Chevrolet Impala 2008

When Chevrolet sent the first Impala off the assembly line in 1958, it was meant to be "a prestige car within the reach of the average American citizen." It would seem that the company was successful; nearly 50 years on, the Chevrolet Impala has gone on to become one of America's most well-known nameplates.

Throughout the '60s, the Chevy Impala dominated the sales charts, culminating in 1965 when more than 1 million were sold. Though the popularity of smaller, midsize muscle cars slowly ate away at sales of the Impala, it continued to sell in big numbers, registering as the best-selling car in America in 1973.

The Impala nameplate languished in the early '80s, eventually getting dropped in 1986 in favor of the Caprice designation. To the delight of enthusiasts, however, a Caprice-based Impala SS briefly returned in the mid-1990s with a Corvette-derived V8 and a monochromatic color scheme that made the car a bad-to-the-bone, rear-wheel-drive family sport sedan.

Since the new millennium, the modern Impala has served as Chevrolet's main full-size sedan, capable of transporting up to six people. With front-wheel drive and V6 power on most trim levels, the current Impala isn't exactly a tribute to the past, but it does continue the tradition of large, affordable Chevrolet family sedans.

The move to smaller, more efficient engines gives buyers enough power when they need it while still providing respectable mileage -- never one of the Impala's strong points in the past. And for buyers who truly desire a V8, the latest Impala SS does indeed have one under its hood.

The latest Chevrolet Impala has been available since the 2006 model year. It's a bit bigger than the typical family sedan, and with a front bench seat can accommodate six passengers in a pinch. There are four available trim levels: entry-level LS, mid-grade LT, premium LTZ and performance-oriented SS. Improvements on this model compared to the previous-generation Impala include new engines, more composed handling, a higher-quality interior and updated styling.

The standard engine is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 211 horsepower. Available on the LT and standard on the LTZ is a 3.9-liter V6 with 240 hp. The Chevy Impala SS has a 5.3-liter V8 making an impressive 303 hp. All Impala models employ a four-speed automatic transmission that sends the power through the front wheels.

Shoppers looking for a used Chevrolet Impala will most likely encounter the previous-generation model, which was offered from 2000-'05 with minimal changes. Its basic dimensions are very similar to those of the current model, but it lacks that model's significant updates. For this generation, there were two main trim levels -- base and LS. In 2004, Chevy added the SS trim.

Base-model Impalas were powered by a 3.4-liter V6 engine that produced 180 hp. Stepping up to LS trim got you a 200-hp, 3.8-liter V6. The SS had a supercharged version of the 3.8-liter V6 making 240 hp. Though popular in terms of sales, this Impala did not fare well in reviews conducted by editors. Noted downsides included bland interior and exterior design, vague steering and a soggy suspension on base and LS models.

Previous to this, there was a short-lived Chevy Impala SS. Offered from 1994-'96, it was based on the rear-drive Caprice. The SS featured a 260-hp, 5.7-liter V8 derived from the Corvette, large 17-inch wheels and tires, a sport tuned suspension, a monochromatic exterior (black only in its first year) and many hardware upgrades normally fitted to law enforcement vehicles. Today, the '90s Impala SS's have taken on a "collectible" quality.

There are also plenty of Impalas left from earlier decades. Those early Impalas were often America's most popular car, and they still hold significance today. They are prime candidates for restoring, traditional hot-rodding or modern customizing, the latter typically involving powerful audio/video systems, massive wheels and/or hydraulic suspensions.
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