The Monte Carlo midsize coupe is entering the last model year of its current iteration, with a redesign due for 2006. For 2004, Chevrolet took a bold step forward in performance by tucking a supercharged V-6 into the Supercharged SS (Super Sport) model. The SS edition features race-inspired styling and has been available ever since the model was redesigned for the 2000 model year.
Developed by General Motors' Performance Division, the Supercharged SS uses a 3.8-liter V-6 that produces 240 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque. Fog lamps and a race-inspired spoiler are installed on the Supercharged SS, and the six-instrument dashboard cluster includes a supercharger boost gauge. Front and rear spring rates are stiffer, and stabilizer bars are thicker.
In addition to the Supercharged SS, the 2005 lineup includes an LS model with a 180-hp, 3.4-liter V-6 and an LT version with a 200-hp, 3.8-liter V-6, which replaces last year's non-supercharged Monte Carlo SS. Newly available 17-inch diamond-cut cast-aluminum wheels for the Supercharged SS have a chrome finish. GM's OnStar communication system is standard on all models.
In addition to a short-deck profile, all Monte Carlos exhibit 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 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 LT models ride on 16-inch tires.
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.
All major controls are large, handy and well lit at night, but the interior contains plenty of cheap-feeling plastic.
Under the Hood
The LS coupe uses a 3.4-liter V-6 that produces 180 hp. A supercharged 3.8-liter V-6 in the Supercharged SS coupe makes 240 hp and 280 pounds-feet of torque, while the non-supercharged 3.8-liter V-6 in the LT model is rated at 200 hp. Each engine teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes are optional on the LS coupe and standard on other models. A side-impact airbag is optional for the driver's side.
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. But the Monte Carlo feels like a sportier machine.
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. Maneuverability is acceptable, and engine noise is nicely muted. This coupe feels solid and tight, but it's not up to European standards.