2008 Chevrolet Impala


$4,420 - $6,829

2008 Chevrolet Impala Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Chevrolet Impala was new.


Performance: 6.3

The 2008 Chevrolet Impala is regarded for its overall basic performance and smooth ride. Handling, however, is not its strong suit.

While Edmunds asserts that its V6 engines "provide a good balance of power and fuel economy," the V8 is criticized for being both front-wheel drive and too "thirsty." Though auto writers complain of a soft suspension and weak center-feel steering, overall they agree with the Washington Post's assessment that handling is still "acceptable."

Acceleration and Power

Both the LS and 1LT are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine with Variable Valve Timing to help churn out 211-horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. This base engine is seen as acceptable to move the large car, but it doesn't garner broad praise from test drivers. "The 3.5-liter base engine is taxed on hills and when the car's loaded, even though it's more powerful than in the previous Impala. Think twice before you choose it," warns USA TODAY. Even so, Edmunds still asserts that it "provides a solid kick."

Both the 2LT and LTZ are powered by a 3.9-liter V6 engine with Variable Valve Timing that helps produce 233-horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. Compared with the base 3.5L engine, many reviewers feel that this is the right engine to power a car with the Impala's heft. Car and Driver claims, "The 3.9-liter V6 is not a bad choice in this car. It feels strong, even at higher rpm and speed, and never sounds labored." USA TODAY adds, "Models powered by the 3.9 V6 have a sweetness about them, a combination of precision and comfort, that makes you think GM has broken the code." Automobile Magazine takes it one step further, declaring that it's "the pick of the litter."

The Impala SS is powered by a 5.3-liter small-block V8 engine that produces 303 horsepower and 323 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. On balance, reviewers feel that while the V8 engine lends a sporting character to the Impala, it's far from making the Impala a sports sedan. While Kelley Blue Book claims that the V8 is "the most entertaining of the three," USA TODAY asserts that it "doesn't feel as quick as it is. That cheats you of some thrills, despite the throaty exhaust sound, but it rewards you with a feeling that the car's powertrain is well-suited to the chassis." Altogether, Edmunds reports that "for those with only power on their minds, the Imapala is "actually fun to drive."

The 6-cylinder four-speed automatic has an Environmental Protection Agency estimate of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. Using E85 (a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline), the estimates drop to 14 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway -- but help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make slightly better horsepower and torque levels due to higher octane ratings than unleaded gasoline. Overall, MSN asserts that the Imapala's fuel economy is "good." In fact, Edmunds reports that all V6 trim levels provide "respectable fuel mileage."

The next trim up receives an EPA estimate of 18 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway with unleaded gasoline. Moreover, active fuel management uses all cylinders when drivers require power, but only half when better gas mileage is desired. "Despite the cylinder shut-off system, however, this is no economy car, " says Edmunds, adding, "So it's thirsty, but it's also quick." The 2LT and LTZ are also E85 compatible.

The EPA estimates fuel economy for the SS to be 16 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. Although the V8 engine is not compatible with E85, it does maintain an active fuel management system. Edmunds asserts that "while the SS model may be tempting to power-hungry buyers, be forewarned that sampling its formidable reserves quickly brings fuel mileage down to the high teens." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution agrees, claiming that "the V8 inflicts a little pain at the pump."

Though all 2008 Chevy Impalas come equipped with a standard Hydra-Matic four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive, the SS sports a"heavy duty" version. U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman asserts that the Impala's four-speed automatic transmission is "not as sophisticated as the five-speeds on competitors like the Accord and Camry, meaning the engine performance isn't quite as smooth. But it's not noticeably harsh."

Handling and Braking

The Impala driving experience is seen by most test drivers as being more about ride and less about handling. The large Chevy absorbs bumps and jolts with ease, but does not deliver the degree of precise control and handling offered by many other cars in its class. "My one disappointment was the rack-and-pinion steering. It put the Chevrolet where it was pointed, but it gave little feedback from the road. In addition, it should have a stronger on-center feel. On the highway, I found myself making repeated corrections to stay safely in the middle of my lane," says the Washington Times. In fact, weak "center feel" was a complaint among many reviewers. While Car and Driver asserts that "steering inputs are... imprecise," the Chicago Tribune advises,"For optimum, pinpoint handling and precise steering response, you have to move up to the SS."

The LS, 1LT, and 2LT are outfitted with a four-wheel independent touring suspension. The LTZ and SS, on the other hand, maintain a performance-tuned suspension that features stiffer spring rates and larger stabilizer bars. According to Edmunds, "Apart from the SS model, handling is not among the 2008 Chevy Impala's strengths due to its soft suspension tuning. The car does feel solid and substantial, though, and plenty of people will appreciate the big sedan's compliant ride quality." Car and Driver adds, "The Impala's suspension is also set up more for long, straight roads than for those that compel a driver to test the margin by which he can exceed the recommended speed on a given corner."

Commenting on the Impala SS, Edmunds laments, "If only it was a rear-wheel drive." Indeed, many muscle-car enthusiasts don't see the point of running a powerful V8 engine on a front-wheel-drive configuration. Newsday asserts, "While front-wheel drive has its benefits in winter driving, the forward weight bias of such vehicles make it not the best layout for a performance car." However, Motor Trend says, "We'll take power where we find it, front drive or not."

All 2008 Impalas feature a four-wheel disc brake system. Moreover, the 2LT, LTZ and SS all come equipped with an anti-lock brake system, as well as Electronic Traction Control (ETC) with Corner Brake Control (CBC) -- which serve to reduce individual wheel spin on most slippery surfaces. Many auto reviewers take issue with Chevrolet for not making ABS standard on all trim levels. U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman says, "This important, relatively inexpensive safety feature should be standard on any mid-level family car."

Performance Options

Available for both the LS and 1LT is the same standard braking system equipped on all other trim levels -- which includes the ABS, ETC and CBC mentioned above.

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