Used Vehicle Review: Chevrolet Impala, 2000-2013

Update by Justin Pritchard; original article by Chris Chase

Update: Chevrolet Impala, 2006–2013

Here’s a closer look at some common problems and issues identified by the owners community, with some more detailed information that’s emerged in recent years.

A popular used-car buy when affordability, size, space, comfort and power are priorities, the last-generation Chevrolet Impala was available for model years 2006 to 2013 inclusive, before being replaced by the current-generation model.

Highly reasonable pricing, standard V6 power, solid reliability and low running costs continue to add appeal to the last-generation Chevrolet Impala as a used car buy. Top line models got heated leather, Bose audio, automatic climate control, Bluetooth and more.

Look for four doors and front-wheel drive on all models, with an automatic transmission as standard. Six or eight-cylinder engines were available, with up to 303 horsepower. A 3.5L V6 generated 211 horsepower, and a 3.9L V6 generated 233.

Here’s a closer look at some common problems and issues identified by the owners community, with some more detailed information that’s emerged in recent years. We’ll also advise some checks that should be considered mandatory ahead of purchasing a used Impala from this generation.

Some owners have reported trouble with the transmission ‘slipping’, perhaps especially when changing from reverse to drive. Ensure that’s not the case with the transmission in the Impala you’re considering. If you detect any signs of slippage or hard shifting, the likely culprit is computer-related and not mechanical in nature, though you’ll want to have a mechanic investigate to be sure. Computer-related problems can typically be fixed on the cheap with new programming and updated software. Mechanical problems with the transmission can be pricier and more involved to fix, especially if they relate to a bad pump or solenoid within the transmission itself. Translation? Any transmission-related funny-business you detect on a test drive warrants further investigation to compare potential repair costs against the value of the model being considered.

Note that having a computer ‘scan’ of the used Impala’s computer systems is highly advised, as it may reveal potential issues with the transmission or other components. A GM technician can complete a full electronic systems scan in a matter of minutes.

The owner’s community has also determined that intermittent assist from the power steering system may be the result of a misaligned harmonic balancer, which is basically a pulley that also drives the power steering pump via a belt. A misaligned harmonic balancer can cause damage to the belt, power steering pump pulley, and negatively affect steering system performance. If issues are detected, this is a relatively easy fix.

On models with the 3.5L engine, be sure to check for oil and coolant leaks, particularly caused by leaky gaskets. A check of numerous posts on owner’s forums shows that this engine may leak from its oil pan gasket, crank seals, crossover coolant pipes and oil filter adapter.

Newer models may feature OnStar navigation capability, even if the vehicle itself isn’t equipped with a navigation system. Confirm this handy system works properly by ensuring there’s an active OnStar subscription and pressing the blue OnStar button. Ask the advisor if they’re able to communicate with your potential used Impala candidate, and if they can ‘see’ it via GPS. If that’s not the case, the system’s GPS module may be in need of replacement. Confirm that the Bluetooth phone system, if equipped, is working properly too, by pairing your phone and making a call.

Review by Chris Chase

Since 2000, Chevrolet’s Impala has been one of General Motors’ best sellers in the family sedan class. Its simple styling, spacious interior and strong V6 engines have made it popular with drivers looking for an economical, affordable and comfortable way to get around.

In early cars, engine choices included 3.4-litre and 3.8-litre V6 engines. An SS trim added in 2004 got a supercharged version of the 3.8-litre motor.

The updated 2006 model got new engines: a 3.5-litre V6 replaced the 3.4-litre, and a 3.9-litre V6 was added in 2007. The SS model used GM's small block 5.3-litre V8. All Impalas used a four-speed automatic transmission.

For 2010, the SS and its V8 engine were discontinued, and in 2012, the 3.5 L and 3.9 L engines were displaced by GM's 3.6 L V6. As well, the four-speed automatic paired with those old engines was dropped in favour of a standard six-speed.


GM's V6 engines are known for decent fuel consumption, and the Impala was no exception here. In 2002, the 3.4-litre model earned Natural Resources Canada ratings of 11.0/6.7 L/100 km, (city/highway) while the 3.8-litre model was rated at 12.6/7.9 L/100 km. The supercharged SS model was rated 13.4/8.2 L/100 km.

In 2007, ratings for 3.5- and 3.9-litre models were very similar, at 11.5/7.2 and 11.9/7.5 L/100 km, respectively. The small block powered SS was rated at 12.9/8.1 L/100 km.

Fuel consumption for the 3.6 L/six-speed combo was rated 11.7/6.7 L/100 km.

Of all of the engines offered in the Impala, my favourite is the 3.8-litre, for its well-documented durability. The older 3.4-litre V6 is one of the engines known for troublesome gasket leaks. The newer 3.5- and 3.9-litre engines used from 2006 on are based on the 3.4-litre's design, but to my knowledge, GM addressed the gasket issues in these motors, so they should prove durable in the long haul.


Check this site for more info on common problems with the Impala's four-speed automatic. (Click on the “4T65E Info & Problems” tab at the time of the page for a list of known problems.) This page details a couple causes of outright four-speed failures, which are not uncommon.

An Impala transmission that gets stuck in park is likely caused by the brake-shift interlock solenoid, which can short out.

The 2012 model's six-speed transmission is the 6T70 model that GM co-developed with Ford. There's no evidence of problems (yet) in the Impala, but this is the same gearbox that has proven problematic in the 2010-2012 Ford Fusion and 2009-2012 Escape.

An external coolant leak from a 3.5 or 3.9 L engines could be related to this technical service bulletin, issued to address leaking cylinder head gaskets.

A check engine light triggered by the evaporative emissions system could be caused by a bad vent valve, located at fuel filler neck, behind the rear quarter panel. According to this thread and this post in particular, it's a pretty easy and inexpensive fix.


Problems with the instruments (speedometer, tachometer, etc.) are common in the Impala; see this thread for a few suggestions.

Other notable trouble spots involve brake rotors prone to warping, premature brake pad wear and poor-quality body hardware and interior components, all of which are typical of GM products from this era.

Consumer Reports' used vehicle rating depends on model year; its overall opinion of this car's reliability varies from average to much worse than average.

The Impala’s crash safety record is excellent – even without the optional side airbags, this big sedan has earned five stars from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for driver and front passenger protection in frontal impacts and four stars for front and rear seat occupants in side impacts. Likewise, the Impala earned a “good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in that organization’s frontal offset impact test.


The redesigned 2006-and-newer Impala earned an "acceptable" rating from the IIHS in frontal offset testing, until structural enhancements for cars built after December 2010 that helped the car earn a “good” rating from then on. All Impalas got a "good" rating in side impact tests. From the NHTSA, the newer car earned five stars all around, except for a four-star rating in rear side side impact protection.

Despite its standard V6 power, the Impala comes in far less expensive than most similarly-equipped import family sedans - even those with four-cylinder engines. A 2010 Impala is worth several thousand less than an Accord or Camry; the margin is much narrower between the Chev and Hyundai's Sonata, but that Korean sedan is still worth more.

At face value, a used Impala is a fantastic deal for a big, comfortable sedan, but its questionable build quality makes it a car best approached with caution. If you're willing to take that chance, look for a car that comes with detailed service records and evidence that it was very well maintained. Newer models with some factory warranty remaining would be the best cars to consider.

Pricing

Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) May, 2012:

Year
Model
Price today
Price new
2012
Impala LT
N/A
$29,115
2011
Impala LT
$18,725
$28,305
2010
Impala LT
$15,525
$28,215
2009
Impala LT
$13,275
$27,495
2008
Impala LT
$11,450
$27,195
2007
Impala LT
$10,200
$26,530
2006
Impala LT
$8,425
$26,200
2005
Impala LS
$7,625
$30,345
2004
Impala LS
$6,900
$30,995
2003
Impala LS
$6,350
$30,295
2002
Impala LS
$5,625
$29,835
2001
Impala LS
$5,075
$29,430
2000
Impala base
$4,525
$25,595
Online resources
    • For a relatively mundane car, the Impala has a strong following online. Check out GMWBody.com, an "umbrella" site that takes in a number of GM cars that share the Impala's W-Body architecture. ImpalaForums.com deals specifically with the Impala, while the Impala section at ChevroletForum.com is a busy spot.
Recalls

 

  • Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003283 Units affected: 40,3972000:

    On certain vehicles, a combination of a low battery condition and fuel in the upper intake manifold while the ignition key is activated at engine start could cause an elevated rate of manifold over-pressurization events. The operator may experience a loud bang / intake backfire that could rupture the intake manifold, resulting in emitting dust from under the hood and a no-start condition. If this event were to occur, and if an ignition source were present, an engine compartment fire could occur. Correction: Dealer will replace the fuel pressure regulator.

  • Transport Canada Recall Number: 2000196; Units affected: 16,621

    2000: Certain vehicles do not comply with the requirements of C.M.V.S.S. 209 - Seat Belt Assemblies. Vehicles may have seat belt assemblies that will not withstand the force requirements of the standard. In a crash, if the belt buckle fails, there is an increased risk of injury to the occupant. Correction: Suspect buckle assemblies will be replaced.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2001126; Units affected: 9,952

    2001: Certain vehicles equipped with a 3.4L engine and ABS brakes do not comply with the requirements of CMVSS 301 "Fuel System Integrity." A fuel return line can become severed in a frontal collision, resulting in fuel spillage. If an ignition source was present, a fire could occur. Correction: Dealers will install a brake master cylinder bracket that will maintain positioning of the fuel line in a frontal crash.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2001181; Units affected: 11

    2001: On certain vehicles, the airbag sensing and diagnostic modules (SDM) could experience a memory error resulting in the airbags not deploying in a crash situation. In a vehicle crash, a front seat occupant may receive more severe injuries. Correction: Dealers will replace the sensing and diagnostic module.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2002151; Units affected: 14,654

    2002-2003: Certain vehicles may have a driver's side airbag inflator that could fracture at a weld during a deployment. Pieces of the inflator could strike and injure vehicle occupants and the airbag cushion would not inflate fully, reducing the capacity of the bag to protect the driver. Correction: Dealers are to inspect and if necessary replace the driver side airbag module assembly.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003037; Units affected: 28

    2003: On certain vehicles, the driver's side air bag may not deploy as designed, resulting in reduced capability of the air bag to protect the driver. In addition, the air bag inflator may fracture. If this were to occur, pieces of the inflator could strike and injure the vehicle occupants. Correction: Dealer will inspect, and if necessary, install a new driver's air bag.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004198; Units affected: 3,238

    2004: On certain vehicles, two bolts that attach the front brake caliper to the steering knuckle on the left and right front wheel assemblies were not tightened adequately. If too much movement occurs between the caliper bracket and knuckle, the bolt(s) may back out or fracture. Depending on whether one or both bolts back out or fracture, the result can be: 1) locking of the affected wheel during braking and an abrupt steering input in the direction of the locked wheel, 2) reduced braking and noise from the affected wheel, or 3) severing of a brake hose, increased brake pedal travel, and reduced steering control. If this were to occur, it could result in a vehicle crash without prior warning. Correction: Dealers will tighten both bolts to the specified torque.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006138; Units affected: 191

    2006: On certain vehicles, the weld that attaches the passenger seat adjuster to the left floor mounting bracket may be mislocated and not meet strength specification. In a severe vehicle crash, the seat adjuster may separate from the mounting bracket, increasing the risk of occupant injury. Correction: Dealers will inspect the seat adjuster for a specific date code. All seat adjusters found with that date code will be replaced.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006287; Units affected: 145

    2007: On certain vehicles, the fuel tank is missing an adhesive layer that bonds the barrier layer to the outer shell of the tank. With this condition, fuel and/or fuel vapours could seep out between the layers. A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source may result in a fire. Correction: Dealers will inspect and, if required, replace the fuel tank.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2008364; Units affected: 2

    2009: On certain vehicles, the passenger-side airbag inflator was not built to GM's Specification and could fracture during a deployment. Pieces of the inflator could strike and injure occupants and the airbag cushion would not inflate fully therefore reducing the capability of the airbag to protect the passenger. Correction: Dealers will install a new passenger-side airbag.

    Transport Canada Recall Number: 2009105; Units affected: 128,726

    2000-2003: On certain vehicles equipped with a 3.8L naturally aspirated engine, degradation of the front rocker cover gasket may result in eventual oil seepage. Under hard braking, drops of engine oil may be deposited on the exhaust manifold. If the manifold is hot enough and the oil runs below the heat shield, it may ignite into a small flame and, in some instances, the fire may spread to the plastic spark plug wire channel and beyond. An under-hood fire could result in property damage, personal injury or death. Correction: Dealers will remove the spark plug wire retention channel at the front of the engine and install two new-revised spark plug wire retainers.

A popular used-car buy when affordability, size, space, comfort and power are priorities, the last-generation Chevrolet Impala was available 12/9/2015 10:08:58 PM