Chevrolet and Geo Cars and Trucks For 1997
By Carey Russ
The heartbeat goes on. Last year was quiet at General Motors's largest division. Not so for 1997. This year may no be quite as busy for the bowtie folks as 1995, when 7 new models were introduced, but the Malibu nameplate is back, the Cavalier, Lumina, and Camaro have new models, and the Caprice and Impala SS are gone to make way for more trucks. Oh, yes, there is a new Corvette on the way. It was unveiled at the Detroit and Los Angeles auto shows in early January, and will be on the road soon.
The name is back, but the new 1997 Chevrolet Malibu shares nothing else with the Malibu of the past. Like its namesake, it is aimed squarely at the midsized competition, both foreign and domestic. It is built on an all-new front-wheel drive platform and is offered in two 4- door models: the base Malibu sedan and the more upscale LS.
The basic Malibu sedan has a high level of standard comfort and safety features, including antilock brakes, fully independent suspension, safety-cage construction, air conditioning, a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, the PassLock theft-deterrent system, and automatically- dimming "theatre lighting". The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder TwinCam engine is standard, with a 3.1-liter V6 optional. The Malibu LS uses the 3.1- liter V6 and has many upscale features as standard equipment.
The wait has been long, but the 1997 Corvette is worth it. The fifth-generation 'Vette was formally introduced to the public at the Detroit and Los Angeles auto shows in early January. It is the newest Corvette ever, in terms of parts used or shared with other cars. The body, chassis, engine, and suspension are all new. The new car is more refined than any previous Corvette, with easier access, more luggage space, and more creature comforts. But us hasn't gotten soft. Performance is increased over that of the previous 'Vette, which was no slouch.
A stiffer frame and new body construction should help banish squeaks and rattles and improve handling beyond the previous car's high limits. Increased chassis rigidity has allowed lower spring rates for greater ride comfort, with no loss of handling ability. And the newest version of Chevy's venerable small-block V8 keeps the bore centers and pushrod valve gear of earlier versions, but little else.
The new engine, known as the LS1, has the same 5.7-liter displacement as the previous LT1 and LT4, but has many internal changes for greater power - now 340 horsepower - and an aluminum block and heads for lower weight. It is currently used solely in the Corvette, highlighting the car's role as technological innovator for Chevrolet.
Other new technologies that see their first Chevrolet use in the 'Vette are electronic throttle control, Goodyear Eagle F1 GS extended- mobility tires with the ability to operate with zero air pressure, hydroformed frame rails, and a balsa wood-composite sandwich floor material that is rigid, lightweight, and strong.
The second-generation Cavalier had been a great success since its introduction in 1995. This may be due to the choices available. The Cavalier is sold in sedan, coupe, and convertible models. To help continue its success, a new version of the Cavalier coupe is offered this year.
The Rally Sport Coupe, already nicknamed the RS, fits between the base coupe and the performance-oriented Z24 in the Cavalier lineup. Mechanically and stylistically, it is also between those two models, with some of the sporty style of the Z24 and the economical 2.2-liter engine of the base coupe.
Other 1997 Cavalier models have minor cosmetic changes.
Happy Birthday! The Camaro turns 30 this year, and Chevrolet is celebrating. A 30th Anniversary appearance package will be offered on the Z28. A white exterior with bright orange racing stripes, and special interior trim make it quite an eye-catcher.
All Camaros have a revised interior, with a new instrument panel and center console. Outside are tri-color taillights, daytime running lights, new alloy wheels, and new paint colors.
The Camaro is offered in coupe and convertible body styles in three levels. The standard Camaro is powered by the 200-horsepower 3800 Series II V6, as is the more fully-equipped RS model. The high- performance Z28 has the classic 5.7-liter LT1 V8 with 285 horsepower under its hood.
Lumina and Monte Carlo
The stars of the Chevy class of '95 are poised to continue their success in 1997. The Lumina sedan lineup will be expanded with the mid-year introduction of the high-performance LTZ model. With its special bodywork and suspension, and 215-horsepower 3.4-liter dual overhead cam engine, it is virtually a 4-door version of the Monte Carlo Z34 coupe.
All Lumina and Monte Carlo models have daytime running lights and a variety of engine and transmission enhancements for 1997.
The economical little Geo Metro series of hatchbacks and sedans has some new convenience features and new exterior colors for 1997.
The Geo Prizm is built at NUMMI in Fremont, CA. Available in standard and LSi trim levels, it gets standard power steering, new interior trim, and new exterior colors this year.