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Chevy Hopes New Impala Will Revive Big-Car Sales

Wed, 04/04/2012 - 10:15am
Tom Krisher, AP Auto Writer

General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet brand is trying to resuscitate sales of big sedans with a sleek, new version of the Impala.

The family hauler, which mostly sells to rental car companies, is the last model in Chevy's lineup to be revamped. When it hits showrooms early next year, it will replace an Impala that was last updated in 2005.

The 10th generation Impala gets much of its design from other Chevrolets. Its body slopes from back to front. It has high doors, low-profile side windows and large wheels. The company says the car is quiet. It has sound-deadening insulation and laminated glass in the windshield and windows. The roomy interior has upgraded materials.

Chevrolet thought about changing the Impala's name, but decided it had significant recognition after 50 years on the market and more than 16 million in sales.

Here are more details about the new car, to be introduced at the New York International Auto Show:

UNDER THE HOOD: Buyers can choose from three engines, all mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder will produce 195 horsepower, while a 3.6-liter V-6 will have 303 horses. There's also a 2.4-liter four with GM's eAssist system that halts the engine anytime the car stops and uses a small electric motor to help the gas engine get better mileage. All three have direct fuel injection in which the air and fuel are mixed in the cylinder surrounding the piston. That's more efficient than older engines that mix outside the cylinder.

OUTSIDE: GM says it has strengthened the body structure for a stiffer, smoother ride than the old version. The Impala comes standard with 18-inch wheels. It weighs 3,800 pounds, about 250 more than its predecessor.

INSIDE: It seats five and has a spacious rear seat and lots of legroom. It has 10 air bags and numerous safety options such as radar-guided cruise control that brakes the car if the driver gets too close to another vehicle.

FUEL ECONOMY: GM says the model with eAssist will get about 32 mpg on the highway. Mileage testing on the other two engines hasn't been finished, the company says.

PRICE: Chevrolet won't release it yet, but it's bound to be more than the current model, which starts at just under $26,000.

CHEERS: The market for big sedans, which include the Impala, new Toyota Avalon and a new Hyundai Azera, is struggling. The Impala's new design should boost retail sales to individuals while lowering low-profit sales to rental car companies. About 60 percent of the 171,000 Impalas sold last year went to rental firms.

JEERS: The Impala and other big cars could have a tough time competing against midsize cars, which offer many of the same features and amenities. The Impala looks like a larger version of the Chevy Malibu. But the Impala also won't match the Malibu's gas mileage.

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