1991 Chevrolet Caprice Classic

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$2,381–$4,933
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Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 1 of 2

By 

Orlando Sentinel

Many people (including me) laughed when Motor Trend magazine named the Chevrolet Caprice Classic LTZ its Car of the Year.

Chevy's new Caprice has been called everything from a beached whale to a jellybean on wheels. To be sure, the car's styling is different and definitely provocative for a Chevrolet.

Nearly everyone I have talked to about the Caprice has an extreme opinion: they either love it or they hate it. An informal survey suggests that older drivers tend to approve of the Caprice's styling more than younger motorists.

The fact is, if you laughed at the Chevy Caprice, the joke is on you.

The Caprice Classic LTZ is magnificent in its performance, fit and finish, road manners and handling.

You might not like its styling, but even a quick trip around the block is enough to provoke a flurry of second thoughts. Brand loyalty these days is on the way out. Smart car buyers know that almost every car is well-built and reliable. Today, car buyers appear motivated by value for the money - and that is what helps make the Caprice a winner.

For the price of a loaded Honda Accord SE, you can have a full-size, V-8-powered American car that gets about the same gas mileage as the Honda, gives better performance, comes with a driver's side airbag and is a pleasure to drive.

ENGINE, PERFORMANCE

The Caprice LTZ is powered by a 170-horsepower version of Chevy's venerable 305-cubic-inch V-8. Chevrolet engineers have been tweaking and tuning this engine since it went into production nearly 20 years ago.

In the Caprice, the fuel-injected, 5.0-literengine makes a faint humming sound under heavy-duty acceleration; otherwise it is practically silent. The engine is smooth and powerful up to the 5,000 rpm redline.

The Caprice - in all models - is available with only one transmission: GM's four-speed overdrive automatic, one of the best automatics available. The gear ratios, combined with the engine's ample torque, allow for energetic departures from stoplights as well as relaxed cruising.

The LTZ packs two major surprises: performance and handling. It's unexpected when something as unwieldy looking as the Caprice performs as well as it does.

STEERING, HANDLING

Rear-wheel-drive cars weighing more than 2 tons traditionally have handled about as well as a barge. The Caprice Classic LTZ is a rear-wheel-drive car that weighs better than 2 tons but can slice through curves without squealing tires and without tossing occupants and cargo from side to side. The LTZ's handling is tight, smooth, predictable and solid.

Much of the difference between the LTZ and the regular Caprice is in its suspension system. The LTZ basically is a police car - minus the high output 350 V-8. (Chevrolet is not offering the 5.7-liter 350 engine that is in the police Caprice to the public.)

''People have been asking us why we don't refine the police car and make it available to civilians. So we asked ourselves, why not,'' said Jim Perkins, Chevy's general manager.

The LTZ's rear-end ratio allows the car to accelerate quicker than regular models. There are also heavy-duty brakes, a heavier frame, different tires, a bigger radiator and a transmission oil cooler.

FIT, FINISH, CONTROLS

The test car had a light blue cloth interior. Leather is optional. The LTZ's instrument panel is different than the standard Caprice's. The speedometer is a big electronic instrument; the tachometer is standard analog.

In the past, manufacturers have learned that electronic and analog instruments generally don't live well together. But in the Caprice, it seems to be a happy marriage.

There are hidden cup holders in the dash. The LTZ comes loaded with standard items such as rear window defroster, power seats, windows, door locks, AM-FM cassette stereo and other amenities.

The seats are as comfortable as cloth-covered bench seats canb . To test a car, I try to schedule at least two 2-hour trips so I can tell whether the vehicle is comfortable on a long haul. The Caprice was.

Because the Caprice is fitted with a driver's side air bag, GM's awkward passive restraint seat belts are not used. The regular three-point belts fit snugly and don't cut across the necks of either the driver or the passenger. The rear seat belts, however, need work. Because the belts are positioned at an odd angle, large adults might have a hard time getting comfortable.

Interior room is excellent.

Styling trends come and go. What really matters is how well a car is put together, how well it handles and how dependable it is. Before you write off the Caprice because you don't like its looks, take the LTZ for a test drive. You may be surprised.


    Expert Reviews 1 of 2

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