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Platform is still stuck on RWD, but exhibits gains from eAssist, DI

The Chevy Impala is a name with a lot of history attached.  One of General Motors (GM) oldest models, it first debuted in 1958 and for a time was the best-selling automobile in the country.  Chevy today announced its plans for the new 2014 Impala, which was previewed at the New York Auto Show.

The new model will be based around three different engines:
  • 2.4 L LUK Ecotec 182 hp (136 kW) I4 w/ eAssist
  • 2.5 L Ecotec 197 hp (147 kW) I4
  • 3.6 L LFX 303 hp (226 kW) V6
All of the engines will come with six-speed transmissions -- increasingly an industry standard, given that more gears helps automakers better balance power and fuel efficiency.

Chevy Impala
The 2014 Chevy Impala [Image Source: GM]

The eAssist model uses GM's second generation belt-driven battery/motor system.  While less powerful than power-split architectures where the generator is directly driven by the drive shaft, the second gen system does offer more hybrid energy recapture, with a 15 kW (20 hp) motor-generator that delivers 79 lb·ft (107 N·m) of torque.  Further, it's inexpensive and simple, making cost of ownership and repairs less intense than with traditional power-split hybrids like Toyota Motor Comp.'s (TYO:7203) best-selling Prius.

The Ecotec engines also bring direct injection to the Impala for the first time.  Cumulatively these allow the 2.4L LUK Ecotect/eAssist Impala to get an estimated 35 MPG.

The vehicle will feature Chevy's nascent MyLink infotainment/services platform, paired with a 4.2-inch LCD screen.  It will also come with LED daytime running lights and a stacked technology options package, which includes, "full-speed-range adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, rear camera and rear-park assist".

Chevy Impala
The interior is complemented by a MyFord Touch-like infotainment system.
[Image Source: GM]

The Chevy Impala platform continues to be front-wheel driven (FWD).  The sales downturn and subsequent bankruptcy shelved plans for a RWD transitition.

The key for GM will be the pricing of this mild hybrid.

Source: GM

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RWD/FWD Confusion
By mrwassman on 4/4/2012 11:13:29 PM , Rating: 2
You are saying it is FWD, correct? I can't imagine the impala line going back to RWD. (Well I can, but they can't)

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By Samus on 4/5/2012 1:26:12 AM , Rating: 2
Somehow Chrysler manages to keep RWD platforms at reasonable prices. Sure, they're notoriously unreliable, but that's an engineering problem, not a supply, component or manufacturing problem, as RWD is typically very reliable. Just greese those U-joints and change that diff fluid every 60k ($50 procedure) and unless you ding your driveshaft and need a rebalance, these components will outlast everything else in the vehicle.

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By Dr of crap on 4/5/12, Rating: 0
RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By Motoman on 4/5/2012 11:01:54 AM , Rating: 2
Because it's more fun to drive.

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By Spuke on 4/5/12, Rating: 0
RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By IcePickFreak on 4/5/2012 12:15:39 PM , Rating: 2
Nope, no thanks. I'm in the "frozen tundra" and still much prefer RWD. You know they have this thing called traction control now right?

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By FITCamaro on 4/5/2012 12:30:39 PM , Rating: 2
Here in the 21st century with traction control and stability control systems in cars, its not an issue if you drive properly.

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By ebakke on 4/5/2012 2:02:07 PM , Rating: 2
Sadly, that's a big "if" for most people.

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By Boingo Twang on 4/6/2012 11:39:34 AM , Rating: 2
I live in a snowy land too and like RWD drive better as long as I have good traction control and real winter tires. The people that say that FWD is better in snow are probably wearing all season tires on their cars, not the advanced cold weather rubber/tread patterns/siping of modern winter tires. No argument there, if you don't want to purchase real winter tires then FWD is better in snow.

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By apinkel on 4/5/2012 9:06:19 AM , Rating: 2
While I prefer a RWD vehicle as far as driving feel goes, for me living in the midwest, it's just not practical.

I'd guess for manufacturers it's more cost effective for them to build a FWD platform since it's a good fit in all climates.

It works for a luxury car maker like BMW since they stake their name on driving dynamics and can afford to do so at the cost of all-weather capabilities.

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By amanojaku on 4/5/2012 9:37:33 AM , Rating: 3
Cost, weight and simplicity. No axle and stuff means a lighter car, and better fuel economy for FF or RR. Problem is FF handling suffers: the transaxle design means less room for the wheels to turn, so FF cars make wider turns. No big deal for the typical car, but I like to be able to make tight turns. And acceleration is crappy, since most of the weight is in the front. When the car speeds up, the weight shifts back off of the driving axle, reducing grip and slowing the rate of acceleration. I guess I'm just biased having learned to drive using an FR. They feel more responsive to me. FF's feel like golf carts.

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By Dr of crap on 4/5/2012 9:46:03 AM , Rating: 1
I learned with RWD as well and I can't say there any difference. And since the switch to FWD happened many years ago I don't have a comparison now.
Not many RWD to pick from or want.

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By amanojaku on 4/5/2012 10:04:55 AM , Rating: 2
Learned on an Oldsmobile 88. :-)

There's a lot of FR's that a I want (not need). M5, Camaro, Corvette, Viper, Mustang, RX-8, 370z. FR is pretty much for sporty cars, now, and FF for family cars.

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By CU on 4/5/2012 10:38:00 AM , Rating: 2
Don't forget about trucks. I don't think anyone even makes a FWD truck.

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By Dorkyman on 4/5/2012 10:17:34 AM , Rating: 2
If you want a car with lots of power and snappy acceleration, you want RWD because traction is better as weight shifts during acceleration and also because you'll feel the effects of high power in the steering with FWD.

For traction in snow it helps to have most of the car's weight over the driving wheels. In virtually all cars the majority of the weight is in front, so FWD cars are better here. We once had a little Mazda GLC hatchback that was a terrific car but couldn't get up a snowy driveway because 60% of the weight was up front and it was RWD. We resorted to putting boulders in the trunk for the winter.

If your car is low in power I don't think you'll feel any difference between FWD and RWD under normal conditions.

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By Reclaimer77 on 4/5/2012 5:06:02 PM , Rating: 2
If you want a car with lots of power and snappy acceleration, you want AWD

Fixed :)

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By Keeir on 4/5/2012 5:43:23 PM , Rating: 2
If your car is low in power I don't think you'll feel any difference between FWD and RWD under normal conditions.

No. Simply No.

In a FWD drive car the steering wheels are also the powered wheels. This gives the car a very different feel. As a primary car I've had RWD, FWD, and AWD. I've driven tens of cars for weeks at a time. There is definately a difference in ALL conditions. I prefer AWD for a variety of reasons, and would likely never own a RWD again, but for what its worth there is -definately- a difference.

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By Dan Banana on 4/7/2012 9:35:08 PM , Rating: 2
What do FF and RR mean?

RE: RWD/FWD Confusion
By erple2 on 4/9/2012 6:18:01 PM , Rating: 2
Front Engine, Front wheel drive or Rear Engine, Rear Wheel Drive. Most econobox cars are "FF" type (most cars today, now that I think about it). RR is quite a bit rarer. The non-AWD Porsche 911's are all "RR" cars. The engine tends to sit on or behind the rear wheels, and drives the rear wheels.

As opposed to "FR" which is Front Engine, Rear Wheel Drive. Or "MR" Mid Engine, Rear Wheel drive. Though I can't think of a car that was "MF" (Mid Engine, Front Wheel Drive).

That's it?
By stimudent on 4/4/12, Rating: 0
RE: That's it?
By Keeir on 4/5/2012 12:20:37 AM , Rating: 5
Why does this always need to be explained?

I assume you meant a 2005 Chevy Colorado Small Truck, 2WD

This truck is rated by the US EPA as 18/24.

The new Impala on the same system is rated ~25/35. Thats a rating of 39%/45% better.

Now you may get really great mileage out of the Colorado. Looks like many people are getting higher than EPA ratings for the Truck.

But you may get even better marks on the Impala. If you managed to drive it in a very similiar fashion as you drive your Colorado, you will likely see significantly higher returns than EPA rating (though probably not as much as an improvement as the Colorao)

Here are the actual tests run. Become somehow, people think "HWY" means cruising at thier local highway speed in the middle of spring with a clear sky....

RE: That's it?
By tayb on 4/5/12, Rating: -1
RE: That's it?
By ebakke on 4/5/2012 10:03:19 AM , Rating: 4
Yes. Unless you've got something better to offer.

RE: That's it?
By tayb on 4/5/12, Rating: -1
RE: That's it?
By amanojaku on 4/5/2012 10:09:33 AM , Rating: 5
Your newest comment was 200% dumber than your first comment, so you're doing better than GM. Compare GM to Audi or Toyota. Engines != CPUs

RE: That's it?
By StraightLine on 4/5/2012 5:17:40 PM , Rating: 2
It's a matter of physics. There's only so much energy in a gallon of gasoline, and cars are pretty heavy.

RE: That's it?
By Dan Banana on 4/7/2012 9:40:54 PM , Rating: 2
It's a matter of physics. There's only so much energy in a gallon of gasoline, and cars are pretty heavy.

Most IC engines are only 20% thermodynamically efficient at best last I heard, so the physics also say a lot of that energy is being completely wasted.

RE: That's it?
By Keeir on 4/5/2012 11:42:06 AM , Rating: 4

40% over 7 years is a year rate of increase of ~5%.

Thats a HUGE number. If cars improved in fuel economy at 5% a year, every 15 years the fuel economy would -double-. Over 30 years, the fuel economy would quadruple.

If the same 5% had occured, those cars in the 80s that got 25 MPG? We'd be looking at 100 MPG.

5% IS AMAZING in mature technology. Of course, its not 5%. Its more like 4% when you compare the actual 2005 Impala.

But still 4% is pretty good. That's doubling fuel economy every 20 years.

You analogy about the relatively new technology of microprocessors is not really a good comparison. Microprocessors are a fundementally different technology.

Automobiles (ICE) are limited by a few factors

1.) Otto Cycle engines are a best ~60% efficient at any sane operating temperature. Thats hard physics.
2.) We expect cars engines to last 200,000-250,000 miles
3.) We expect cars to be safey every year
4.) We expect cars to have more features every year
5.) We expect cars to contain certain volume every year
6.) We expect cars to be "good looking"
7.) We expect cars to perform to certain standards

When you roll all this up, your looking at best case ~40 MPG combined cycle for a car in the Impala class (though with the mild hybrid its probably more like ~45 MPG). This number hasn't changed since 2005. This new Impala closes nearly 1/2 the gap between actual and theoritical that existed in 2005. That is an amazing accomplishment/improvement. At the same time, the new Impala is better looking, safer, and has more features!

(As an aside, I think this new Impala still loses to the Ford Taurus for its class of cars overall. But for -GM- this is a HUGE improvement in product quality over the previous Impala or well other products they make)

RE: That's it?
By Alexvrb on 4/7/2012 7:54:37 PM , Rating: 2
How does it lose to Taurus exactly? The 2012 Impala 3.6L gets 18/30 MPG. Even the upcoming 2013 Taurus with a naturally aspirated 3.5L at the same price points gets EPA 19/29 MPG. So they're pretty close there. Impala makes 12 more HP and 8 more ft-lbs.

The *current* 2012 Taurus is even further behind in power, and gets slightly worse mileage (18/28). Now the Taurus SHO on the other hand is a completely different animal, but it also has a completely different price! That one competes with other cars entirely, elsewhere in GM (and other companies) lineups.

Anyway, these new 4 cyl drivetrains should be sufficient for most drivers and they make pretty decent mileage for a large (by today's standards) family sedan.

RE: That's it?
By CU on 4/5/2012 10:46:26 AM , Rating: 2
What Colorado do you own? I have an 05 Xtreme regular cab w/ 3.5L automatic transmission and I believe the 3.73 gear. The best I have done is like 24mpg with all highway. I average about 20mpg now in stop and go city traffic.

RE: That's it?
By joex444 on 4/5/2012 3:58:39 PM , Rating: 2
As long as we're comparing other things, my '02 VW Polo gets around 47mpg+ (5L/100km), mostly city (it is a Polo after all; taken it up to 140kph a few times, though). And of course it's just a straight gas engine.

RWD, FWD, ???
By Gunbuster on 4/5/2012 9:42:57 AM , Rating: 4
Top of article: "Platform is still stuck on RWD"

Bottom of article: "The Chevy Impala platform continues to be front-wheel driven (FWD)."

By CharonPDX on 4/6/2012 2:37:03 PM , Rating: 2
This really should be the no-brainer step for ALL gasoline/diesel vehicles. The incremental cost is negligible at high volumes, and even this slight improvement increases mileage (and decreases emissions) by a noticeable amount.

As for the "repair" claim, I'm curious where that comes from... Hybrids so far (according to Consumer Reports) are of higher-than-average reliability, with lower-than-average long term repair costs. TCO is debatable (by model - the Prius has shown to be a lower TCO than equivalent conventional gasoline cars, but only barely, and many other hybrid models are barely break-even at 100K miles,) but repair cost is effectively settled in hybrids' favor.

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