Chevrolet says its 2002 Monte Carlo is "classy with a wild streak." The wild streak comes from the car being shaped in the wind tunnel for minimal drag and maximum stability because it of Chevrolet's participation in NASCAR Winston Cup stock car racing. It is no exaggeration to say Chevrolet and Monte Carlo have dominated NASCAR racing since the "modern era" of the sport began in 1972. Since its reintroduction to NASCAR's high-banked ovals in 1995, the Monte Carlo has won five consecutive Winston Cup Series Driver's Championships.
Of course, the Monte Carlo at your local dealership doesn't have the tube-frame or rear-wheel drive of a Winston Cup race car. But it does provide spirited performance in its SS form. And its styling does attract attention. Just don't expect people to cover their ears when you start it up.
Two trim levels are offered. Both come with a four-speed automatic transmission.
LS ($19,985) is powered by a 3.4-liter V6.
SS ($22,785) uses a more powerful 3.8-liter V6, plus upgraded wheels, tires, and suspension.
Though the SS packs more standard equipment, Chevrolet has upgraded the LS to narrow the distance between the two models. For 2002, air conditioning with driver and passenger temperature setting is standard on both models. Electronic traction control became standard on both models last year.
For 2002, a new Enhanced Premium Sound System is available and includes eight speakers and an auxiliary amplifier. Also new for 2002 is a shoulder belt for the middle position in the rear seat and LATCH child seat attachment points.
Available on the SS version is a High Sport Appearance Package ($2100) that includes full ground effects, a race-inspired spoiler, unique aluminum wheels, stainless-steel exhaust tips and a red bow tie identification in the instrument cluster panel.
Monte Carlo is a slick car aerodynamically. However, it looks as if it were designed by a committee. Individual elements are attractive, but we're not quite satisfied with how they hang together as a whole. It looks like how it must have looked when the engineers and designers emerged from the last wind-tunnel session.
In addition its aerodynamic objectives, the Monte Carlo tries to integrate elements from past models. The result is a shape that's like nothing else on the road. Some love it. Others are not attracted to the droopy nose, the flat flanks, the bump in the deck lid and the radical roofline.
However, what you can't see is just as important to the integrity of the Monte Carlo. In that respect, we have to give Chevrolet high marks. Compared to pre-2000 Monte Carlos, this one has been strengthened in the roof, doors, and floor pan. An aluminum front cradle isolates the engine, transmission, steering, and suspension from the main structure of the car. The interior features a cast magnesium beam, called a MagBeam, that fits behind the instrument panel to further increase chassis rigidity and provide a stiff mounting for the dashboard systems. As a result, the latest Monte Carlo is much quieter than any previous generation. Increased chassis stiffness also makes the car less prone to squeaks and rattles over time.
Overall, the interior is a nice design with a sporty flavor that reminds us of Corvettes and Camaros.
The bucket seats are quite comfortable for around-town driving. Their shape makes it easy to get in and out of the car. Both seats are easy to adjust, and there's plenty of range for short and tall drivers. Front-seat passengers will appreciate the power seat option.
The instruments are nicely designed with straightforward gauges that are well laid out and easy to read. One of the best things about Chevrolet design is the uniformly functional instrument layout that has been wrought throughout the product line, from the Corvette to the Silverado pickup. With black backgrounds, white markings and red needles, the look is not only racy in flavor, but also easy to read and scan, with the major and minor gauges placed on slightly different planes to add visual interest.
The ignition switch is conveniently located on the dash, well to the right of the steering wheel. This makes it easy to quickly get in the car and get going, or quickly get out of the car after shutting it off.
Another nice touch inside the new Monte Carlo is its cockpit-style dashboard that houses those new gauges and controls. It separates the driver completely from the front passenger and provides fingertip access to every system in the array. It's a nicely styled package, and it works. The tall center console is a bit intrusive for drivers who like to shift the automatic transmission manually, however, and the T-handle shifter looks dated.
The trunk is large, but the opening is small, making it difficult to load big boxes.
Strong power and surprisingly good grip make the Monte Carlo an enjoyable drive.
The Monte Carlo SS features a thoroughly proven V6 that delivers 200 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque. It may not hold a candle to some of the old V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive Monte Carlos, but it's more than enough to break the tires loose on this front-wheel-drive model. Punch the throttle and there's instant power and lots of it.
GM's popular 3800 engine is probably the most highly developed overhead-valve V6 in the world. With all the refinements that have been baked into it over the years, in terms of valvetrain friction, bottom-end strength and friction, and electronic engine management and fuel injection, this is about as good as it gets for an overhead-valve V6. Couple this engine to GM's excellent four-speed automatic, add all-speed traction control, and you've got yourself a really solid power unit that offers fun as well as decent fuel economy.
The 3400 V6, on the other hand, is a solid unit, but this car isn't quite the same with the smaller engine. In fact, it seems to miss the point entirely. If you're after practicality, maybe you should look at the Impala.
The SS model's Sport suspension works with fat P225/60R16 Goodyear Eagle RSA tires to provide really surprising levels of grip. As a tradeoff for the bite they yield, the tires are a little noisy. The steering is over-assisted in a lot of situations and does not provide as much feedback from the front tires as we would like, but it is tight and accurate. The Monte Carlo has the widest front and rear track in its segment. (The track is the distance between the left and right tires.) Coupled with the tires and suspension, this makes for a platform that is good fun to drive down country roads, boulevards, or highways. In short, the Monte Carlo is stable and responsive, and it handles well.
If you're going to run with the fast guys, you'd better have good brakes. Large, powerful antilock brakes on this Monte Carlo are up to the job. They have the largest calipers and rotors in the class. We punished them mightily on one of our favorite stretches of twisty road, without a hint of fade or grabbiness.
The Chevrolet Monte Carlo offers spirited acceleration performance, decent handling, and good brakes. Shaped by the wind tunnel this is what the boys race every Sunday. If you're going to get one of these, then you must get the SS. Otherwise, check out the Impala.
|Model Line Overview |
|Model lineup: ||LS ($19,985); SS ($22,785) |
|Engines: ||180-hp 3.4-liter ohv V6; 200-hp 3.8-liter ohv V6 |
|Transmissions: ||4-speed automatic |
|Safety equipment (standard): ||Dual airbags, three-point belts for all seats, LATCH anchors for child seats, ABS; driver's side-impact airbag on SS |
|Safety equipment (optional): ||N/A |
|Basic warranty: ||3 years/36,000 miles |
|Assembled in: ||Oshawa, Ontario, Canada |
|Specifications As Tested |
|Model tested (MSRP): ||Monte Carlo SS ($22,785) |
|Standard equipment: ||air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, dual remote mirrors, dual vanity mirrors, tinted glass, passive anti-theft system, tilt wheel, GT suspension package, 225/60R-16 tires, cast aluminum wheels, remote keyless entry, rear spoiler, ABS, traction control, OnStar |
|Options as tested (MSRP): ||Preferred Equipment Group ($660) includes driver information convenience center with HomeLink programmable garage door opener, trip computer with outside temperature display and compass and anti-theft system, six-way power driver's seat, dual power heated mirrors; AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo ($345); six-way power passenger seat ($325) |
|Destination charge: ||($610) |
|Gas guzzler tax: ||N/A |
|Price as tested (MSRP): ||$24,725 |
|Layout: ||front-wheel drive |
|Engine: ||3.8-liter ohv V6 |
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm): ||200 @ 5200 |
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): ||225 @ 4000 |
|Transmission: ||4-speed automatic |
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: ||19/29 mpg |
|Wheelbase: ||110.5 in. |
|Length/width/height: ||197.9/72.3/55.2 in. |
|Track, f/r: ||62.1/61.2 in. |
|Turning circle: ||38.0 ft. |
|Seating capacity: ||5 |
|Head/hip/leg room, f: ||38.1/55.2/42.4 in. |
|Head/hip/leg room, m: ||N/A |
|Head/hip/leg room, r: ||36.5/55.5/35.8 in. |
|Trunk volume: ||15.8 cu. ft. |
|Payload: ||N/A |
|Towing capacity: ||1000 Lbs. |
|Suspension, f: ||Independent |
|Suspension, r: ||Independent |
|Ground clearance: ||N/A |
|Curb weight: ||3391 lbs. |
|Tires: ||P225/60R16 |
|Brakes, f/r: ||disc/disc with ABS |
|Fuel capacity: ||17.0 gal. |
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of September 01, 2001.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-222-1020 - www.chevrolet.com
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