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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
April 21, 2003
Vehicle Overview Except for newly available XM Satellite Radio, four new body colors and fresh five-spoke wheels, little is new for Chevrolets 2003 Monte Carlo midsize coupe. Remote keyless entry has been added to the LS model, and a Smokers Package is now available. A high-performance SS model is also available.
Redesigned for the 2000 model year with bold, race-inspired styling, the two-door Monte Carlo has served as Chevrolets entrant into NASCAR racing, though the stock car has nothing mechanically in common with production models. Its dramatic profile belies the Monte Carlos kinship to the automakers full-size Impala sedan. At the Chicago Auto Show in February 2003, Chevrolet announced that a 240-horsepower supercharged V-6 engine will power the 2004 Monte Carlo SS.
In addition to its short-deck shape, the Monte Carlo exhibits a unique appearance that includes a longer sloping hood, distinctive C-pillars, and a different grille and headlights than the Impala. Character lines are etched into the front fenders and rear side panels. Vertical taillights and badge lettering are reminiscent of those installed on Monte Carlos of the 1970s.
Measuring 197.9 inches long overall on a 110.5-inch wheelbase, the LS and SS models ride on 16-inch tires. The SS coupe includes a firmer suspension, fog lamps and a rear spoiler.
Five occupants fit inside the Monte Carlo; bucket seats are equipped in the front. The roomy coupe is wide enough to hold three passengers in the backseat, but its actually shaped for two. A standard 60/40-split rear seatback folds down to supplement the trunk, which has a 15.8-cubic-foot capacity.
The dashboard is nearly identical to the one in the Impala. All major controls are large, handy and well lit at night. On the negative side, the interior has plenty of lightweight, cheap-feeling plastic.
Under the Hood
The LS uses a 3.4-liter V-6 engine that produces 180 hp, and a 200-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 goes into the SS coupe. Both power plants team with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes are standard. A side-impact airbag is installed on the drivers side of the SS coupe.
Despite its shapely profile, the Monte Carlo drives a lot like the Impala, which is no surprise considering how much the two models share mechanically. However, the Monte feels like a sportier machine. Its two doors are much larger and heavier than the Impalas, and they require a lot of room to open fully.
In nearly every aspect, the Monte Carlo especially the SS version ranks from good to excellent, but not exceptional. The Monte Carlo is truly American throughout, and it features a strong powertrain and delivers a relatively smooth ride on most surfaces. But the SSs firm suspension doesnt react in a totally controlled manner over seriously rough pavement.
Occupants enjoy abundant interior space, but thick rear roof pillars can hinder over-the-shoulder visibility. Automatic-transmission performance is smooth and easy, and theres only brief hesitation when downshifting. Despite a rather heavy feel all around, this coupe is easy to drive, but it suffers from slightly numb steering. Its maneuverability is acceptable, but it cant qualify as truly agile. Engine noise is nicely muted. The Monte Carlo feels solid and tight, but its not up to European standards.