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2004 Chevrolet Impala Base V6

Guest YellowJacket894

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Guest YellowJacket894

On a cool February day in 2005, we purchased a slightly used Chevrolet Impala with under 15,000 miles on the odometer. Since then we've put a little over 30,000 miles on the clock and here are my impressions of the car. Although I love GM and even hope to work at Design North Studio hopefully designing a car you may even buy, I'll try to be as honest and unbiased as possible here.

Our Oh-Four Impala is the most basic model you can get -- bench seat, cloth, no tach, and -- get this folks -- a casette player and no passenger-side door key slot. Doesn't get much more basic than that. The engine was the 3400 V6 engine mated to a four-speed auto transmission with a column shifter. The color is a dark shade of gray that doesn't much help to hide the made-by-Rubbermaid rub strips that run not just on the doors, but around every panel of the car. We also got a set of GM's worst wheel-cover designs, too, as part of the deal (if you look close, they are starting to yellow in certain spots, like the other half-million or so Impala with the same wheel cover design).

At first we were happy with our car. It offered adequate power, great handling (an impression that, despite the ugly bugs that now plauge our car, still remains), and decent long-trip comfort.

Now, after a solid 30,000 miles, we've become dissatisfied with the Imp' and the quality reaper has obviously paid our car a visit. More on this in a moment.

Exterior and Design

The design on the Impala most certainly isn't a stunner. It does, however, try to have more soul than a Camry, but it stops short of evoking true emotion. There seems to be proof that Chevrolet designers wanted the car to go farther with the Impala as a whole in the rear end design and other random points of the car, but the end result looks as if the beancounters stepped in and stripped it down to what they and the hundreds of consumer clinics wanted.

But that's not to say it's not a decent-looking car. The design is most certainly handsome if not, as previously stated, watered-down. However, certain colors make the car look cheap, and the gray on our car most certainly does that. If our car was another color, like black, tan, or maroon, it would certainly take away that stigma. (Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but . . .)

And the design also holds something powerful: potential. I've seen Impalas with mild exterior mods -- grilles, rims, etc. (read: Scharmer05) -- that look simply great and classy. If our example didn't leave us feeling cold, we would most certainly be looking into such baubles and bolt-ons.

Overall, it's a solid B-plus.

Interior, Design, and Comfort

The interior of our car is probably best suited to the lethargic, anemic, and retired. Out car features stuff you'd want in a regular cab truck and if you had two kids or if you were seventy-years old and wanted to relive the Impala's glory days: bench seat, column shifter, AM/FM cassette radio. The interior design isn't bad, but it's nothing to write home about. The plastic wood, better known as "plood," is probably best suited to a 1991 F-150 U-Haul than a car, though, and the quality and fit and finish isn't as good as recent GM products and the refreshed W-Pala. The egronomics are excellent as well.

As for interior plastics, I don't care. I don't sit around all day and finger my dashboard like those yuppie bastards at Car & Driver do. It does the job it was meant to do just fine: be a dashboard.

The front seats are comfortable, being nice and firm, leaving you the chance to get comfortable and go to sleep on a long trip with the seatback reclined back. Front legroom is great, as is the rear. However, the rear bench is pathedic and Mc Donald's cheeseburger patty thin. If you sit in the back of a car like a G6 and then sit in the back of the 2004 Impala afterward, you'd want the G6's backseat for a long trip. The rear bench tends to be uncomfortable after a long period of time and doesn't leave your back and thighs feeling refreshed. You somehow want more out of it; you want it to be nice and firm; you want a real backseat, dammit, and not a park bench.

Overall, this area deserves a solid B.


Here's where our car lacks poorly. I mean, hello, guys! This car is a 2004 model and it's optioned out like something from 1994. After the year 2000, when was a casette player desired? Hell, since that time, when did anyone even order or ask for a casette player on their car?

And which beancounter left off the passenger-side key slot? I've counted dozens of cars optioned similar to ours with that feature. Why is it that the bargain-basement Impala doesn't get this option? I know you make the part, too. It most certainly is annoying not to even have the option to unlock the passenger-side door without using the driver's-side door first.

The other people in my household have made due with the benchseat, but I see it as usless. The only person that can fit in that slot would be a toddler -- anything larger than that will probably want to kill you after the ride is over. Should've made the console standard here, sorry.

Overall, this deserves a D-plus. There is no excuse for making such a car available to the buyer. Leave it for Hertz where people don't give a $h! what they get and don't have to live with such bargain-basement features on a daily basis.

How does it drive?

Until recently, damn fine thank you. Impala engineers must own Corvettes because the handling in this car is pretty precise and nice. The car doesn't wander and is usually arrow-straight. The ride tends to be Buick-soft some moments, but is mostly alright. It takes nasty roads well and loves to take on a few curves.

The powertrain, until recently, was nice. The 3400 has a nice, throaty snarl that makes you wonder if a larger engine isn't underhood. It never feels terribly underpowered and manages to move the Impala with decent vigor. However, the 2.5L four in Nissan's Altima for example, makes similar power and packs similar pep. It doesn't have that nice exhaust note, though, and you are reminded that a four is what you've got under the hood.

The four-speed tranny is a seamless shifting transmission. The only way you know the transmission has shifted is when the engine note drops off and builds back up. The car never kicks or jerks when shifting occurs. The technology may be outdated now, but who cares? It does the job it was meant to do very well.

Overall, I give this area a solid A-minus. For a base model car, the powertrain is actually pretty decent.

Final Impressions

After living with the Impala for 30,000 miles, the car has mostly been solid. However, our car is now plauged with an odd miss in the engine, a slipping tranny, and a faulty speedometer. And the state of those three things keep deteriorating. It's left us feeling cold about the car overall.

I give the car a B-minus overall, three stars out of five.

NOTE: As a result of the condition the car is in currently and the possible cost of repair, we're looking into getting rid of it. If someone buys our Impala, I wish you the best of luck. You're gonna need it.

(Photos hopefully will be here soon No promises, though. :wink:)

Edited by YellowJacket894
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Guest YellowJacket894

Deep-six the Altima I mentioned originally in the review. It's a rip-off.

(Does anyone know what kind of problem Oldsmoboi is thinking of, by any chance?)

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The transmission is electronically controlled. The engine is electronically controlled. The speedometer is electronically controlled. And they're all tied together. This whole thing could very well be related... a loose connection, perhaps? I've seen these symptoms in a cluster before, but it's been a while since I've worked in the service department. I'll bet it's something simple. Oldsmoboi is most likely right.
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I said it that way because I can't quite place what could be wrong.

I'd either pursue OCN's suggestion or go down the sensor route. I think there is a sensor that could cause this...... flywheel position sensor.... maybe.... not sure...

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This crap should be under warranty...the electronics/emission controls system is under a longer warranty. Is service engine soon showing up?

Like an ass, I rented one of these and drove it to Denver and back...I got 32, 33 and 34 mpg on every tank. The overall rendition of this car is like being on intravenous demerol, but it is undoubtedly a solid car in most cases.

I still can't get over the mpg...and I wasn't even trying.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I would get that thing on a scanner and see if any codes are coming up. Autozone will do it for free. It's interesting how the lack of passenger side key slot was brought up. It's not just the base model that lacks this but all Impalas and Monte Carlos built from 2004 on up. While GM was at it they also eliminated the cigarette lighter and ashtray, floor shift indicators for cars with the bucket seat option and the glove box light dissappears too! The Monte Carlo got hit even worse by losing it's bodyside protective moldings and the trunk key slot is gone from 2005 on up! So if your battery ever dies forget about getting into your trunk! GM should be bitch slapped hard for these omissions. I mean how can a 13K Cobalt have floor shift indicators, optional bodyside moldings and a trunk key slot but not a 25K Monte Carlo?

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Your Impala sounds alot like my 03 base 3400. I bought it based on the practicality/versitility it offered for the price. I liked the big trunk, fold down back seat, and yes the bench front seat. I specifically seeked out a colorful one, Superior Blue with the blue interior to be exact. Stands out in a world where most Impalas are neutral colors. Mine has a CD and cassette player, and the five-spoke aluminum wheels, which make it look a bit better 9don't know if yours has them?). I also added the body colored Impala badges from the LS to the front doors, and replaced the chrome one on the trunk with body colored which cleaned up the looks a bit. I was going to go full LS on the appearance, but I hate to admit I'm not real enthusiastic about it. I'm already looking forard to replacing it, so I think I'll bank the mod money and put it towards a replacement, which believe it or not is probably going to be a new Impala (just a higher optioned one). It's not a bad car, just feels soul less and doesn't excite me to drive. Only problem I've had was replacing the multi-function stalk when the headlights decided to stop working. The tranny seems to shift hard out of first sometimes, which doesn't fill me with confidence.

Edited by AM6_Cutlass
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  • 3 weeks later...

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