New Car Review

1998 CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO Z34

by Matt/Bob Hagin

chevrolet

SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 19,275
Price As Tested                                    $ 21,815
Engine Type                OHV 2-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SPFI*
Engine Size                                 231 cid/3791 cc
Horsepower                                   200 @ 5200 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               225 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  107.5"/72.5"/200.7"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3478 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/two-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            19/30/23
0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17 seconds @ 84.5 mph
Top speed                                           105 mph
     * Sequential port fuel injection

(In his youth, Matt Hagin lusted after a neighbor's Chevrolet Monte Carlo 454 SS. His dad Bob points out that the new "civilized" Monte Carlo hot rod shares only the nameplate with that old Muscle Car.)

MATT - When I was still in junior high school, John Faulkner's cousin had a '70 Monte Carlo Super Sports with a 454 cubic inch V8 and 360 horsepower. He'd take us neighborhood kid for rides in it and really impressed us with how fast it went. I've had a soft spot for Monte Carlos ever since.

BOB - There's been several generations of Montes since then, Matt, and this new version is as far removed from that old road rocket as it is from Dale Earnhardt's current Monte Carlo NASCAR racer. The '70 version packed a huge, low-tech engine and its drive went to its rear wheels while the new one we tried is powered by a transverse-mounted 231 cubic-inch V6 and its power goes to the front wheels. But at that, it's the hot-rod Z34 model which now has an updated 200 horse version of the 3.8 pushrod V6 that's been in GM products for at least a decade. It only has two valves per cylinder and the heads are iron cylinder but if past performance means anything, it should last a long time. The torque rating is up from last year and the acceleration has improved because of it. The Z34 moniker is left over from last year when the car used the somewhat twitchy 3.4 liter twin-cam 4-valve V6 engine. I guess that it was easier to keep the old designation than to explain why the design and displacement of the engine was changed.

MATT - At that, the Z34 has considerably more performance than its stablemate, the LS version of the Monte Carlo. The engine in the LS is only 3.1 liters and the horsepower is a conservative 160. The Z34 has several other special speed items such as disc brakes on all wheels, dual exhaust pipes and larger sway bars front and rear. And although the Monte Carlo is only offered with an automatic transmission, the one in the Z34 is sturdier and designed more for heavy service. Its wheels and tires are bigger too, being 225X60R16 where the LS rolls on 15-inch tires and steel rims. But the LS can be spiffied up with optional 16-inch alloy wheels. The shocks on the Z34 are bigger and calibrated for tighter handling, too. And while they didn't do anything for the performance, I liked the steering wheel-mounted remote radio controls and the optional leather upholstery that were on our Z34.

BOB - I'm glad you liked it but it's my opinion that the $1400 the leather bucket seats and the sun roof cost would be better spent as part payment on the optional OnStar satellite navigation system. Last year this GM option was only available on the Cadillac and it's one add-on that even I approve of. Not only does it produce an area map on the dash-mounted computer screen to guide the driver to a strange address but if the Monte is stolen, it tracks the car as it's driven away. It also calls 911 if the airbags are deployed and if the driver doesn't respond to an onboard signal within a given time period, it puts in a call for an ambulance. If the driver is strapped for cash, it will even locate the closest ATM and if the keys get left in the ignition and the driver's locked out, he or she can put in a coded call to the 24-hour OnStar service desk and the duty person can unlock the doors.

MATT - In truth, the Monte Carlo Z34 is a two-door coupe version of the four-door Chevy Lumina LTZ and it suffers from a pretty cramped rear seat. It's OK for a couple of medium-sized adults but the Chevrolet advertising department is stretching it to call the car a five-seater. It's a coupe designed for people with an active life style and the rear seatback can be dropped down to accommodate a couple of pairs of skis. It's not designed for towing, however, since the recommended towing capacity is only 1000 pounds. In three decades, the upscale version of the Monte Carlo has evolved from being a tire-burning Muscle Car into a very civilized sports coupe.

BOB - Speaking of the Muscle Car Monte of the old days, Matt, don't tell your mother about those rides you took with John's cousin back then. She still worries about you boys.

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