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SEE ALSO:Chevrolet Buyer's Guide

The return of the Chevrolet Monte Carlo nameplate last summer marked the reappearance of one of its more popular muscle car names of the early seventies. The first Monte Carlo was a classic American muscle car of its day. In SS form it was big, weighing 3500 pounds, with a six-foot-long hood and a big 454 cubic inch V8 motor rated at 360 horsepower. Between the EPA's first emission requirements and the fuel embargo of the early seventies the Monte Carlo was gradually reduced in both size and power. Finally, in 1988, the rear-wheel drive Monte Carlo was discontinued. It was replaced by the front-wheel drive Lumina Coupe. For the 1995 model year the Lumina line was completely redesigned and the two-door model picked up the Monte Carlo nameplate. It made its performance debut as the pace car for the first NASCAR Brickyard 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last summer. It is also the nameplate under which Chevy NASCAR racers run.

The latest Monte Carlo is available in two editions, the LS and the Z34. Except for some trim highlights, both models are almost identical in appearance. The real difference is under the hood, where each has a distinctive engine. The Z34 V6 features a 210 horsepower, 3.4 liter, 24 valve, double overhead cam engine. It is the modern heir to the muscular Monte Carlo SS. The LS, this week's test car, continues the tradition of the first Monte Carlo Luxury Sport. It also has a V6 engine, but utilizes pushrods and overhead valves to develop 160 horsepower. Both versions use the same transmission, an electronically-controlled Hydra-Matic 4T60-E transmission, and share many body parts and assemblies. The newest Monte Carlo coupe has over 800 fewer parts. About 60 percent of its components are new, and it carries a considerably higher level of standard equipment.

APPEARANCE: The Monte Carlo LS is a good looking two-door coupe with classic lines. Its rounded-wedge shape is emphasized by a brilliant monochrome paint finish with black trim around all widows. The low narrow grille is flanked by oval wraparound headlights, while the side rub strips give protection from the front to rear wheel wells. Its bumpers and rocker panels are plastic coated. The optional 16-inch body colored alloy wheels and Goodyear Eagle GA Touring tires add class.

COMFORT: Many items that were formerly optional are now considered standard on the Monte Carlo. Among these comfort amentites are air conditioning, power door locks, AM/FM/cassette sound system, and a theft deterrent system. The doors open wide for easy access to the rear seats, which are contoured for two, and fold down when more storage area is needed than the spacious, flat and low liftover trunk allows. Manually adjustable front seats are also contoured for two, and the shift lever is mounted on the steering column. The standard HVAC (heating, venting and air conditioning) system easily maintains a comfortable air flow and temperature in the cabin. It is easy to set and tune the sound system as it puts out excellent tone and fidelity. The recessed instrument panel has easy-to- read instruments, and the controls are in the correct place. Its a well thought out cabin.

SAFETY: The Monte Carlo's strong steel unit body construction provides a rigid platform for the suspension and steering systems. It is also equipped with side guard beams and additional side impact structure, in addition to front and rear crush zones and five mile-per-hour bumpers. A complete stainless steel exhaust system provide longer muffler and pipe life and reduces the chance for leaks. All body panels except the roof are galvanized on both sides for corrosion protection. Driver and passenger air bags are standard, as are front shoulder harness adjustments and three-point seat belts.

ROADABILITY: The LS presents a quiet, smooth and stable ride. It is fitted with four-wheel independent suspension utilizing front and rear stabilizer bars and touring-ride SE1 suspension. Power rack-and-pinion steering and all-wheel anti-lock brakes are standard, and further insure responsive, predictable handling. The optional Goodyear Eagle GA P225/60R16 all-season touring tires further ensure good road contact. Highway and interstate driving display its smoothness, while city streets and pot holes show off its stronger structure. New insulation and soundproofing assure a quiet ride.

PERFORMANCE: The LS version is equipped with the 3100 SFI (sequential fuel injected) V6 mated with a 4T60-E electronically controlled automatic transmission. This overhead-valve, pushrod, 12- valve engine develops excellent low-end power and torque for accelerating, merging, and passing. When more power is required, the overdrive gear is easily locked out.

CONCLUSION: The Monte Carlo LS is another example of the Genuine Chevrolet program. This well-appointed car features new interior and exterior styling and an improved powertrain.


       Base Price             $ 16,770 
       Price As Tested        $ 18,417
       Engine Type            V6, ohv-pushrod, sfi
       Engine Size            3.1 liter/191 cid        
       Horsepower             160 @ 5200                         
       Torque (ft/lbs)        185 @ 4000 
       Wheelbase/Length       94"/162"
       Transmission           four-speed ECautomatic w/overdrive
       Curb Weight            3300  
       Pounds per Horsepower  21
       Fuel Capacity          17
       Fuel Requirement       Unleaded regular (87 oct)              
       Tires                  Goodyear Eagle GA P225/60R16 M+S
       Brakes                 antilock-standard  disc/drum 
       Drive Train            Front engine/front drive 
       EPA Economy - miles per gallon   
         city/highway/observed        19/29/21.1
       0 to 60 mph                    9.4 sec  
       1/4 mi (E.T.)                  17.0 sec 
       Coefficient of Drag  (Cd)      .32