Consumer Reports, sounding almost as surprised as anyone, announced Thursday the new 2014 Chevy Impala is so good it's earned the top spot overall for sedans and is as good as luxury cars costing $20,000 more.

The ratings group called the Impala's success a "phoenix-like turnaround", going from the bottom of the class in the Consumer Reports ranking to the No. 1 spot. It went from scoring 63 points on the magazine's ratings scale – too low to be recommended – to scoring 95 points. That puts the Impala on par with the top cars Consumer Reports has tested.

Only two other vehicles score higher – the Tesla Model S, which Consumer Reports testers said was one of the best cars they'd ever evaluated – and the BMW 135i coupe.

“The Impala’s performance is one more indicator of an emerging domestic renaissance,” said Jake Fisher, director of Consumer Reports automotive testing. “We’ve seen a number of redesigned American models—including the Chrysler 300, Ford Escape and Fusion, and Jeep Grand Cherokee— deliver world-class performance in our tests.”
Overall, the testers (whom have been accused by Detroit auto executives of being biased in favor of Toyota and Honda and other import carmakers) said the Impala is competitive with cars like the Audi A6 and the Lexus LS460L, as well as the recently reviewed Acura RLX and Jaguar XF.

Engineers said the Impala rides "like a luxury sedan, with a cushy and controlled demeanor." When pushed to its limits, testers found it stayed in control and was responsive to the driver.

That echoes what AOL Autos Editor-in-Chief David Kiley said in his review of the car, which he also said was quieter than a Lexus and as smooth as a Cadillac, "without being too floaty."
The problem facing Impala sales, though, is whether consumers will be able to overlook the retro-sounding Impala name and buy this car based on its merits. American consumers tend to work in a herd mentality – if a car is reliable and liked by your neighbors, chances are you'll give it a try. That's part of why the Toyota Camry has been so consistently successful, despite its drab looks and dated interior.

But there's apparently a lot to like with this new-and-improved version of the Imapala. Consumer Reports testers also liked the inside of the Impala cabin, which they said "sets a new standard for Chevrolet fit and finish, with generally high-quality materials and trim."
The only downside might be fuel economy on the V6 engine, which at 22 mpg combined isn't the best among sedans. But it comes with a roomy backseat and huge trunk, which should make up for something. Right?

Even though it scored well, Consumer Reports is holding off on giving the Impala a recommended label. It hasn't been on the market long enough, the magazine said.


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