How do we know that Chevrolet has lost interest in the Monte Carlo? You'll notice that the photo accompanying this review of the base-model Monte Carlo LS is of the top-rung Monte Carlo SS. Chevrolet hasn't bothered to snap a photo of the LS model and post it on the General Motors media Web site since 2003. Had I known that, I would have snapped a picture of the test car, but it came and went before I checked photo availability.
Oh well, if Chevrolet doesn't care, maybe we shouldn't either. The days are numbered for the Monte Carlo anyway. Essentially a two-door Impala, the Monte Carlo's sales can't approach its sedan sibling: In May, Chevy sold 2,660 Monte Carlos and 35,665 Impalas.
How come? Because big two-doors don't sell as well as four-doors. The Monte Carlo is pretty much the last of the breed: Gone are the Pontiac GTO and Grand Prix coupe and pretty much every other comparable domestic. The V-8-powered Monte Carlo SS gets some attention from the performance crowd, due in part to its NASCAR Nextel Cup connection, but next year, all the Nextel Cup Chevrolets will be Impalas.
The Monte Carlo I drove was an entry-level LS model, but it looked pretty sporty. Power on the LS and slightly more deluxe LT is a less-than-cutting-edge 3.5-liter V-6, with a tepid 211 horsepower. The engine's claim to fame is that it can run on gasoline or E85 ethanol, should you live next to one of the two E85 pumps in Florida. (And even if you do, mileage drops from an EPA-rated 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway on gas, to 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway on E85). The only transmission offered is a four-speed automatic.
The test car had a list price of $21,015, and with shipping and one lone, $40 option -- floor mats -- the bottom line was $21,740. Even so, it was reasonably well-equipped: Standard stuff included four-wheel disc brakes (antilock would have added $600), a rear spoiler, cruise control, a tilt steering wheel, keyless entry and, of course, air conditioning and power windows, mirrors and locks. No side airbags.
Inside, though, the Monte Carlo was comfortable and pretty roomy up front, less so in back, but not much worse than most two-doors. Trunk space was generous. Instruments and controls weren't fancy, which is fine.
On the road, handling seemed a little better than a regular Impala, but that could be my imagination. The ride was smooth enough, with little road or wind noise even at highway speeds. One annoyance: You have to watch those big doors in parking lots -- it's easy to nail the car next to you.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with the Monte Carlo LS except for the fact that it's a coupe, and not many people want big coupes anymore. If you want one, get it while it's -- well, not so hot.