$4,093 - $5,315

2009 Chevrolet Impala Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Chevrolet Impala was new.


Performance: 6.8

Reviewers agree that the '09 Impala's powerful engines pack a mean punch, but find that its handling dynamics suffer -- most notably from soft suspension settings.

  • "It's tempting to highlight the sportier SS model -- it has the bigger V-8 engine, a sport suspension, and an attractive body kit -- but in truth, there are more appealing cars out there for a base price of just over $31,000. Unless, of course, you're a huge fan of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and want to live (sort of) vicariously." -- Car and Driver
  • "The pick of the litter, though, is the 3.9-liter V-6. Even though it lacks the high-rpm refinement of a Japanese multivalve V-6 and, like all Impalas, must make due with only a four-speed automatic, it offers a wide torque band and good fuel economy." -- Automobile Magazine

Acceleration and Power

Test drivers report that all Impala trims provide ample power, but complain that its four-speed automatic transmission is dated and impedes better fuel economy.

The Impala LS and 1LT feature a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 211-horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 214 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. The more powerful 2LT and LTZ trims come equipped with a 3.9-liter V6 engine that makes 233-horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 240 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Meanwhile, the Impala SS packs a 5.3-liter small block V8 engine that generates 303-horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 323 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. All Impala engines are mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.

With the exception of the SS, which features Active Fuel Management, all Impala trims can run on both gasoline and E85. According to the EPA, the LS and 1LT net a city/highway fuel economy of 19/29 mpg with gas and 14/22 with E85. The 2LT and LTZ, however, achieve 17/27 mpg with gasoline and 13/20 with E85. The Impala SS earns 16/24 mpg.

  • "The 3.5 and 3.9-liter V6s provide similar acceleration in around-town driving, but the 3.9 has better passing response in the 35-55-mph range. The SS's V8 furnishes ample power at any speed. Using E85 ethanol, test models with the 3.5-liter engine showed no difference in acceleration." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Other aces up the Impala's sleeve include a pair of V6s that strike a fine balance between performance and fuel efficiency, as well as the availability of the SS model that provides the thrill of a powerful V8 along with a sport-tuned suspension. ... Both the 3.9 V6 and 5.3 V8 are fitted with Active Fuel Management technology, which deactivates half the cylinders while cruising to save fuel." -- Edmunds
  • "Fuel economy is respectable but would certainly be improved with the addition of a five- or six-speed automatic transmission in place of the Impala's aging four-speed unit." -- Motor Trend

Handling and Braking

Reports on the Impala's handling dynamics are honest and blunt -- test drivers don't like them. Though the Impala offers a comfortable ride, it lacks road feel, doesn't handle curves well, and some critics even note that the steering is not properly centered.

  • "Apart from the SS model, handling is not among the 2009 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." -- Edmunds
  • "Enthusiasts dismiss the Impala because, frankly, it's pretty boring to drive. The car provides a cushy highway ride-particularly in LS and LT forms, which have the softer FE1 suspension-but it wallows through the twisties. Straight-line performance is reasonable, although the SS really suffers from having too much power driving through just the front wheels." -- Car and Driver
  • "With the standard 16-inch tires, Impala LS and LT 3.5 models ride softly with noticeable float and wallow. The available 17s on the LT 3.9 temper much of the unwanted motion. Despite their sport suspension and 18-inch tires, Impala SS models are surprisingly smooth. ... Any Impala is stable with good steering feel. The SS is particularly sharp, but none are overly agile. Stopping control is good." -- Consumer Guide
  • "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." -- Washington Times
  • "The surprise disappointment in the Impala lineup is the SS, a car seemingly geared toward the NASCAR-watching family man who needs some space and craves the sound of a traditional V-8 but demands little ride or handling refinement. The V-8 is too powerful for the chassis-spirited stabs of the throttle yank at the steering wheel even at highway speeds-and the heavy engine hanging out ahead of the front axle wreaks havoc on the handling dynamics when you attempt to drive the SS quickly. All of this is further exacerbated by the steering's lack of on-center feel, a problem that plagues all Impala models." -- Automobile Magazine

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