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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
May 14, 2003
Vehicle Overview An SS (Super Sport) edition of Chevrolet’s Monte Carlo midsize coupe has been available ever since the model was redesigned for the 2000 model year; it features bold, race-inspired styling. For 2004, Chevrolet is taking a bold step forward in performance by tucking a supercharged V-6 engine into the Supercharged SS model.
Developed by GM’s Performance Division and scheduled to go on sale in the summer of 2003, the Monte Carlo Supercharged SS gets a 3.8-liter V-6 engine that produces 240 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque. The V-6 in the regular SS develops only 200 hp, and the Monte Carlo LS engine is rated at 180 hp.
Introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2003, the Monte Carlo Supercharged SS gets high-performance Goodyear tires on 17-inch, diamond-cut, cast-aluminum wheels. Fog lamps and a race-inspired spoiler are installed, and the six-instrument dashboard cluster includes a supercharger boost gauge. The spring rates are stiffer in the front and rear, and the stabilizer bars are thicker. The Supercharged SS’s ride height has been lowered by 10 millimeters. A new Sport Appearance Package for the LS includes diamond-cut cast-aluminum wheels; new Winner’s Circle option packages are also available.
Exterior In addition to a short-deck profile, each Monte Carlo exhibits a unique appearance that includes a longer sloping hood, distinctive C-pillars, and a different grille and headlights than Chevrolet’s 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 models ride on 16-inch tires. The new Supercharged SS coupe gets 17-inch rubber.
Interior Five occupants fit inside the Monte Carlo, which has bucket seats up front. The roomy coupe is wide enough to hold three passengers in the backseat, but it’s 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 Monte Carlo’s dashboards are nearly identical with those in the Impala. All major controls are large, handy and well lit at night. On the negative side, the interior contains plenty of cheap-feeling plastic.
Under the Hood The LS coupe uses a 3.4-liter V-6 engine that produces 180 hp. A supercharged 3.8-liter V-6 in the new Supercharged SS coupe makes 240 hp and 280 pounds-feet of torque, while the non-supercharged 3.8-liter V-6 in the regular SS model is rated at 200 hp. Each engine teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Safety Antilock brakes are standard. A side-impact airbag is optional for the driver’s side.
Driving Impressions Despite its shapely profile, the non-supercharged Monte Carlo drives a lot like the Impala, which is no surprise considering how much the two models share mechanically. However, the Monte Carlo feels like a sportier machine. Large doors require a lot of room to open fully.
Occupants enjoy abundant interior space, but thick rear roof pillars can hinder over-the-shoulder visibility. Automatic-transmission performance is smooth and easy, with only brief hesitation when downshifting. Despite a rather heavy feel, the Monte Carlo is easy to drive, but it suffers from slightly numb steering. Its maneuverability is acceptable, and engine noise is nicely muted. This coupe feels solid and tight, but it’s not up to European standards.