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2009 Chevrolet Impala ReviewThe Good
With all 2009 Chevrolet Impalas getting standard traction control, antilock brakes, side-impact airbags, and a wireless cell-phone link, there are a lot of reasons to consider buying American.The Bad
Given all the great things about the Impala, with all the improvements made both for 2009 and in the recent past, we have to wonder why Chevrolet hasn’t redesigned its interior yet.
The CarGurus View
Its look is right, its size is right, its suspension and engine options are stellar, and its fuel efficiency is even tolerable. With the V8, it even hearkens back to a time when big power just might have been hiding under the hood of mom’s car. With a visual refresh both inside and out, the 2009 Chevrolet Impala could surprise a lot of people.
At a Glance
The 2009 Chevrolet Impala, the big brother of Chevy’s other midsize sedan, the Malibu, gets only minor changes this year, including standard traction control, antilock brakes, and side-impact airbags. Additionally, all but the base trim will be fitted with a wireless cell-phone link, the feature du jour.
Seating six painfully, and five reasonably, the Impala offers three engines, three suspensions, and four trim levels: the entry-level LS, LT, LTZ, and the performance-oriented, V8-powered SS.
In production at one time or another for the past fifty years, the Impala has been a rear-wheel-drive powerhouse, a marquee full-size model, and a counter-culture symbol. With the model still holding records, including both single-year sales and overall full-size sales, it's no shock that the Impala continues to pop up in showrooms.
In 2000, the Impala replaced the Lumina as a front-wheel-drive full-size for Chevy, and it has since been redesigned several times, the latest being for the 2006 year. Since then the Impala has been produced on GM's W platform, shared by the Buick LaCrosse.
Three engines and one transmission are available across the four trims of the Chevrolet Impala. Standard in the LS and LT trims is a 3.5-liter, 211-hp V6, while optional for the LT and standard in the LTZ is a 3.9-liter, 233-hp V6, both of which are E85 friendly.
SS Impalas get V8 power, in the form of a 303-hp, 5.3-liter engine that, along with the 3.9-liter, utilizes GM’s Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation system. All three engines are mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, and EPA estimates come in at 19/29 mpg for the 3.5, 17/27 for the 3.9 and 16/24 for the 5.3.
While the 3.5 has ample power for most situations, it can labor slightly when passing in third gear, something you won’t experience with the 3.9, and won’t even consider as a possibility with the 5.3. All three engines can be loud, but pleasantly so. When pushing the sixes, you’ll be rewarded with an aggressively pleasing crescendo of sound and fury, but the V8 gives the real performance, with a resounding bass at idle and cruise that hints at the snarling rumble with which you’ll be rewarded when pushing ever higher toward its 5,600 RPM redline.
Ride & Handling
All Impala trims handle quite well, with quick response and precise steering, especially in the SS, but it must be remembered that these are larger cars, and none will feel like a two-door sports car. Handling improves with direct proportionality to wheel size as you go up through 16-, 17-, and 18-inch options, the last of which comes on the SS with the sport suspension, whose ride is surprisingly subdued and smooth. You will feel some float and wallow with the 16-inch wheels, but the improvement is dramatic as you upgrade to 17 and 18 inchers.
Cabin & Comfort
There’s good news and bad news. First, the controls and gauges are well-placed, easy to read, and intuitive to use. There’s plenty of space inside for both head and legs up front, with slightly less in the back, and the trunk is spacious, although hampered by an inconvenient opening. The bad news is that everything just looks cheap, and not just cheap for the Impala, but cheap in general. When considering the Impala’s competitors, like the Nissan Maxima or Chrysler 300, it looks especially paltry in comparison.
The optional bench seat up front has been described kindly as uncomfortable for anything other than trips to the store, and pretentions of three-abreast seating in either front or back are just that. Expect road, wind, and tire noise to permeate the cabin, but this can always be combated with slight pressure applied to the pedal on the right. Rear pillars impede visibility, but only marginally. A sport suspension and leather heated front seats come standard on the LTZ, while SS models enjoy a more aggressive sport suspension and trim as well as 18-inch wheels.
Standard safety features include dual front, side, and curtain airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, a tire pressure monitor, daytime running lights, and an emergency interior trunk lid release. LTs equipped with the 3.9 and up additionally get an anti-skid system.
NHTSA tests scored the Impala at five stars for front impacts involving both the driver and passenger, and four stars for rollover resistance.
What Owners Think
There’s no end to the complaints heard about the Impala's interior fit and finish, and despite claims of it being able to seat six, most realize that’s a lofty goal at best. Still, this is widely overshadowed by praise for the Impala’s engines, suspension, look, and space. Perhaps more important, with NASCAR's introduction of the "Car of Tomorrow," the Impala became the only Chevrolet to grace the circuit, replacing the previously successful Monte Carlo.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.