Here's something I never thought I'd get to write: A couple of weeks ago a guy driving a 2012 Hyundai Elantra followed me into a gas station to compliment me on -- wait for it -- the Chevrolet Impala I was driving.
Yep, I am not making this up. He and I had been passing one another off and on for the 50 miles or so down I-26 and then SC 25 between Asheville, NC and Greenville. He'd pass me, get caught behind someone slow and I'd pass him before getting trapped behind a semi or whatever and he'd pass me again. On and on it went.
I was making the 425-mile slog from Louisville, KY home. I didn't leave Louisville with quite a full tank of gas and was cruising on fumes when I pulled into a Sunoco station in Travelers Rest, SC just a few miles north of Greenville. I pulled up to an available pump. As I climbed out, I heard him say over the creaking and groaning of my knee joints, "Man, that's a great looking car. This is the first one I've seen, and it's really hot!"
I thanked him without going into the full explanation that it wasn't my car after all, but a GM press-fleet car. I was in a hurry to get home and figured he didn't really give a rat's patoot anyway. But who would have thunk it? An import owner all gaga over the new Impala.
I have to agree with him, the 2014 Impala is a head turner. If you pried the nomenclature off the sheetmetal and covered up the Chevy bow tie, the uninitiated wouldn't have a clue what it is. It's gorgeous inside and out.
Having put nearly 1,000 miles on it over a long weekend that included a Friday overnight with friends in Knoxville before red balling it on up to Louisville on Saturday morning, I can also testify to its outstanding comfort, drivabilty and performance. Chevrolet finally has a world-class full-size car again.
The one I was driving on this trip was the $35,770 Impala 2LZ. This is the top-end trim level. By the time you tacked on some extras like the 11-speaker Bose surround-sound system and navigation system, this bad boy topped $39,000. However, the entry-level LS is considerably less at $26,725. Even it is loaded with all manner of goodies.
Turning the front wheels via a six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission is a 305-horsepower V6. It gets the Impala up and running in a hurry. According to the trip computer, my fuel economy on this trip that was about 85%/15% highway/city driving said I averaged nearly 29 mpg. That's pretty good considering the speeds I was traveling and the mountain roads I negotiated.
The cabin is absolutely cavernous with lots of front- and rear-seat legroom. The trunk is huge as well -- larger than the mammoth Cadillac XTS.
The reason for my little weekend jaunt was the 50th wedding anniversary of good friends in Louisville. These are folks a few years older than I, but who I spent a lot of time with when I lived in the Derby City. My parents were Godparents to their two boys. Weekends, holidays, birthdays, you name it and we were together drinking beer and acting silly.
The Knoxville stop was because a fraternity brother and his wife recently relocated to Knoxville from Toledo, Ohio. I've spent a couple of weekends with them this year: first at Holden Beach, NC and then at The Reserve about 20 miles west of Greenville. I hoped they weren't sick of me yet as I invited myself to their house on my way to Louisville. Knoxville is close enough to half way between Greenville and Louisville to call it that.
I lived in Knoxville for about 18 months in the early 1980s. I liked the town a lot, but didn't really remember much about it. Arriving around noon on Friday, we headed downtown for lunch. I have no recollection of ever being downtown in the year and a half I lived there. I was blown away. They have an area called the Market District that is jammed with restaurants and bars. A couple blocks of it are closed to vehicle traffic and operate like a pedestrian mall.
We ate at Tupelo Honey's -- one just opened in Greenville. I was impressed with both the food and our server. I had a tasty Nut Brown Ale and purchased the obligatory tee-shirt at the Woodruff Brewing Co.
After dinner later that evening, we returned home and broke out some small batch bourbons. There was enough golden liquid left in a bottle of Jefferson Presidential Select 18-year old for each of us to have a couple of sips. Then my buddy cracked open a bottle of Jefferson Presidential Select 21-year old. Oh, baby! I also got to try some Willett Single Barrel from bottle 190 out of 204 no less.
I was on the road by 9:00 the next morning with a Louisville ETA of 1 pm. Louisville was home to me for close to 15 years. I love it. How could I not? It's surrounded by bourbon distilleries! I've also discovered some wonderful Kentucky microbrews that I always make time for when I'm there.
We had dinner that night at Pat's Steakhouse. It's a Derby City landmark. Located on Brownsboro Rd, east of downtown, it serves mouthwatering, reasonably priced steaks. I never ate at Pat's while I lived in Louisville. I have no idea why. I drove past it 10 times a week as an adult. I lived at three addresses within a mile and a half of the place. This was only my second dinner there ever. It won't be my last.
Founded in 1958, it feels like some old Chicago or Manhattan joint: great ambiance and terrific steaks.
It was an action-packed weekend, but the kicker was the Impala compliment.