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1999 Chevrolet Lumina LTZ

by Carey Russ

Chevrolet Full Line factory footage (22:43) 28.8, 56k, or 200k

Midsized sedans are an important part of the automotive marketplace, and Chevrolet has the segment covered with the Lumina. To fill a wide variety of mid-sized sedan needs, three Lumina models are offered for 1999, the base-model Lumina Sedan, the more upscale LS, and the sporty LTZ.

Actually, make that four varieties. There is also a "Police Package" option for certain fleet buyers. No, regular folks can't buy it, but its presence is felt in the Lumina lineup. Because of pursuit duties, police cars need more power and better handling characteristics than plain family sedans. And, power and handling have their adherents in the civilian world, too. A few years ago, Chevy made the Impala SS out of the then-current full-sized Caprice police special. It became a surprising success. The 1999 Lumina LTZ is a car in much the same vein as the Impala SS. It has the same 200-horsepower 3800 Series II V6 engine, heavy-duty 4T65-E transmission, upgraded "Ride and Handling" suspension, and 4-wheel antilock disc brakes as the police package Lumina. But , the police-specific electronics and interior trim are traded for equipment more appropriate for civilian application. Like the police car, the LTZ has front bucket seats and a floor-mounted gearshift. Unlike the police car, the LTZ's back seat is a place in which you might actually want to sit.

The '99 Lumina LTZ that I drove for a recent week did all of its commuting and holiday shopping duties very well, indeed. Its roomy, well-designed interior and trunk were practical; the torquey 3800 V6 and sporty suspension calibration highlighted the car's fun side.

APPEARANCE: The Lumina's gently-rounded body shape and long, arched passenger cabin are the same today as at its introduction in 1995. If it's not at the cutting edge of today's automotive styling, the Lumina is as functional as ever. "Functional" in this case has two distinct meanings. In the everyday world of traffic and shopping malls, the Lumina's long passenger cabin and rounded contours mean plenty of space inside and good visibility. Elsewhere, the Lumina's body shape, and that of it's two-door Monte Carlo coupe twin, was developed with the high-speed NASCAR stock-car racing circuit in mind. It's been very successful there. The Lumina LTZ may be told from its plainer cousins by the grille-less air intake in front, a small, rounded spoiler on the trunk lid, and the blacked-out panel between the taillights. Quad exhausts and five-spoke alloy wheels with semi-low profile tires complete the package.

COMFORT: Befitting its sportier status, the LTZ has front bucket seats and a floor-mounted shift lever instead of the split bench and steering column-mounted shifter used by other Luminas. But, even with the optional leather, it's not ostentatious. The Lumina is a practical car designed for people who spend time in it and don't need to make an external statement. The instrument panel places all gauges and controls in logical, easy-to-use locations. The optional dual-zone climate control system and Delco AM/FM/CD stereo have large, easy- to-use controls. Mittens or gloves in the winter? No problem. Storage spaces abound, with the usual door pockets plus a convenient change and garage-door opener cubby to the left of the steering wheel, and a large glove box. The center console includes both an open CD/cassette holder in the front and a covered box in the rear. The roomy contoured rear bench has very good headroom for a mid-sized sedan. The trunk is conveniently large.

SAFETY: The 1999 Lumina LTZ has dual lower-powered "Next Generation" airbags, reinforced safety-cage construction with front and rear crush zones, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, child-security rear door locks, the PASS-Key II theft-deterrent system, daytime running lights, and a brake/transmission shift interlock as standard equipment.

ROADABILITY: The LTZ is sportier than other Luminas and most other mid-sized family sedans, but it is a ways from being a "sports sedan" by the purist definition. Call it a "sporty sedan" - a family- oriented daily driver that is more fun to drive than most other mainstream mid-sized competitors. Its fully-independent suspension is calibrated a bit stiffer than that of other Lumina models, but is comfortably compliant for real-world use. The standard Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires are grippy for good handling, and don't have the harsh riding characteristics of some performance tires.

PERFORMANCE: The trusty cast-iron, pushrod overhead valve 3800 Series II V6 has found yet another niche for itself in the Lumina LTZ. Compared to the 3.4-liter dual overhead cam V6 that once was the upscale power option for the Lumina, the 3800 has a little less horsepower - 200 hp to 215 hp, and a bit more torque at 225 lb-ft to 220. Sounds like little difference? Numbers are sometimes misleading. The 3800 develops more torque at the lower engine speeds commonly used in everyday driving. Result? Instant power for passing, merging, or spirited driving. The 3800 Series II may not be a high-tech powerplant, but it is an excellent example of appropriate technology. The 4-speed electronically-controlled 4T65-E transmission is smooth and quick in operation, and a good complement to the engine. Real- world fuel economy rivals that of many smaller cars. I saw around 25 mpg in mostly city driving with some highway travel.

CONCLUSIONS: The Lumina LTZ is a high-value family sedan that combines useful space and excellent fuel economy with a sporty attitude.

           1999 Chevrolet Lumina LTZ 

Base Price               $ 20,360
Price As Tested          $ 22,554
Engine Type              12-valve pushrod overhead valve V6
Engine Size              3.8 liters / 231 cu. in.
Horsepower               200 @ 5200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)           225 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission             4-speed electronically-controlled
Wheelbase / Length       107.5 in. / 200.9 in.
Curb Weight              3372 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower    16.9
Fuel Capacity            16.6 gal.
Fuel Requirement         unleaded regular, 87 octane
Tires                    P225/60 HR16 Goodyear Eagle RS-A
Brakes, front/rear       vented disc / solid disc
Suspension, front/rear   independent MacPherson strut /
                         independent MacPherson strut with
                         lateral links
Drivetrain               front engine, front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      19 / 30 / 25
0 to 60 mph                        7.6 sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)                    15.8 sec

                OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Bucket seats with leather seating surfaces,
  full floor console                         $ 645
6-way power driver's seat                    $ 305
AM/FM/CD stereo                              $  93
LTZ Preferred Equipment Group - includes:
  remote keyless entry, power trunk opener,
  driver and passenger temperature control,
  radio controls on steering wheel, front and
  rear color-keyed carpets                   $ 591
Destination charge                           $ 560