Went to the LAIAS last night and got a good, up-close and personal look at the 2006 Impala--of which I had thus far been very disappointed--and concluded that it looks better in real life than it does in the photos we've seen.
I had a similar experience with the Ford Five Hundred: I couldn't believe how absolutely dull it was when I saw the first photos of it. Seeing one in person, however, is a very different story. I mean it, the Ford Five Hundred is one of the most handsome new cars I've seen in a long time. It isn't gimmicky or flashy, just plain handsome. If I were in the market for a $25K family sedan, it might well be tops on my list of prospects.
The 2006 Impala struck me in a similar way, although not quite as dramatically. In person, the '06 Impala looks a bit taller and shorter in length than it does in pictures, which really changes the aesthetic perception of the car. Where the car seems to resemble a Lumina in pictures, it does not resemble a Lumina in person.
Even so, I still wasn't sure what I thought about it. I guess it looks proportionally better than the current Impala, but something about the front and rear just doesn't compute. I had to ask my buddy who went to the show with me what he thought--I just wasn't able to form a certain opinion. I think the problem is that the front and rear are so similar to so many other cars that I have to stop and filter the bias of lookalike cars out of my head before trying to figure out what I really think of the Impala's looks.
I didn't have this problem with the Five Hundred. The first time I saw it in person, it was a good looking car, and that was that. I didn't have to concentrate in order to figure out what I really thought of it and I didn't have to ask someone else's opinion.
I really think GM missed an opportunity with the '06 Impala. Sure, it's a decent looking car after all, and it will sell well; but with the new Z06, the STS-V, the Saturn SKY, and other works of art only a few yards away, the Impala is a real head-scratcher.
Heck, if lowly Saturn can get a drop-dead gorgeous roadster, why can't GM turn out an Impala that even remotely lives up to that legendary name?
BTW, while we're talking about photos vs. real life, I also have to say that the new Lincoln Zephyr was a big let-down. Looks nice in pictures, but dumpy in person.