Impala is stylish and snappy

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The Chevrolet Impala Midnight Edition, black inside and out, is a head-turner that puts the focus on cool.

As you probably noticed, affordable family sedans don't feature wake-me-when-it's-over styling anymore. That's true of midsize cars like the Ford Fusion and Kia Optima, and large four-doors like the Chevrolet Impala.

Redesigned for 2014 to the delight of the automotive intelligentsia, the Impala is as handsome as it is comfortable. In the case of the tester, an upmarket, V-6-powered LTZ equipped with the new Midnight Edition Appearance Package ($1,195), a good-looking car gets to give the impression that it's up to no good.

The Midnight Edition was probably inspired by an air-raid blackout, or that goth forensic scientist on TV's long-running NCIS. For openers, the car is painted black and upholstered in black. Then, the package substitutes a black grille for the regular chrome one with black, 19-inch wheels for the standard fare, and, of course, the obligatory rear spoiler.

The net result is something of a head-turner that isn't so much sporty as it is cool. And perhaps that's just as well because the Impala is not to be confused with a sport sedan. While it certainly handles competently enough, the Impala is not peddling Corvette cornering. It is offering a pleasing, comfortable, real-world driving experience.

And it's offering those attributes at a reasonable price. The base model, when equipped with the 196-horsepower four, opens at $27,095. The more upscale, heavily equipped LTZ I drove starts at $35,540.

The test car proved well screwed together inside and out. The interior design was clean and clever, and worked well. The only thing I could have done without was the ice-blue ambient lighting, a nocturnal ribbon of light that ran completely around the interior's periphery, meaning it crossed the dash and ran back beneath the window sills to the rear of the cabin.

Since I lost my job as executive assistant to the madam at the House of the Rising Sun (which has been "the ruin of many a poor boy," according to a song sung by the Animals), I didn't really need to be reminded of a past life in the blue-light district.

The Impala is a big car (201 inches long) and the roomy interior reflects that. So does the trunk, which will hold almost 19 cubic feet of stuff.

The tester's leather driver's seat was exceptionally comfortable, and the car was exceptionally quiet. Cruising down I-95 in it was as hushed as hanging out in Napoleon's tomb.

Because it's hardly obese for a big car (3,793 pounds) the Impala wouldn't be the Grinch that stole your gas money. With the four-cylinder engine, it has EPAs of 22 m.p.g. city and 31 highway. With the tester's 3.6-liter, 305-horsepower V-6, it gets ratings of 19 and 29. According to the dash readout, the tester averaged 22.3 in mixed driving.

That V-6 engine is mild-mannered during normal operation but rises to the occasion when you stomp on it. Zero to 60 m.p.h. is accomplished in a little more than six seconds, which is brisk enough.

Driving dynamics are decent enough, on balance. The Impala does feel as big as it is, and the comfort-biased suspension allows a bit of lean in ambitious corners. At the same time, that undercarriage discourages things from getting out of hand, even when the car is pushed in the corners. Also, the Impala exhibits little understeer. Braking is another plus.

The LTZ tester proved a safe car, both in terms of its five-star government safety rating and a full roster of standard electronic safety aids, including forward collision, rear cross traffic, lane departure, and blind-spot alerts.

alhaasauto@aol.com