a chance for a quick 20-minute drive in the new four-cylinder Impala, and found it to be fine under almost all driving circumstances on our short 12-mile route.

Big sedan, good mileage

Over that distance, it returned a recorded 25.1 mpg, which is a figure you’d not have been likely to see from previous Impalas (except perhaps during highway cruising on flat roads with the cruise control on).

It’s not nearly as good as the real-world 40 mpg we got in a 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid, but the Impala was slightly bigger than Toyota’s largest sedan—and several thousand dollars cheaper to boot.

But under most driving conditions, the Impala performed well enough—and, during damp and intermittently rainy weather, proved to be surprisingly eager to spin its inside front wheel when accelerating out of corners.

Canceling lugging noises

To keep engine speed, and hence fuel consumption, as low as possible, the four-cylinder Impala also uses active noise cancellation. That feature sends sound waves through the audio speakers into the passenger compartment that exactly cancel out certain engine noises that customers find disturbing.

That allows the engine to be programmed to run as low as 1,150 rpm with a locked torque converter in the six-speed automatic transmission—a behavior that used to be called “lugging”—without occupants hearing noises that might make them think something was wrong with the car.

2014 Chevrolet Impala

2014 Chevrolet Impala

Enlarge Photo

Variable intake-valve lift

GM’s new 2.5-liter four is quite a sophisticated piece of technology for a high-volume engine from the country’s largest carmaker. Not only does it have dual overhead cams and variable valve timing, but the company’s engine designers have added variable lift to the intake valves.

That means that under light power demand, the valve doesn’t open as far, letting in only as much air is needed to combust the small amount of fuel required. That reduces so-called pumping losses, essentially the power required to pump extra air in and out of the cylinder. Under full power demand, the valve opens to its full extent to let in the maximum air required to match the high volume of fuel delivered into the combustion chamber.

Less maximum power

The one circumstance under which we found the Impala to lack power was in situations where swift acceleration is suddenly needed—from, say, 30 to 60 mph. There, it almost felt as if the transmission had a gear missing, and the car should have shifted down to an even lower gear for better acceleration. The engine revved up nicely to as high as 6500 rpm, but the car simply didn’t gather speed as swiftly as we would have liked.


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Comments (8)
  1. I thought that I had heard, years ago, that lugging was hard on an engine. I this not true?
     
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  2. Sounds like a car you would learn to hate as it's lack of power started to wear on you.
     
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  3. This is a nice redesign and an important car for Chevy. They need a technology leader, like a diesel/hybrid getting 45 MPG to really get a leg up on the Avalon and Taurus.
     
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  4. I wonder if the diesel in the Cruze would work just fine in the Impala...
     
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  5. This monster with a 4-cylinder gets WORSE combined mileage than my brother-in-law gets with his V-6 powered 2004 Impala - a vehicle that is not preened to be fuel efficient. Once again the bailed out company offers an underwhelming product that is simply not as good as the smoke being blown our way would suggest.
     
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  6. "at 25 mpg (21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway) by the EPA"

    That the current Impala.

    2004 Impala with 3.4L V-6 is rated for 19/22/29.

    So, EPA rating alone show what the current one is getting. What your brother-in-law is getting has NOTHING to do with the EPA rating. Unless you compare his MPG on both models.

    That leads me to believe that your other statement is just as poor in logic.
     
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  7. "Would you accept less peak power in exchange for 25-mpg efficiency in such a large family sedan?"

    No; no compromises! It must be a fuel mizer, and it must have torque and power!
     
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  8. When Chevy put out the Malibu Hybrid in 2008, it kept the 4 speed automatic instead of going to the 6 speed in non-hybrid Malibu's. It was a disappointment. The available power was very acceptable in every situation I was ever in though. No, I never had to climb a really steep entrance ramp to a crowded 80 mph interstate highway with 5 Sumo wrestlers on board in 100 degree weather, so I personally find "Annatar Last Name (Required)" performance quote not valid. I switched to smaller vehicles years ago for better economy and am driving a Prius now, so I can certainly say I would accept a bit less acceleration potential for better fuel economy.
     
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