Chevrolet long ago embraced the element of the sporting life with its Camaro and Corvette models.

For 1997, Chevy adds a new level of sportiness with its new Lumina sedan.

Called the Lumina LTZ Sedan, this all-new model offers sports car-type motoring for owners who have the need for four doors and a bench-type back seat.

"It's sort of like a hot-rod sedan," said Al Young, president of Dan Young Chevrolet-Geo. "It's like the SS Impala was, except it's a different car."

There are the standard Lumina and Lumina LS models for 1997 that are designed to provide driver and passengers with Chevrolet's ongoing reliable and affordable transportation. But it is the LTZ that causes the sedan to soar to new heights of performance.

On hand is an optional 215-horsepower V-6, a new four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission; high-speed, 16-inch tires for enhanced traction; and exclusive exterior and interior styling themes.

The LTZ is its own Lumina, designed as a driver's car but still offering the comfort and convenience of a five-passenger four- door.

The heart of the Lumina LTZ's performance orientation is its optional 3.4-liter, double overhead-cam V-6 engine.

By upgrading from the standard 3.1-liter V-6 and adding four overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, a quantum leap is made in available power.

The flip side of this performance picture is that those horses take some oats to make them go, with a drop of about three miles per gallon. Mileage for the 3.4-liter is 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. For the 3.1-liter engine, it is 20 mpg /29 mpg.

That, however, is really not too much of a difference considering the power differential between the two motors.

Teamed with the four-cam engine is GM's 4T65-E four-speed automatic.

As a step above the standard 4T60-E Lumina automatic, technical features of the 4T65-E include electronic controls that adjust shift quality and adapt to changing conditions; controls that protect against over-revving the engine in low-range gears and a dual- phase sprocket for the chain system.

In addition, the automatic's Dexron III transmission fluid never needs replacement under normal service.

As a front-wheel drive, both wheels and tires are of great importance in order to control the power. So the Lumina uses P225/60R-16 Eagle RS-A touring tires mounted on 16-inch sport aluminium wheels.

Stopping power is by disc brakes on all four wheels rather than the disc front, drum rear system on the standard Lumina.

To make the LTZ stand apart from its siblings, there are specific front and rear fascia treatments plus stylish bodyside mouldings. Other exclusive styling cues are a rear deck spoiler and LTZ badging.

In the cabin, the sports theme is enhanced by unique LTZ graphics emblazoned on the dash and embroidered on the center of the rear bench seat.

As a five-seater, the cockpit layout is pretty much state-of- the-art, with individual bucket seats separated by a center console. An interesting feature of the instrumentation is low-oil level and wear indicators.

Prices to date are not known, as the model hasn't hit the showrooms just yet.

"I don't know when Chevrolet is going to release the car," Young said. "Maybe next month, maybe in November."