Hawaii, Chevy Impala complement each other

  • By Larrk Lark Automotive Reviewer
  • Friday, September 28, 2007 9:36am
  • Vehicles

Any car is a beauty when you’re at Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Normally my heart wouldn’t race behind the wheel of a 2007 Chevrolet Impala LT four-door sedan. But when the sights, sounds and smells are Pacific Ocean, Kilauea, mangoes, papaya, palm fronds and suntan oil with prospects of 15 days in paradise — well, it tends to change one’s perspective.

Picking up the Lark family rental car (at 3 a.m. Seattle time) didn’t detract from the karma.

The first impression of a rental car is usually its trunk. And the Impala was no exception. After traipsing through the airport to Budget Car Rental with an ungodly and unwieldy amount of luggage, my last-minute decision to upgrade from a Chevy Cobalt was confirmed as pure genius.

The last piece of luggage was wedged into the trunk with nary a crack to spare.

The Chevrolet Impala LS is a comfortable and convenient car, practical and enjoyable to drive. Its clean exterior lines are pleasing to the eye; its styling looks fresh, and it is. The Impala benefits from a redesign in 2006.

This is a big car. Generally classified as a mid-size sedan, the Impala LS is large for its class, and is nearly a full-size. The front and back seats are roomy, and getting in and out of the car is easy. The Impala has a huge trunk and flip-and-fold back seats that present holding wells for groceries or a flat cargo floor that expands the trunk for long items. Boogie boards fit nicely, and I believe a surfboard may have worked as well.

The Impala is very stable on the open road, a nice cruiser in fact. There’s plenty of low-end torque generated from the 3.5-liter V6 engine. Step on the gas and it goes. And it handles well — surprisingly well given its size.

I’m not sure I should be revealing this (maybe the rental car company is reading this), but for my loyal readers, I’ll risk imprisonment. The Impala LT even handled the Big Island’s notorious Saddle Road (it splits volcanoes Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa) with grace and aplomb. Built by the military in haste after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, parts of the road have been little improved in the last 60-plus years.

Let’s just say that the road connecting windward Kona with leeward Hilo would make a nice test for most four-wheel-drive vehicles. The Impala also traversed a couple of miles of pothole- filled, off-roading terrain over ancient lava beds to reach a premium brown sand beach and lived to serve another unsuspecting rental car customer.

The mid-level Chevrolet Impala LT probably best exemplifies the model line, which also includes an LS, LTZ and SS. Several upgrades and refinements for this model year make for a better car: The available 3.9-liter V6 gets GM’s Active Fuel Management system, which idles cylinders at certain times for improved fuel economy. A tire-pressure monitor comes standard. OnStar comes standard and has been upgraded, offering the new turn-by-turn navigation service. And OnStar will automatically communicate the nature and severity of a crash as well as its location to 911 centers.

Anti-lock brakes, electronic traction control, air conditioning, Bose audio system, cruise control, remote keyless entry, fog lamps and anti-theft system are standard equipment.

Delivering 29 mpg during highway driving, the Impala LT got the job done with no complaints. The wow factor wasn’t high, but the Impala provided everything needed to enjoy paradise to its fullest.