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Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS (2001)

SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 22,400
     Price As Tested                                    $ 26,888
     Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 231 cid/3791 cc
     Horsepower                                   200 @ 5200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               225 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  110.5"/72.3"/197.9"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3566 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  17.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                         P225/60R16 performance
     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


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            20/30/25
     0-60 MPH                                        7.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          15.0 seconds @ 89.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           130 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

The Chevrolet Monte Carlo was introduced in 1969 as a 1970 model, and quickly out-paced its chief competitor in sales that year. It underwent many ups and downs over the years, including a six-year hiatus in the early '90s. But by its 30th anniversary, was back in full production, represented at the top end by our tester this week, the SS.

OUTSIDE - The new Monte Carlo's wide tail-section look is sleek and slippery, and dominated by twin character lines, arched to emphasize the shape of the fenders. It takes some styling cues from the '70's versions with a long, sweeping hood and fenders, and retro moniker badges. The new SS is a large car, with a long front overhang and a short, stubby trunk. Its monotone motif is offset by large, sweeping headlights and black- trimmed mirrors and windows. An optional High Sport Appearance Package includes ground effects below the doors, special wheels, a rear spoiler and stainless steel exhaust tips.

INSIDE - Its interior is a comfortable place with wide front bucket seats. We did, however, wish for more lateral and lumbar support, and that the seat belts had been designed with comfort in mind. The dashboard layout is great, with buttons, knobs and switches all within easy reach. Chevy has added a die-cast magnesium beam that runs under the dash to virtually eliminate cowl shake and vibration through the steering column. There are redundant stereo and cruise control buttons on the steering wheel and dual-zone climate controls that operate using simple slide controls. There's even plenty of room in the back seat for three across, a claim that can't be made by some of the so-called five-passenger sedans on the market today. Standard Monte Carlo SS features include power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, remote keyless entry, fog lamps, tilt steering, a rear window defogger and an auto-dimming inside mirror.

ON THE ROAD - The lower-end Monte Carlo is called the LS and is powered by a a 180-horse 3.4-liter V6 engine. The SS model uses a more powerful 3.8-liter V6 that is shared among many General Motors cars and vans. It makes a respectable 200 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque, all from vintage technology that features pushrods to operate the valve train instead of high-tech overhead camshafts and variable valve timing. It's a solid design that offers good low-end torque for passing and squirting away from stop lights, along with respectable EPA fuel mileage figures. A limp-home mode was added to the standard features list last year. This allows for emergency driving in the event of total coolant loss, such as might be the case if a coolant hose fails. A four-speed automatic transmission is the only gearbox available, and it is a smooth -shifting, logical choice. Traction control is standard on all models.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Large, single-piece body side stampings aid in keeping the unit-body Monte Carlo stiff. A special aluminum cradle keeps the drivetrain attached to the car itself, a weight-savings measure that trims 26 pounds from its overall heft. The suspension layout is pretty standard: struts and coil springs front and rear. The SS model's suspension tuning is stiffer than that of the LS and consequently keeps it flatter in corners but transfers more of the road irregularities to the cabin. In spite of its size, the SS does well on twisting roads, bobbing and weaving only during quick changes of direction. The rack-and-pinion steering system is quick off-center, but doesn't give much road feel and requires some correction during quick maneuvers. When driven hard into a corner, it displays the benign understeer that's prevalent in nose-heavy, front-drive cars. The brakes are four-wheel discs, relatively large in size and fitted with a standard anti-lock braking system (ABS).

SAFETY - Dual dashboard and side-impact airbags, ABS and traction control are standard.

OPTIONS - SS Preferred Group (driver information center, heated outside mirrors), $616; six-way power driver's seat, $305; High Sport Appearance Package, $2,000; leather accent bucket seats, $625; uplevel stereo, $223; heated seats, $120.