There is a really classy sedan sitting in my driveway. The shape, size, dimensions and lines of this car, gleaming in the sun in a shimmering red are really first class. I peak into the interior, and the leather and trim look exceptional.

Then, I look at the lettering across the door: I-M-P-A-L-A. Yes, the stylish sedan I'm looking at is the all-new redesigned Chevy Impala.

As nice a set of wheels as this car appears to be, it also perfectly sums up a problem that still bedevils General Motors and the Chevy brand. While I enjoyed driving this sedan and admire its handsome looks and darn-near German-car-like handling, I keep asking myself how many car buyers want to make a car called a Chevy Impala, even one as nice as this, their primary personal ride.

The name feels so utterly retro, and not in a good way, evoking sluggish big sedans from the 70s and 80s. Even the most recent Impala, which has been a mainstay of car rental fleets, had an anonymous, commodity--if competent--pose and performance. Seventy-percent of the 170,000 Impalas Chevy sold last year went to rental, corporate and government fleet customers. That is the definition of a commodity image Chevy has to overcome with this new beauty.

This car will be fine for people who are all about handsome sheet-metal, a fair and solid price, value and enjoyable driving. But there is something about the Impala name that just sticks in my throat. Chevy executives say they are sticking with the Impala name, just as they are staying with the Malibu marque, because it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to establish awareness of a new model name.

Let's put that aside, though, and go over what makes this a really nice car for people who like a large roomy sedan no matter what it's called.

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Sticker Price: $26,750 - $36,580
As Tested: $39,905

Engine: 3.6L V6

Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic

Performance: 305 horsepower, 264 lb-ft. of torque, 0-60 in 6.8 seconds

Fuel Economy: 19 mpg City, 29 mpg Highway

Seating: 5 people

Cargo: 18.8 cubic feet in trunk

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This sedan is just plain handsome. The broad grille and narrow headlights give the car a wider, more squat appearance, which suits the big lug. The sculpted hood gives the car a slightly muscular look. The belt-line of the car rises sharply behind the rear door to create an arrow-shaped quarter window, which gives what is a pretty fair size sedan a nod to coupe styling.

The arched rear fenders seem to be an homage to the original 1958 Impala. Chevy is rightly aware of the heritage of its models like Impala that traces back to the Eisenhower administration and when Buddy Holly was still playing live. Older drivers will get a kick out of that. It makes it all the more distressing, though, to see a brand franchise like Impala abused in the interim between the original and this comely newbie.

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GM's interiors have gotten progressively better in the last five to ten years, and this is one of the best we recall seeing. Chevy's "dual-brow" instrument panel is the focal point of the cabin. Chrome accents provide some added dimension to the dash, which can be equipped with blue back-lit ambient lighting that is invisible during the day and provides soft, subtle lighting at night. The shape of the instrument panel's chrome strip was mimicked on the new four-spoke steering wheel, which has a refreshingly small number of buttons on the front of it by adding the audio controls to the backside of the wheel.

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The new Impala provides plenty of space for five occupants. Compared with the departing model, the 2014 Impala has had its headroom and legroom stretched by 3.5 inches and 2.2 inches respectively giving this Chevrolet interior dimensions almost identical to the Impala's fancier cousin, the Cadillac XTS. The rear seating is ample for two adults and certainly adequate for three. Trunk space is ample, as you would expect with 18.8 cubic feet, plenty for suitcases for four people, or four golf-bags.

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Eventually, the 2014 Impala will offer a base 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine as well as a 2.4-liter e-Assist mild hybrid model. But for this test, we drove the car with the engine that customers will see first, the 3.6-liter V6. This direct-injected engine is the essentially the only part carried-over from the 2013 Impala, but its output has been tweaked, raising horsepower and torque to 305 hp and 264 pound-feet (up from 300 hp and 262 lb-ft.). The Impala does not offer an all-wheel drive version. Instead, the front wheels are powered through a six-speed automatic transmission.

The car rides quiet thanks to so-called "quiet-tuning" that GM has rolled through the Buick and Cadillac models first. It's quieter inside than a Lexus, and I didn't think that was possible.

The Impala's road manners are much improved over the previous model, which I always thought were vague and what I expected from, well, a rental car. The ride is practically European-style taut without being downright stiff. I was glad to be driving it over the generally lousy road surfaces of Michigan, and thinking it was every bit as smooth as the Cadillac I usually drive without being too floaty. Chevy engineers did a superlative job tuning the suspension on the Impala.
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The Impala can come equipped with Chevy's MyLink system, which provides new ways to connect with your smartphone and customize the interactivity while doing away with many of the capacitive-touch control issues that we didn't like in the Cadillac Cue interface. There are 10 hard buttons and knobs that act as redundant controls.

Chevy has also added features like 3D mapping, Bluetooth pairing for up to 10 devices, better voice recognition with natural speech commands, four different background/button themes and a configurable home screen with five customizable top buttons and up to 60 "favorite" buttons (for phone numbers, navigation destinations and audio settings such as stations, artists, albums or genres). There is also a "valet mode" that uses a four-digit code to lock out the vehicle's MyLink and information systems to valet parkers. The large center screen (which has a storage cubby beneath) is complemented by a 4.2-inch digital screen inside the gauge cluster. The latter is controlled by a five-way button on the right side of the steering wheel, and it displays infotainment and vehicle information to the driver in a clear and easy manner.

The new Impala also has three USB ports, an SD card slot and, in the "What took so long to figure this out?" category, the navigation operations and Bluetooth pairing can take place while driving when there is a passenger in place – with the assumption that drivers will not be doing the work.

If connectivity is important to you, there is nothing that will disappoint about the Impala.

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The Impala competes against the Hyundai Azera, Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus, Chrysler 300 and Buick LaCrosse. These are all large sedans whose main claim to fame is that they will hold three adults in the back-seat better than mid-sized sedans like the Chevy Malibu, Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata. They also have a bit more trunk space.

It is a tough category in which to stand out in part because all the automakers have put more effort into the segment. In fact, Chevy is last to the party. But Impala is a smart, satisfying, ride.

The 2014 Impala is an example of what Detroit once led the world in--designing a roomy, comfortable, well-performing family car. Sadly, when Motor City became so deeply infatuated with SUVs, the quality of passenger cars waned and Asian brands were happy to fill the void. The Impala, which delights inside and out, is worthy of being studied by the competition for how to do things right. As pleasant as it is to drive, though,  it will have to work hard to overcome the banality that people associate with the "Impala" name.

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