You may remember a small independent film called Drive, where Ryan Gosling stars as a getaway driver and stunt man. The film featured several notable cars, including the 2011 Ford Mustang GT with its first iteration of the legendary Coyote 5-liter V8 and a 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle as Gosling’s character’s daily driver. However, all the attention at the beginning of the film went to a modest 2010 Chevrolet Impala LTZ. It’s even in average, run-of-the-mill silver paint.
When Gosling’s character gets a hold of it, his colleague (played by Bryan Cranston) describes the Impala as the most popular car sold in California. This particular example has 300 horsepower. While it may not have been the most popular car sold in California at the time, the car certainly did not have 300 horsepower from the factory. Let’s see what it would take to recreate Ryan Gosling’s 2010 Chevrolet Impala LTZ.
No V8 Chevrolet Impala for 2010
Prior model years had the Chevrolet Impala with an SS badge, equipped with a 300-horsepower 5.3-liter V8. That could explain Gosling’s 300 horsepower, but 2010 did away with the SS badge and the V8 with it. The 2010 Impala with LTZ trim got a 3.9-liter V6 that made 230 horsepower from the factory. That’s a 70-hp deficit to what Cranston’s character claims his Impala had.
How did Cranston squeeze 300 horsepower out of Gosling’s Chevrolet Impala?
After Gosling’s character obtains the Impala from Cranston, he uses it to help some criminals escape a robbery, so we get plenty of time to hear what the engine sounds like. There’s no apparent turbo spool or supercharger whine, so we can be sure the engine isn’t using forced induction. The engine is loud, but that may be mostly due to sound design.
The 2010 Impala used either an LZ9 or an LGD. The former was a pushrod engine with variable cam timing and a wide powerband. The LGD was a flex-fuel engine, which means it could have gotten some extra power from E85, but by all accounts, this car had the LZ9. That means it could potentially gain horsepower from a 3” exhaust. At the moment, there’s only an exhaust from Magnaflow selling for $1,000, and it’s 2.5”, but it could be a high flow system.
An ECU tune would be ideal
The next step would be an ECU tune. Trifecta Performance was selling tunes for the 3.9-liter, but they are no longer available. Could it have handled the power? Gosling only drove the suped-up Impala for a few miles, so it’s possible. The LZ9 was part of GM’s High-Value engine family, which used cast iron blocks and aluminum cylinder heads, so it would have been robust enough to handle the power, if even for a short while. If Cranston couldn’t get the power from a tune and an exhaust, he would have had to do some severe work on the engine, like boring out cylinders or fitting a stroker kit.
According to some Impala owners, the aftermarket scene for the 3.9-liter V6 is a dried well, and the Buick 3800 is a far superior engine in terms of aftermarket options. If you were to recreate Ryan Gosling’s 300 horsepower 2010 Chevrolet Impala, you might have to opt for the 3800 V6.