The 2000-model Impala, which debuted this spring, marks Chevrolet's newest assault on the market for full-sized sedans.
After the demise of the Caprice in 1996, the division's largest car was the mid-sized Lumina sedan. Although the new front-wheel-drive Impala is the same length as the Lumina, it has a longer wheelbase that offers a better ride and handling, plus a roomier interior.
Aside from the name itself, the Impala is not an exercise in retro styling. Chevrolet hopes to sell the car with features such as a roomy rear seat, grippy brakes and an ergonomic-friendly instrument panel.
The Impala embodies two major design themes: safety and a user-friendly environment for aging drivers.
Safety features include large rotors on the four-wheel disc brakes, a padded headliner, a side airbag for the driver and an emergency trunk release handle. The rear seat has anchors for three child seats, and the upscale model even has a tire inflation monitor. The antilock brakes system is an option on the base model.
Chevrolet expects the typical Impala driver will be 50 to 54 years old, compared with the Lumina's typical 44-year-old buyer. So the speedometer's numerals are bigger than normal, side mirrors are extra large, and the sound system has large, easy-to-grasp control knobs. GM moved the ignition key from the steering column to the instrument panel, a plus for motorists with arthritic fingers. And the rear doors open wide for easy entry.
Chevrolet hopes to sell about 200,000 Impalas a year.