Had someone said, 25 years ago, that SUVs would be the be all and end all of the automotive industry, they’d have been packed off into the boot of a large saloon and never been heard of again… But, saloons don't rule anymore - in fact, they’re on the verge of extinction. We have already lost nameplates such as Ford’s Taurus and Fusion, Chrysler’s 200, Chevrolet’s Malibu and Cruze and now another model from the gold bowtie is being shown the door – the Impala…
The famous name came along in 1958 and was used on coupes, convertibles, saloons and wagons and this helped to make it one of the best-selling in the US. At its peak in the early Sixties, over 1 million were sold but its popularity has been fading (it was last a chart topper back in 1978) and this year, just 35,000 left dealerships due to car buyers continuing to prefer larger SUVs and CUVs.
So, ten generations and dozens of memorable editions later, the Impala is meeting its demise with the last cars set to roll off the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant on February 28 next year. It’s gone on hiatus twice before (1985 and 1994 and again between 1996 and 2000), but a comeback doesn't seem as likely due to the lack of demand for large saloons. Its discontinuation this time around looks like it’ll be permanent unless trends are to change again, which doesn't look like happening anytime soon...
In memory of the Impala, one America’s most iconic models, we take a little look back at all 10 generations...
First Generation (1958)
The Chevrolet Bel Air Impala was the one that started it all. Featuring flared tail fins and X-frame chassis, it was built to commemorate Chevrolet’s 50th anniversary of building cars. It came stock with a 4.6-litre V8 engine.
Second Generation (1959 – 1960)
Released as its own line, it featured a significant redesign over its predecessor. It packed cruise control, as well as six-way power seats.
Third Generation (1961 – 1964)
Tail fins wouldn’t be seen after this generation as Chevy would go for a more subtle look. It had a big-block 6.7-litre V8.
Fourth Generation (1965 – 1970)
Notable changed included curved, frameless side glass, a sharper angled windshield and a redesigned full-coil suspension. The car came stock with a 4.1-litre six-cylinder, or nine different V8s ranging from 4.6-litre to 7.4-litre options.
Fifth Generation (1971 – 1976)
It grew to near-Cadillac proportions. The 1972 model was the last Impala convertible.
Sixth Generation (1977 – 1985)
It was downsized but still had loads of headroom and cargo space.
Seventh Generation (1994 – 1996)
Unseen for almost seven years on the Chevy production line, the Impala was resurrected and featured a sport-tuned suspension. It came loaded with a 5.7-litre V8 and a four-speed automatic transmission.
Eighth Generation (2000 – 2005)
This front-wheel-drive model was the first Impala to completely drop the triple taillight design seen since 1959. The 3.8-litre V6 delivered 240 horsepower.
Ninth Generation (2006 –2013)
It got a tech-centric interior, keyless entry, and a choice of two front bucket or a single front bench seat. The SS (Super Sport) Impala came loaded with a 5.3-litre V8 that produced 303 horsepower.
Tenth Generation (2014 – 2020)
Loosely influenced by the Camaro, Chevy opted for even further upgrades - Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Capability features and wireless charging were just some of the highlights. 2.5-litre four-cylinder produced 196 horses and a 3.6-litre V6 made 260.