Impala LS Municipal 1FL

Chevrolet currently has two police package sedans, the FWD Impala Limited and the RWD Caprice. The FWD Impala, which is actually the previous generation Impala, went out of production at the end of the 2016 model year. The Caprice PPV is coming to the end of its lifecycle soon. That has a lot of fleet managers asking, “What is Chevrolet going to do now?”

Apart from the awesome Tahoe PPV, of course, the short answer is the 2017 Impala LS Municipal 1FL.

The retail 2017 Impala is almost unchanged from its 2014 introduction but one aspect is very new. Chevrolet just introduced the 1FL package for the new Impala and aimed it at the non-pursuit, police administration and municipal segment. This is a pretty good strategy, since admin sedans make up about 20 percent of the average police fleet. While exceptions exist, police admin vehicles are seldom driven in a way that requires the sedan be police-rated and pursuit-capable.

Think of the 2017 Impala Muni as an economical, full-size but Special Service Vehicle-rated sedan. According to GM fleet, “The Impala LS Municipal 1FL is not a police package, and is not intended for uniformed patrol or pursuit driving.” Instead, it is geared toward police admin, detectives, and general municipal duties.

The Impala 1FL Muni will be available at the beginning of the 2017 model year. It will pick up exactly where the old-generation Impala Limited leaves off. The very upscale new Impala will be available at genuine police fleet pricing.


NextGen Impala

The current police Impala Limited is the ninth generation and was remodeled for the 2006 model year. This 2006 to 2016 Impala Limited is built on the W-body platform, which dates back to 1988. It rides on a 110.5-inch wheelbase.

The new Impala Muni is based on the 10th generation version, which was introduced in 2014. This 10th generation Impala is built on the Epsilon platform, which it shares with the Cadillac XTS and current Buick LaCrosse. The Epsilon platform was introduced in 2002 and is GM’s primary, mid-sized, front-wheel-drive platform. It is GM’s highest-volume worldwide platform and comes in Short Wheel Base and Long Wheel Base versions. The new Impala uses the LWB version with a wheelbase of 111.7 inches.

As of 2014, the Impala is the best-selling full-size sedan in the United States. The U.S. News & World Report named the current Impala as the “Best Large Car for the Money.”

The 2006-2016 Impala Limited and the 2014-present Impala are totally different vehicles. They don’t share any body panels or rolling chassis parts. That means none of the police package components developed specifically for the Impala Limited are available for the Impala Admin.

Chevrolet does indeed have the option of a routing the car from the Oshawa, Ontario assembly plant to the nearby Kerr Industries facility for upfitting. Kerr has already performed limited upfitting on the 2014-present Impala. As the factory-authorized upfitter, Kerr is the very best source of information as to what can, or should not, be added to the late-model Impala.

The new Impala has 10 airbags, compared to six for the outgoing Impala. Bluetooth is standard. The new Impala has eight-way adjustable power seats, compared to six-way seats. Size-wise, the two sedans have almost identical interior volumes and passenger dimensions, and almost identical trunk volumes. (The new Impala has an 18.8-cubic-foot trunk.) As for driver ergonomics, the new Impala definitely has a more cockpit-like feel than the old Impala Limited.

So, why not develop a pursuit-rated package for the 2017 Impala? It is a major engineering task to design and develop a police package. The tires, brakes, suspension, and cooling all need development. The whole vehicle needs to be more durable to pass police-specific durability tests.
The police market trends are clear: the use of sedans, especially front-wheel drive sedans, is on the way out. The use of crossovers and SUVs is increasing. Among police package vehicles, the Impala has always had much less market share than the Taurus and the Charger, even though it is lower priced. On the other hand, the Impala has always done well as a full-size, municipal sedan.

GM isn’t planning a pursuit replacement for the police package Impala simply because the percentage of the ‘sedan’ police market is dwindling. Of course, GM already has the bulletproof, police package Tahoe in both 2WD and 4WD.

Muni 1FL Package

The Impala LS Municipal 1FL is based on the LS-trim level. The 1FL Muni package for the 2017 Impala is basically the same trim level as the old Impala Limited, the LS-trim (1LS) level with some exceptions. The fleet-oriented 1FL version is available with some options that are not available on the retail-oriented LS.

The new 1FL designation was required to allow certain high-trim level-only features to be used on a low-trim level Impala. Examples of these stand-alone options are trunk cargo net; fold-down, rear-seat headrests; remote start; and rear Park Assist or backup sensors. (A backup camera is now standard on all trim levels of Impala.)

Most importantly, standard on the police package Impala Limited 9C1/9C3, the 3.6L V6 was not available on the lower trim levels of the retail NextGen Impala. The separate 1FL designation was needed to put the 3.6L V6 in the LS-trim level of the retail Impala. Again, the new Impala solution for admin duties is a specially optioned but still retail sedan and not a police or special service sedan.  

All of the other regular production options that are available with the LS-trim are also available with the 1FL-trim level. The Impala Muni is not available with the option of a vinyl floor covering or vinyl rear seats like the outgoing Impala. Instead, it comes with front and rear cloth seats and carpeted floors. The Impala Muni is available in just four colors: white, silver, blue and black.
Exactly like the LS-trim sedans, the Impala 1FL Muni comes with steel wheels and full dress, wheel covers instead of aluminum wheels. The more durable steel wheel may be a better choice for law enforcement anyhow. The Impala 1FL Muni uses 235/50R 18-inch tires. The outgoing Impala Limited uses 235/55R17 tires. Both Goodyear Eagle RS-A and Firestone Firehawk GT 18-inch tires are available in sizes to fit the new Impala Muni.

2.5L EcoTec I-4

The Impala 1FL Muni is available with two very different engines. The standard driveline is the 2.5L EcoTec I-4 engine and six-speed auto. This four-cylinder engine produces 197 hp and has EPA ratings of 22 mpg City, 30 mpg Highway, and 25 mpg Combined.

Introduced in 2013, the 2.5 L Gen3 I-4 is a dual overhead cam, variable valve timing, and direct injection engine. The LCV-code 2.5L I-4 also uses automatic stop-start technology. Virtually every fuel-saving technology available for gasoline engine is used on this 2.5L I-4 engine.

There may be some confusion with some of GM’s 2.5L I-4 engines. The LCV 2.5L I-4 used in the new Impala Muni requires unleaded gasoline, i.e., it is not E85-capable. In the 2017 Impala line, only the 3.6L V6 is E85 FlexFuel-rated.

We spent a few hours in urban and suburban traffic with an LS-trim level Impala with the 2.5L I-4 engine. The only reason for this drive was to evaluate the 4-cylinder engine under typical police admin driving conditions. We give this powertrain a driving impression grade of “It could be acceptable.” That is a lot different than the “great drivetrain” impression we have from the 3.6L V6.   

The 197-hp, 2.5L I-4 Impala has a 0-to-60-mph time of 8.7 seconds. That is going to feel pretty slow and unresponsive to officers used to the 305-hp, 3.6L V6 that hits 60 mph in just 7.5 seconds. The V6 Impala has always been among the fastest base-engine police sedans.


Auto Stop/Start

Automatic Stop/Start technology became standard on the base 2.5L EcoTec engine in the 2015 Impala. Auto Stop/Start shuts down the engine in certain driving conditions to reduce fuel consumption. This technology improved the Impala’s EPA City fuel economy by 1 mpg or nearly 5 percent.

This 2.5L I-4 currently accounts for more than 30 percent of Impala retail sales, offering 2-mpg to 4-mpg higher EPA fuel ratings than the 3.6L V6. The Impala with the 3.6L V6 engine will not include Auto Stop/Start technology. However, the 3.6L V6 is FlexFuel E85-capable, while the 2.5L I-4 is not.

The Impala is the second vehicle in Chevrolet’s lineup to feature Auto Stop/Start technology, following the segment-first standard inclusion in the 2014 Malibu. That technology improved the Malibu’s City fuel economy by 14 percent. The Stop/Start technology is becoming more prevalent worldwide. A recent report from Navigant Research predicted the worldwide sales of vehicles with Stop/Start technology will grow from 9 million vehicles in 2013 to 55 million in 2022.

Chevrolet engineers developed the Auto Stop/Start in the Impala from extensive experience with GM’s eAssist system and algorithms that allow engines to engage and disengage subtly. “Stop/Start system customers want the engine to start up as quickly and smoothly as possible after a stop,” said Mark Meyers, Chevrolet Global Vehicle Performance Manager. During the development of this technology, a team of software engineers focused on making its operation seamless to the customer.

A big challenge for the team was overcoming ‘change-of-mind events,’ instances in which the driver begins to stop, but then quickly accelerates. The algorithms adapt the system so the starter can fire even if the engine did not fully shut off. The smart software also prevents the system from engaging if the car does not reach 6 mph since its last start, a welcome feature in stop-and-go-driving conditions. The system also considers cabin temperature, humidity, battery charge and other factors when deciding if the engine should come to a stop.

Hardware revisions also have been made. The noise and vibration team worked closely with drivetrain engineers to revise motor mounts to provide the greatest isolation possible from the cabin. Additionally, the team included a larger heavy-duty starter motor to assist with the additional ignition cycles.

The 2.5L I-4 is the clear choice for departments with a green incentive, where maximum fuel economy is the goal, or where the chief wants to be able to say, “All of our patrol cars have V6 engines but all of our Admin cars use four-cylinder engines.”


3.6L High Feature V6

At virtually no extra cost, the optional driveline is the 3.6L High Feature V6 and a six-speed auto. This is exactly the same drivetrain used in the current police-package Impala Limited. The 3.6L V6 produces 305 hp and has EPA ratings of 19 mpg City, 28 mpg Highway, and 22 mpg Combined. When both are powered by the 3.6L V6, the old Impala Limited and the new Impala Muni both have about the same EPA City and Highway fuel ratings. The Gen3 3.6L V6 is the clear choice where patrol-like performance is required.

On the topic of alternate fuels, a CNG bi-fuel version of the 3.6L V6 Impala is available. This CNG-prepped V6 includes hardened valves and seats to withstand the extra heat from CNG. See the online Hendon Media Group Article Archives for complete coverage of this vehicle. CNG is not available on the Impala 1FL Muni. However, the CNG bi-fuel powertrain is available on the 2FL CNG Impala, which uses the same LS-trim level. (The LS-trim level includes the 1LS, 1FL and 2FL CNG.)

Just so there is no confusion, the powertrain warranty on GM police and government vehicles is 5-years/100,000 miles. The first two years of scheduled maintenance is done at no charge by one of 4300 GM dealers. That is the largest dealer network of any car company.


Extended Street Drive

A dozen members of GM's Law Enforcement Product Council (LEPC) spent time in the new Impala during the recent GM Fleet Product Preview. Each member was asked to consider this NextGen Impala as a police admin vehicle. This task went well beyond looking at the ease of entry and exit, driver-passenger roominess, and trunk volume. The focus was on areas where the retail Impala may be driven more aggressively, but still well short of emergency and pursuit driving.
Specific attention was paid to the brakes and powertrain. The clear consensus of the LEPC members was the retail brakes were up to the police admin task. If more braking performance is needed, the easy solution is one of the semi-metallic brake pads offered by a wide variety of aftermarket sources.

The Impala 1FL on display at the Police Fleet Expo – Columbus, our week-long Test & Evaluation vehicle, came from the factory with H-speed rated Firestone Firehawk GT tires. These high-performance, All-Season tires are quite similar to the Firestone Firehawk GT Pursuit tire specifically designed for police package sedans and SUVs. During our time with the Impala, these tires performed extremely well.
The Impala test car had the 3.6L V6, which is the current police package engine. This was rated by LEPC members as clearly more than enough power for the police admin use. As a reference, the outgoing Impala Limited has a 170-amp alternator. The 2017 Impala 1FL Muni with either the I-4 engine or the V6 engine uses a 150-amp alternator. This standard 150-amp alternator was felt to be able to handle the limited amount of admin-oriented upfit gear.
Based on our driving time at the Fleet Product Preview, the V6 Impala has plenty of power, excellent handling, and capable brakes for the police admin role. It has the same occupant room and cargo volume as the outgoing Impala. Not that it matters on a non-pursuit rated sedan, the Impala Admin has tires speed-rated for 130 mph. We lifted off the throttle at just over 120 mph.

Muni Driving Impressions

We spent a full week with the Impala 1FL Muni. This was the one first unveiled by GM Fleet at the Police Fleet Expo – Columbus. We have had considerable experience with the Impala Limited in admin roles. With all due respect to the 2006-2016 Impala Limited, the NextGen Impala is built on a much more advanced platform and is a better vehicle in every way.

From frequent entry-exit and overall visibility, to low-speed maneuverability and high-speed handling, to engine responsiveness and seat comfort during long driving, the new Impala is an excellent admin sedan.

Of course, none of the driving impressions were a surprise since the Impala is Chevrolet’s most upscale sedan. That said, GM Fleet had to do a real magic act to get this $30,000 MSRP full-size sedan down to police fleet prices. They did indeed do that. Prices are set by the local dealer and vary state by state. However, expect the fleet incentive transaction price to be just 17 percent higher than the old Impala Limited, all else equal. The new Impala is way more than a 17 percent better vehicle.

The Impala is the best-selling full-size sedan in America. With the 1FL package, it is one of the lowest priced, full-size sedans in America. You have the choice of a V6 high-performance engine or an I-4 maximum fuel economy engine. All that makes the Impala LS Municipal 1FL worthy of a look for any admin task.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Sep/Oct 2016

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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