New Car Review


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1996 CHEVROLET LUMINA LS

by Tom/Bob Hagin

SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 18,055
     Price As Tested                                    $ 21,379
     Engine Type                             3.4 Liter V6 w/SFI*
     Engine Size                                 191 cid\3129 cc
     Horsepower                                   215 @ 5200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               220 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  107.5"/72.5"/200.9"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3372 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  17.1 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/60R16
     Brakes (F/R)                              Disc-ABS/disc-ABS
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Six-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                 95 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            17/26/21          
     0-60 MPH                                        8.9 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17.0 seconds @ 83 mph
     Top Speed (Est.)                                        N/A

     * Sequential fuel injection

(Chevrolet is the largest and most complex company in the General Motors lineup. With over a dozen distinct lines, its offerings range from the tiny Geo Metro, to America's only two-seater "classic" sports car, the Corvette. Sitting directly in the middle of this entourage is its Lumina line. Tom Hagin and his dad, Bob, tried this middle-America midsized sedan for a week with some pleasant results.)

TOM - If any sedan made in this country is aimed at the average family, it's the Chevrolet Lumina. With the right seat selection, it will seat three adults up front and three more in the rear. It has optional "kid-proof" door locks, an also-optional built-in kid's safety seat and a sliding feature on the rear shoulder harnesses so that the average 2.5 kids in the back won't have the straps up around their foreheads. Chevy wanted to hit all the bases with this one.

BOB - And if you happen to have your own police force, Tom, you can also opt for the 9C3 Law Enforcement Package that comes with Recaro- brand front bucket seats, heavy-duty suspension, engine and transmission oil coolers and speed-rated radial tires. Or, if you want to pick up some side money on the trip to the office, there's always the 9C6 taxi version.

TOM - I hope that those cop cars come with the hot-rod powerplant that's available, Dad. Otherwise the men-in-blue would be pretty embarrassed trying to catch speeding miscreants with the ho-hum 3.1 liter V6 that's standard equipment. It puts out 160 horsepower and that's enough to go grocery shopping, but it's a little anemic for pursuit work. On the other hand, the optional 3.4 liter V6 is bigger, has another 50 horses, considerably more torque and "redlines" 1000-rpms higher. And to get the performance of the police car without having to go for flashing lights and a star on the door, buyers of the Lumina LS get the sports-tuned FE3 suspension. Wide 16-inch alloy wheels and performance tires are also standard when the car is equipped with this twin-cam engine. The closet-racers will enjoy the dual exhaust, too.

BOB - The LS twin-cam also comes standard with disc brakes on each corner and anti-skid braking is standard as well, but the buyer has to come up with extra money for ABS on the lesser model. With its sports configuration, the Lumina LS has a slightly lower axle ratio which gives it quicker acceleration, but this feature drops the mileage by about 10 percent. If I was a young family guy who had to maintain a veneer of middle-class decorum but has a taste for performance, I really think that the LS with the 3.4 liter V6 option would be worth the money.

TOM - Unfortunately, the family with a boat would need a second vehicle for pulling the trailer since the Lumina's towing capacity is only 1000 pounds - but I suppose that it would be OK if they just had a couple of Jet Skis. The trunk is large enough to carry plenty of vacation luggage and the center armrest doubles as a storage bin, too.

BOB - It's interesting that the Lumina series doesn't have a coupe in its lineup anymore, but according to the spec sheets we got in the Chevrolet promo package, the Monte Carlo coupe is really a Lumina with a different badge and it's only a few pounds lighter. A manual five-speed transmission isn't available on either car, so Lumina buyers will have to settle for the 4T60-E Hydramatic although it's modified somewhat when it's attached to the 3.4 liter twin-cam for better performance. On the more plebeian side, I was mildly impressed with how quiet the interior of our Lumina was at speed and the fact that when the interior noise did increase, so did the level of the sound system. Another nice touch is that it has a low-oil level sensor to warn the driver. With the extended service frequencies that are recommended on new cars, it's sometime the case that a driver won't be aware of running out of oil until the engine blows up.

TOM - Are you implying that modern drivers don't check their oil dipsticks anymore, Dad?

BOB - These are the '90s, Tom. That's why we have "quick-lube" joints on almost every corner.

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