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Impala: Past, Present, and Future?
by BigAls87Z28
www.gminsidenews.com



In 2009, Chevrolet will celebrate 50 years of Impala, the flagship of Chevy Sedans for decades. After three very successful years from 1955 to 1957, the Chevrolet Bel Air was one of America's hottest rides. From the drag strip to the suburbs, the Bel Air and its variants were all over America, helping Chevy become the best selling car company in the states. For 1958, the Chevy team brought us a new trim level, one that would add a bit more luxury and class to the Bel Air line. That trim was the Impala. The trim option was so popular that in 1959 the Impala name grew into its own vehicle and onto becoming one of the best selling American cars in history. From its big finned days of the late 50's to its 409 Super Sport 60's, into the downsized 70's, the Chevy Impala has been an icon of Chevrolet's line up for years. Sine the 1980's, the Impala name plate has died and risen, from a upper trim level of the Caprice, to a special edition Impala SS in the mid 90's equipped with the Corvette's LT1 engine, 17 inch wheels with fat tires, and a slick appearance when compared to the more civil Caprice.
But in 1996, the Impala and other full sized rear wheel drive cars died as the demand for front wheel drive cars increased. Impala yet again faded away into the background only to return in 2000 as an all new front wheel drive based full sized sedan. This W body platform gave Impala good road manners while offering the spacious packaging of the front wheel drive platform. The car was a very popular sedan for Chevy yet again, as for 2006 the W body Impala got a brand new make over to give it a more modern look with a nice interior as well. A new line up of engines from a 3.5 and 3.9 V6 boasting huge power gains over the last generation, but the return of the V8 powered Impala SS with a 303hp 5.3 liter LS4 under the hood. While the car sells very well, there were plans to turn the Impala back into a true full sized rear wheel drive sedan again, bringing back a more aggressive and retro design to mimic the past generations of Impala. With Impala moving up, the new Malibu has also risen to become GM's true midsized sedan, and so far it is doing more then its share of the work. With its beautiful exterior design and elegant interior design, the new Malibu has won a lot of hearts and minds of many people who thought Detroit couldn't make a beautiful and competitive midsize sedan. The Malibu would remain as Chevy's midsize sedan as the Impala took back the full size segment on a brand new rear wheel drive platform shared along side the new star kid, the Camaro. But, the government would have something to say about this.

The government demanded that the Corporate Average Fuel Economy or CAFE of the automakers would have to meet a certain target by 2020, a target of 35 miles per gallon. This means that all the hopes and dreams of big V8 powered muscle sedans, the big brawny SUV's, the mega-ton trucks that boasted big V8 power would have to be dialed back so that the automakers can achieve this goal. It seems that the Impala's future on Zeta is finished due to the weight of the car. But what would become of our beloved Impala? It currently rides on a platform that as of 2010 has no real future. GM has been taking cars off the W body platform built in Oshawa, Canada for some time now, and those cars all have replacements on other platforms. Is Impala going to go away for good due to CAFE requirements? Where is Impala going?

Impala going onto Zeta was an enthusiasts dream. Again, the V8 powered Impala will burn the rear wheels, not the front, as it brings in a new dawn of performance cars. Equipped with a solid platform designed by GM's Holden division, the Impala and Camaro would ride side by side down the same Oshawa assembly line. But this CAFE deadline has put GM in a bind, calling off this rear wheel duo and turning it into a solo. GM cites that a Zeta Impala would weight too much, therefore hurting its EPA rated gas mileage by up to one mile per gallon. That does not sound like a lot, but when you figure that this new 35 MPG involves not only cars, but trucks; every MPG counts. But it brings up the question...is that really the reason? We can look at the weight of a comparable car to this Zeta Impala, the 2008 Pontiac G8. The Pontiac G8 weights just about the same as the current Impala riding on a much older W body platform. Even when comparing the FWD Impala SS to the G8 GT, the weight is nearly identical, even though the G8 has a lot more to offer. Independent rear suspension, six speed automatic transmission, larger interior space and a large trunk, the G8 outshines the Impala in every stat, every performance figure, and even priced the same as an Impala. Even with the G8’s larger 18" alloy wheels and bigger brakes, the weight difference are null. But lets look at some of the pitfalls of the G8. The G8's MPG rating for the V6 versus Impala 3.9 does show a bigger difference as the 3.9 and four speed auto gets much better gas mileage then the G8 V6's 3.6 and five speed combo in the G8. But something struck me as odd. The 4100lb direct injected 3.6 CTS gets better gas mileage then the G8 V6 does too. So, what exactly is going on with G8? Could a 3800lb Zeta Impala with a direct injected 3.6 and 6 speed auto could achieve a 19/28mpg rating? Part of me thinks that a Zeta Impala, if done and taken through the same weight loss system that the Camaro team went through, and given the proper power trains, would get the same MPG if not better then current 3.5 or 3.9 V6. But if the Zeta Impala is out, where does it go?



The current Impala has been extended to be around till 2012, when it will get a new platform. There seems to be no more work on any larger front wheel drive chassis that would work. Lucerne and DTS are going to Zeta, the LaCrosse has gone to Epsilon 2, and the Grand Prix is dead and has morphed into the G8. If GM were to keep the Impala on a FWD platform, the only answer I can see would be a larger Epsilon 2. Now, currently there are no plans for a larger Epsilon car. The upcoming EP2 platform seems to have one set wheel base, and if there is, the American EP2 cars will ride on the biggest ones as they currently do. While the wheel base on the EP2 is a bit smaller then EP1's long wheel base, EP2 will have a wider track and higher belt line giving it a better fit in the midsized sedan category. Now obviously Impala cannot share the dimensions as the Malibu, they would cannibalize each other, but a perhaps GM is working on an extended long wheel base EP2? This would allow a larger car above Malibu without hurting the Malibu's sales directly. This would also open the door up to the new world platform, perhaps allowing a larger FWD sedan to emerge for Opel in Europe. Since Opel wants to move up market, it is possible that a large FWD/AWD sedan could help its migration upwards into more expensive markets. This all sounds well and good, but lets look at the facts. Epsilon 1 is a heavy car. Epsilon 2 will most likely also be a heavy or heavier car. A larger, wider and longer Epsilon 2 will be heavier and fatter as well, most likely heavier than an equally-sized Zeta car. This does not bode well for the CAFE requirements. And, as far as a this platform extending into Europe, it is probable that Opel would go with the Zeta/VE platform over EP2 due to the fact that Zeta is a very well put together platform. And lets not forget that Opel can't go too far with Saab and Caddy above their heads. This large EP2 car would also fail in China as the Chinese are more then satisfied with the VE/WM platform cars they get from Holden.



So where does Impala go? Will it wait out till 2012 till GM can hope for some reduction in gas prices as well as new CAFE requirements? Does GM work on making Epsilon bigger despite the fact that it could be heavier then a comparable Zeta version? Will GM work on making Zeta lighter using light weight materials that could raise the price of the Impala? To me, if GM wants to continue to produce the Impala car past 2012, that the best course of action would be a light weight Zeta. Holden is already talking about finding ways of cutting weight off VE for its next cycle, which could coincide with the introduction of this new full sized sedan for the 2013 model year. It sounds very far away, but this could give GM the needed time to get the compacts and subcompacts lined up and making them world class so that they can afford to make these larger sedans. Clearly an Epsilon II based Impala would weight just as much as a Zeta one would, but not giving the same handling and feel that comes with a large sedan. With Malibu coming into the center stage as Chevy's midsize king, perhaps Chevy can take a few sales hits with Impala rising to a higher quality sedan with power going to the rear wheels. This enthusiast...err...writer can only hope so.

Thank you for your time

Big Al



 

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If/when Pontiac dies... the G8 can become the Impala.
Then there's no issue.

Impala, no matter how maligned it is today, sells decently.

But yes... a nice RWD car would be perfect; however, it would be too close to G8.
 

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For the Impala that will be with us through 2012 -
Throw on a six-speed.
Dial the 3500 for fuel economy.
The horses will be missed but the pocketbook will be thankful.
Or throw on Direct Injection if it's reasonably feasible and
improve the fuel economy and the power.
And make sure it's 5 star crash tested all the way around.
 

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I still see a RWD Impala coming.. just watch!
 

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If/when Pontiac dies... the G8 can become the Impala.
Then there's no issue.

Impala, no matter how maligned it is today, sells decently.

But yes... a nice RWD car would be perfect; however, it would be too close to G8.
GM already ruled out a zeta Impala because of the potential CAFE impact. Making the heavy Zeta's fuel efficient would cost a lot of money.

Better to leave it as a niche vehicle with Pontiac for now.
 

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If gas prices stay at their current levels, there aren't going to be a huge amount of people looking for large cars. If a v6 G8 weighs the same as a current impala, but gets worse fuel economy, i'll bet my bottom dollar it's because of much more aggressive gearing on the G8. That is a very cheap problem to solve. But then again, i'd imagine many folks would require an AWD version of impala to be sold in the north east and midwest, which would probably be significantly heavier bringing down average mileage.
 

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Well there's a few possablites I see:

The death of sales of SUV and trucks as well as the pos. cut of Pontiac/GMC/Hummer may up GM's CAFE to the point that they can take the hit from a curent Zeta based car. There's also bound to be improvments in engine drivetrains (more DI, AFM, 6-speeds) across the broad as well as lighting of the platform (didn't GM say they we're going to fuse Zeta and Segma togather on some cars?).


I'm glad we have some time to see how this will play out so GM can get the Impala done right.
 

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Could GM do a different version of rebadging for this? Instead of sticking many badges on one vehicle, how about putting the same badge on two vehicles. You could have a FWD Impala for LS, LT, and LTZ along with a RWD Zeta for SS only.
 

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The impala is still a high volume car. Making it RWD after 2012 would make it a niche car only wouldn't it? AWD? Sigh! Look the the Dodge Charger / Chrysler 300. Where will they be after 2012? Who wants a RWD 4 door car with a V8 anymore? Will there be 100,00 buyers a year? I doubt it. Will someone want a car bigger than Camry or Accord that is FWD and gets OK Mileage? Maybe.

Why not keep it FWD and try to keep up the volumes. There is a bigger market for a big FWD Sedan than there is for a RWD "sport" sedan. We are talking about Chevrolet here not Mercedes or BMW. Look at Chrysler 300 (-59%) sales for May and compare to Ford Taurus numbers (+66%) (Yes Taurus!). I think Taurus is on the right track. Impala will only survive on a similar track.
 

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dude, what ever happened to the CHI platform?

I remember a while back that was supposed to be buick and Saabs bread and butter for larger FWD sedans....or is that all EP2 now?
 

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If/when Pontiac dies... the G8 can become the Impala.
Then there's no issue.

Impala, no matter how maligned it is today, sells decently.

But yes... a nice RWD car would be perfect; however, it would be too close to G8.
Pontiac is not going to die. I am totally confused how so many, but obviously not most, on this site think that would make sense?? Obviously GMC and Hummer are being given the once over. That makes sense. GMC only makes sense if it can be decided most GMC people would goto Chevrolet. Even counting on that is risky though when they are some of your most highly profitable vehicles.

A RWD impala wouldn't HAVE to step on pontiacs feet. It could be a much safer and conservative car than the G8 as they evolve style wise. The current G8 might work for Chevrolet, but I expect Pontiac to eventually get a riskier design language than what Chevy has and the G8 will then be a totally different car than what Chevy might get as a RWD impala.

Guess only time is going to tell what actually happens. I am all for a RWD Zeta Impala if EpII won't stretch well to do the job. Really I don't think rebadges will be as horrible on image and sales in the near term if the car you start with is good anyhow. That has always been the bigger problem, they take a bad car and then spread the badness. They have some good cars now though. And when times are tough, you have to do what you have to do to save coin.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
dude, what ever happened to the CHI platform?

I remember a while back that was supposed to be buick and Saabs bread and butter for larger FWD sedans....or is that all EP2 now?
Chi didnt get out of engineering phase.
Once GM was set on Zeta becoming the basis for RWD cars, Chi was canned and shelved.

Could it come to life? Would GM spend the millions of desiging a single chassis for Impala only? Who else would use this platform? Why bother spending the money when you could either try to make the EP2 platform bigger, or Zeta lighter.
 

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How about a stretched Alpha-platform for a future RWD Impala? (I know then Alpha will be smaller but imagine the drivetrains available)

Then, another factor who could twist GM arm to do a RWD Impala might be Ford who probably go for a RWD platform to get a next-gen Mustang and Panther (Crown Vic) successor with TwinForce/Ecoboost engines
 

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My vision for the Impala:
On an extended Epsilon II platform, competing with the Avalon. Have the Malibu handle what it was designed to compete with, the camry and accord. There's a whole thread about our ideas for the Impala, whether it be FWD or RWD.
 

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I love Impalas. My favorites are 1960, 1958, 1963, 1964, and 1996 in that order. Going FWD was a weird move.....but hopefully GM will continue to make it work.
 

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If/when Pontiac dies... the G8 can become the Impala.
Then there's no issue.

Impala, no matter how maligned it is today, sells decently.

But yes... a nice RWD car would be perfect; however, it would be too close to G8.
Pontiac is not going to die, ever never ever ever.:yup:
 

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This does seem like a dilemma for the Impala. Right now, i think they should spend some money on modifying the current W-body platform so it can accept the 6 speed, 3.6 etc. Also make the necessary changes to the platform so it has a tighter turning circle. Just make the necessary improvements to make the car more competitive.

I would also make changes to the interior (dash) to make it more upscale (navigation screen option) and for the exterior, I would change the grille to the new chevy grille and also make changes to the rear. They can ride this car for a few more years and by then GM will have a clearer picture on where to go with the Impala. This will give them the time to bring out the new Cobalt which will be world class, modify the Malibu a little bit to maybe accept Nav, and any other changes.

Come on GM !!!!!
 

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If/when Pontiac dies... the G8 can become the Impala.
Then there's no issue.

Impala, no matter how maligned it is today, sells decently.

But yes... a nice RWD car would be perfect; however, it would be too close to G8.
I have to agree with you partially here. The Impala as was being designed was on the long wheelbase WM version of statesman. Why not take a step down the ladder to the short wheelbase VE? Just give the VE a refreshed look to match the traverse and Malibu, have the new Impala also replace the Lumina in the middle east, and build all the Left hand drive SWB zetas in Oshawa.
 
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