I did not like the 1990 Chevrolet Beretta GTZ when I first drove it.
Its guttural engine noises and rasping exhaust sounds are vaguely reminiscent of a loud, rude guest at a party being obnoxious without even realizing it.
The GTZ is uncivilized.
The GTZ is uncouth.
And it’s not something you’d be proud to have valet parked at the opera – or anywhere else for that matter.
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks: Chevy made it that way on purpose.
The GTZ is not meant to impress with style, grace and finesse – Corsica, Lumina, Caprice and others will handle that. The GTZ’s claim to fame is its brute strength and blistering performance. It’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer.
What would a lightning bolt be like if it were harnessed? Probably very much like the 180 horsepower Quad 4 16-valve engine in the GTZ. I honestly can say the only other four cylinder I’ve ever driven that came even close to the Quad 4 was connected to a $45,000 Porsche. And the difference in performance does not warrant the extra $29,000 expenditure – sorry Porsche fans.
If it didn’t sound like a four cylinder, you’d swear it was a V-8. The double overhead cam 2.3-liter engine pulled strongly through its 7,200 rpm redline. The higher you rev it, the louder and meaner it gets, Unlike some four-cylinders, the Quad 4 never loses its composure in the upper rev ranges. GM has made a terrific engine here.
The test car, painted white and fitted with nifty front and rear spoilers, rocker panel moldings and big 16-inch wheels, stuck to the road with a pit bull-like tenacity. The only time I could induce torque steer – and then only slightly – was under hard acceleration while going over a speed bump or railroad tracks. In other words, the GTZ has no trouble handling the high output engine.
The GTZ is one car you can toss into a tight curve and never worry about losing control. It’s well-balanced and is not prone to either understeer or oversteer. The suspension is firm, though the ride is by no means uncomfortable.
I especially liked the five-speed transmission. It’s a European design (Getrag) found in the most expensive cars. Shifts were sure, solid and quick. And the gearing seemed perfectly mated to the engine’s strength. The engine pulled comfortably in every gear regardless of the speed. That makes for easy driving in heavy traffic.
What puzzles me is the fact that the clutch pedal has to be completely buried in the carpet for the engine to start. The GTZ is set up this way so that it can’t be accidentally started in gear. There must be a better way.
Another pedal I had problems with was the brake pedal. Applying pressure to the brakes reminded me of stepping barefooted into a juicy pile of rotten bananas.
The doors also seemed unusually heavy, as if they were connected to the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Generally, the interior is a nice place to be. Controls for the air conditioner, radio and im portant switches are easy to operate and don’t distract the driver’s attention. The test car came equipped with power windows and door locks. There are numerous storage areas to contain little items, and interior lighting is excellent.
Another nice feature is found in the rear seat area. Long items, like skis, surfboards and fishing poles can be stored inside the car when the rear seats are folded forward. The front seats recline and are comfortable and supportive. A hand operated lumbar support allows the driver to configure the seat to his or her liking.
The gauge package contains what you would expect from a high-performance GT coupe: tachometer, oil pressure, volt, and water temperature gauges. All are easy to read and are not obscured by the steering wheel.
This car is not for the timid or the faint-hearted. What you sacrifice in refinement you get back in a double helping of performance.
As I said, I did not like the 1990 Chevrolet Beretta GTZ the firstt me I drove it, but once I found out the car’s true purpose, i t grew on me. For the price, the GTZ’s performance is nearly unbeatable.
In the past, crudeness contributed to part of the charm and popularity of high-performance cars. For some, the rasping of exhausts and the growling of engines is music. If that crowd is still out there, it will find the 1990 Beretta GTZ a most welcome addition to the family.