Uninspiring too look at, drab inside and dull to drive, they championed space, comfort and value above all else. They were the highway queens for rental fleets, retirees and travelling salespeople alike.
But people are sick of being bored. Customers want a little excitement for their hard earned money. We’re not talking about feeling like a six-year-old at Disney, but something a little more exhilarating than standing in line at the DMV was sorely needed for both brands. Thankfully, Chevrolet and Toyota’s full-size sedans both recently got a much-needed dose of vivacity.
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Now More Exciting
In fact, Toyota is in the middle of revising its vehicles with sportier looks in an effort to forget its stodgy past. The Corolla, 4Runner, RAV4 and Highlander have all received aggressive, if not controversial new styling inside and out. The Avalon plays it the safest however and features some old Toyota styling elements mixed in with a few Lexus cues. The top-of-the-line Limited model adds some pizazz with quad HID headlights and LED daytime running lights.
The last generation Impala was the poster child for anonymity. Without an interesting or unique line on the entire car, Chevrolet was determined to change things with the 2014 Impala. Beauty is subjective, but we are sold on the new Impala’s look and find it to be more appealing than the Avalon. It is identifiable from a distance and projects the sort of road presence that is associated with most modern full-size sedans.
Power vs. Lightness
Although each vehicle offers more efficient, less powerful engine choices, we selected the two drivetrains that have come to dominate this segment over the past several years. That means V6 engines measuring around 3.5 liters hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission. In the Toyota, the 3.5-liter V6 is good for 268 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque, while the Chevrolet’s more potent 3.6-liter V6 makes 305 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Chevrolet Impala Review – Video
Even though the Avalon suffers from a substantial power deficit, it does possess a near 340-lb weight advantage. On the road, the cars feel very similar power-wise at city speeds. Once up to speed though, the Impala begins to show its power edge on the highway.
Since it is lighter and less powerful, the Toyota Avalon Limited achieves better fuel economy ratings of 21 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway; two better than the Impala LTZ in both scenarios. However, after a week of testing, our real-world numbers closed the gap and saw the Impala achieve an average of 23.2 mpg compared to the Avalon at 24.
Predictable vs. Isolated
Both succeed as comfortable cruisers ready to eat up miles of freeway, especially if you choose optional adaptive cruise control. The steering in both cars is light, as it should be, but we Avalon’s wheel is too easy to spin. The Impala as a whole communicates back to the driver what is happening on the road better than the Avalon. The Chevrolet was very predictable in its actions and feels less isolated from tactile road feedback than the Avalon.
There are some minor issues with the Avalon as well. The brakes require too much pressure to stop the car and lack a linear slow-down feeling as you press the pedal. That tends to lead to frequent unpleasant stops in heavy traffic. The other issue is the ride comfort. For a large car set up to pamper passengers, too many bumps and cracks in the road make their way up into the cabin of the Avalon, which is a complaint we have with a few Toyotas lately. Although more supple on the road, the Impala is not a pillar in comfort either. Maybe both manufacturers focused a little too much on excitement while developing their latest land yachts.
Space vs. Style
Inside it becomes a battle of the spacious Impala versus the sumptuous Avalon. When it comes to materials used, overall design and execution, the Toyota wins hands down. Whereas the Avalon is coated in faux leather wrapped surfaces and expensive looking materials, the Impala is splashed with a mash-up of vinyl-like surfaces and teal stitching. Oh, that teal stitching. We have no idea how this came to be so prevalent in Chevrolet products but here’s hoping it stops. To be fair, there are plenty of trim combinations available for the Impala that nullify the complaint.
Although the Avalon is a much nicer place to be, the Impala does have a few redeeming qualities. The center stack controls are easy to understand if not a little bit cheap feeling and there is a hide-away cubby behind the screen for stashing valuables. Our only big gripe is that the telescoping steering wheel doesn’t extend far enough.
SEE ALSO: 2013 Toyota Avalon Review – Video
The Toyota Avalon is as much for passengers as it is for the driver. The Limited model features three-zone climate control and heated rear seats: two items not found on the Impala. Legroom is almost the same between the two cars with the Toyota coming up about half an inch short at 39.2 inches. The Impala’s trunk is bigger at 18.8 cubic feet, but the Avalon is nothing to sneer at with 16.
|Vehicle||2014 Chevrolet Impala||Advantage||2014 Toyota Avalon|
|Engine||3.6-liter V6||-||3.5-liter V6|
|Horsepower||305 hp||Impala||268 hp|
|Max. Torque||264 lb-ft||Impala||248 lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy||19 MPG city / 29 MPG hwy||Avalon||21 MPG city / 31 MPG hwy|
|Observed MPG||23.2 mpg||Avalon||24.0 mpg|
|Weight||3,800 lbs.||Avalon||3,461 lbs.|
|Rear Cargo Capacity||18.8 cu. ft.||Impala||16.0 cu. ft.|
|As Tested Price||$41,340||Impala||$42,410|
Pricing is another area that favors the Impala. With a naturally aspirated four-cylinder base-engine, the Chevrolet begins at just $27,670 after destination charges, while the cheapest Toyota lists for $32,150. However, as tested, our loaded Avalon Limited model came to $42,410 after destination charges, while the Impala 2LTZ came in at almost the same price of $41,340.
Still, at a thousand dollars cheaper, with more passenger space, more power and a minimal fuel economy penalty, it is hard to argue with the Chevrolet Impala. Plus, the new car has rediscovered that full-size elegant road presence Impalas of old were synonymous with. Toyota did an admirable job bringing its full-size sedan up to date; Chevrolet just did it better.
2014 Toyota Avalon Limited
2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ