Monday, July 1, 2013

2014 Chevrolet Impala Critiqued

The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is the latest redesign of a model that has been around since 1958 (the Wikipedia history is here).  Early reviews I've read suggest that it is a considerable improvement over the previous Impala generation, which has snidely been referred to as fit for rental, but not worthy of purchase.  We rented those Impalas on several occasions, and I found them to be okay.  I wouldn't have bought one, but could have tolerated it if one had been given to me.

As for styling, the previous Impala was rather bland, but the new version is now in line with the current flashy Baroque fashion.


2014 Chevrolet Impala
The side view tells most of the story.  Front overhang is not quite as severe as was common in the 1990s nor is rear overhang as great as in the 1970s.  The passenger compartment greenhouse is proportionally long, ending in a semi-fastback shape; this approach has been in vogue for nearly ten years.  There is plenty of sheet metal sculpting, which is why I used the word "Baroque" above.  This too is a styling fad.

The various folds and creases forming the sculptural side composition are professionally done in the sense that there is follow-through between separated elements.  For example, the lower creases and indentations on either side of the rear wheel opening are continuations interrupted by a bulge around that opening.  More subtle is the continuation of the crease near the top of the front fender.  It begins with a fold aligned with top of the upper grille and headlamps and strengthens abaft of the bulge around the front wheel opening.  It fades away at the rear door handle, but is picked up again where the rising crease on the rear door becomes horizontal.  If these (approximately) horizontal elements had been offset rather than continuations, the result would have seemed comparatively cluttered and confusing, the work of an amateur stylist.
The front is less fussy than the sides, though the hood has more than its fair share of sculpting.  A curiosity is that the upper and lower grille openings appear replicated in the photo above; they are stacked, rather than related using the sort of line continuations just mentioned. 
As for the rear, confusion ensues, especially where the trunk spoiler ridge, taillight assembly and upper bumper lip converge.  At least the taillight assembly blends with the upper side crease and panel cut-line.  Otherwise, the composition of elements at the rear of the car is fussy -- especially the relationship between the chrome strip and the taillights. In a nutshell, I think there is too much unnecessary activity in the design, too much busyness.  I would have preferred that a few areas of the car had been left plain to serve as relief from or in contrast to all the sculpting.

2013 Ford Fusion 
 I wasn't kidding when I suggested that the Impala design was in line with current styling fashion (but then, at any given time, most car designs follow current fashion; they almost have to).  Above is an Impala competitor, Ford's Fusion.  Note that their rooflines and side window treatments are nearly the same.  Both cars have similar sculpting along the lower part of the doors as well as a crease near the upper part of the lower body.

1973 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
Just for fun, I include these images of a Chevrolet from around 40 years earlier that might have served as inspiration for the rear door and rear fender area curved sculpting on the new Impala.  True, the shaping is different, but the slight suggestion of a rear fender on the Impala brought the '73 Monte Carlo to mind; can we call it a Retro touch?

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