New Car/Review

1997 CHEVROLET LUMINA LTZ

by Matt/Bob Hagin

chevrolet

SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 19,445
     Price As Tested                                    $ 23,909
     Engine Type                             3.4 Liter V6 w/SFI*
     Engine Size                                 206 cid/3376 cc
     Horsepower                                   215 @ 5200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               220 @ 4400 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  107.5"/72.5"/200.9"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3915 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  16.6 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/60R16
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                 90 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            17/26/21          
     0-60 MPH                                        9.7 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     17.3 seconds @ 79.4 mph
     Top speed                                           115 mph
     * Sequential fuel injection

(The Chevrolet Lumina LTZ is the only performance sedan in the Chevrolet lineup. Bob Hagin misses the thunder and torque of its V8 ancestors, but son Matt says it's the way of the future.)

MATT - This new Chevrolet Lumina LTZ is a rare car, Dad, and we were lucky to get into a pre-production model. None of our local Chevy dealers have even had one with the 3.4 liter twin-cam V6 engine. General Motors phased out all its front-engine, rear-drive sedans last year and when it did, it eliminated the 5.7 liter Impala SS sedan which was the last of the big boomers. That left a void in the Chevy lineup and to take the place of the SS, the company put the twin-cam 3.4 liter V6 into its Lumina four-door sedan. It added such performance options as tuned suspension, bucket seats and four-wheel disc brakes, which produced an acceptable alternate. Front-drive high performance V6 sportsters are the norm now.

BOB - It's still a family sedan, Matt, and that's not a bad thing. It has a moon roof, safety rear doors and window locks so my little ones can't get into trouble. Oh yeah, the ever-present GM tilt steering is as easy to use as ever. On the performance side, the LTZ differs from the Base and LS models by having a somewhat more powerful battery and twin tail pipes. And due to the fact that the twin-cam, four-valve engine develops its torque at a slightly higher RPM than the 3.1 single-cam V6 that powers the lesser models, the LTZ axle ratio is slightly lower for better acceleration. This combination gives a 0 to 60 time of 9.7 seconds and a top speed of 115 MPH. These are actually better times than your brother Tom recorded for the Impala SS V8 when he evaluated it in '94. All things considered, the Lumina LTZ is a pretty quick package and gives a good account of itself when it's put up against other sports sedans in its size class - and does it for a lot less money. The company could have done away with that spoiler and not hurt my feelings.

MATT - Dad, there are some "performance" items that are strictly cosmetic and the buying public must like spoilers since its almost a "given" now with sporty sedans and coupes. But there's a lot of luxury items in the Lumina LTZ, too. It carries leather-trimmed bucket seats, the instrumentation is sporting enough to carry a tachometer, and it has its radio controls on the steering wheel. The four-speed automatic transmission could use some updating when it's used in a sports sedan, however, and I would like to see a five-speed manual transmission offered as an option.

BOB - I heard that it was considered and evaluated but the corporate thinking was that in a car like this, a stick-shift would lead to premature clutch failure, Matt. Other American manufacturers have tried it and it created lots of headaches. I understand that a bench front seat is optional with the LTZ, but I think it would crowd things to put three abreast up front. The three-across rear seat is a little on the skimpy side as it is.

MATT - We found that out when we put the baby in the back seat, Dad. It's pretty low and it was tough to get a squirming two-year-old in and out of the child seat. According to the demographics that Chevy has done on the Lumina, this shouldn't be much of a factor since the average Lumina buyer is between 45 and 55 and not too many of them would fit into the new-baby category. And it's about an even split between male and female buyers, while 75 percent of them are married. The average income of the average Lumina buyer is around $50,000, too.

BOB - Matt, I think that Chevrolet is telling me more than I really want to know about the "average" Lumina buyer. I'm more interested in the fact that it gets 21 miles per gallon on the highway which really isn't very good but I guess that the smaller 3.1 liter engine does better. But then the performance suffers.

MATT - I found it interesting that the Lumina can also be had as the SEO 9C3 police package. It doesn't carry the hot engine, however.

BOB - I'll remember that the next time I'm rolling down Highway 5 to Los Angeles and spot a black and white Lumina in the rear view mirror.

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