- The 2014 Chevrolet Impala won't offer a front bench.
- Desire for the once-popular option has decreased.
- The Impala goes on sale next year.
Chevrolet will soon drop the last front bench seat available to US buyers. The automaker recently announced its fully redesigned 2014 Impala sedan will no longer offer a front bench, which was once a staple among vehicles sold in the United States.
The current Impala sedan, which debuted in 2006, was the last vehicle that still offered a front bench seat as an option. Other vehicles that recently discontinued an available front bench include the Buick Lucerne, which was cancelled after the 2011 model year; the Buick Century, which was dropped after 2005; and the Toyota Avalon, which lost the feature when it was redesigned in 2005. That means when the redesigned Impala arrives next year, American car shoppers will no longer be able to spring for a sedan that seats six--once a highly popular feature in American cars.
But while the front bench seat was once revered by car shoppers, it's largely ignored by most of today's buyers. In fact, Chevrolet says only 10 percent of 2011 Impala buyers opted for the sedan's front bench seat, which was available on LS and LT models for $195 extra. And while that means several thousand buyers still chose the 3-across bench seat, the small number likely didn't justify engineering the seat for the all-new Impala. Instead, Impala buyers will have to be content with typical bucket seats on the latest model.
"A lot of people prefer bucket seats because they're sporty, even in models that aren't sports cars," said Clay Dean, GM's director of design, adding that the brand's customers "appreciate having the center console as a convenient place to store their cell phone and other personal items."
But while the center console might offer a convenient place for storage, the bench seat's demise prohibits drivers from getting close with their front seat passengers--a feature highlighted in countless songs, movies and TV shows, primarily from the 1950s and 1960s. It also means car shoppers looking for a vehicle that seats six will almost certainly be forced to turn their attention to an SUV or minivan. Indeed, with the Impala's bench seat gone, the only remaining cars that seat more than five occupants are the Mercedes E-Class station wagon, which offers rear-facing jump seats in the cargo area, and the Tesla Model S, which touts a similar feature behind its second row.
Nonetheless, we don't think too many people will miss the front bench seat, especially as its removal signifies the arrival of an attractive new Impala. That model, which was first shown at last year's New York Auto Show, will go on sale early next year with a starting price between $25,000 and $30,000.
What it means to you: If you're dead set on buying a new vehicle with a bench seat, you'll need to pick up an Impala equipped with the option before the 2014 Chevrolet Impala arrives.