Photo: GM. Click image to enlarge
by Tony Whitney
In U.S. markets, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo is a very popular automobile and in some regions dominates the two-door coupe class. This is not surprising, considering that it’s the “model of choice” for top NASCAR drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip, though even the most dedicated fan of the marque would admit that NASCAR racers bear little resemblance to road cars. Even so, the track successes of this model do give owners some bragging rights and a good reason to cheer their favourite car at the races. The Monte Carlo nameplate has taken more checkered flags in NASCAR history than any other brand.
Monte Carlos are not that common north of the border, so buyers here get a car that often draws a second glance out on the road. Certainly, the Monte Carlo deserves more attention than it might be getting from buyers. The product line goes back a long way – the first Monte Carlo was a 1970 model — and I can remember the oversized and maybe overstyled models of the 1970s that used to sell in very substantial numbers.
For 2005, Chevrolet has changed the 2004 naturally-aspirated SS model to the LT model, making three in the basic line-up: LS, LT and Supercharged SS. GM’s amazing OnStar system, which uses sophisticated communications technology to get you out of all kinds of trouble from a lost key to a serious breakdown, is standard for the new model year on all Monte Carlos. On the Supercharged SS, you can now get 17-inch diamond-cut cast aluminum wheels with a nifty chrome finish. New exterior colours for the Monte Carlo include Laser Blue Metallic, Sport Red Metallic and Silverstone Metallic. I liked the yellow my most recent test car came in.
The 2005 Monte Carlo is a stylish car with a nicely aggressive stance to it. It’s fairly large for a two-door car, but that’s the way most domestic coupes have always been — except, perhaps, for the Mustang. It does mean that you get far more room in the back than you would with an import-nameplate coupe.
The supercharged car I tested featured various styling cues to set it apart from lesser non-SS versions. There’s a race-inspired chin spoiler up front, dual stainless steel exhaust pipes and inside, a six-gauge instrument cluster with boost gauge. As you’d expect, you’ll find SS badging here and there to remind you that this Chev is something special. There are various colours, but my favourites are either black or yellow, both of which look very slick.
Of course, SS (for “Super Sport”) models have a long history with Chevrolet and in recent times, the company has been busy reintroducing these versions right across the range. There have been times over the years when Chevrolet has used the SS moniker more as a cosmetic addition than a performance indicator, but those days are gone. Buy an SS today and the likelihood is that you’ll get some serious performance with your automobile or truck.
My Monte Carlo certainly lived up to its SS badges by packing a very potent 3.8-litre supercharged V6 under its hood. Developing some 240 horsepower, the powerplant proved exceptionally responsive. It’s worth remembering that superchargers don’t suffer from the lag that plagues turbochargers; the power is right there from the word go.
Photo: GM. Click image to enlarge
Simply put, both superchargers and turbochargers are forced-induction systems that pump air into the engine to enhance performance. Turbochargers are driven by the exhaust gases, while superchargers are driven directly from the engine. Both have their devotees, but most agree that supercharging is more efficient.
Other available Monte Carlo engines include a 3.4-litre V-6 on the LS and a 3.8-litre non-supercharged V6 on the LT. All engine versions use a four-speed automatic transmission, a GM Hydra-Matic about which few owners will complain. It’s a smooth-shifting unit and the ratios are well-chosen.
Monte Carlo SS’ handling is enhanced by some tuning tweaks not found on the two other models. Spring rates are stiffened and the rear ride height is lowered. According to Chevrolet, this helps reduce body roll in cornering and improves driver feel, regardless of road conditions. Also featured on the SS are beefed-up stabilizer bars. Incidentally, this is a front-wheel drive car with a fully independent suspension.
The cabin is a great place to do business and has a very sporty ambiance about it. It may not thrill import lovers, but to be truthful, Chevrolet does as good a job as anyone when it comes to seat design, driving position and instrument and control layout.
With www.Autos.ca editor Greg Wilson, I once drove a Monte Carlo in a very demanding one-make rally in California, appropriately dubbed “Monte Carlo Monte Carlo.” Getting lost every now again in the middle of the night, miles from anywhere, demanded some fast and agile driving and we were very impressed with the way the car conducted itself. The Monte Carlo certainly deserves a careful once-over by anyone looking for a sporty coupe, import or domestic. Some of those buyers traditionally hooked on Japanese nameplates could find the SS a very pleasant surprise.
A basic Monte Carlo LS lists at $27,840 base, while an SS model lists at $36,890. The LT version is priced at $30,655. These prices are very reasonable for this kind of performance and you also get a certain amount of exclusivity – and those NASCAR genes!
Technical Data: 2005 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Supercharged
|Options||$2,955 (Leather interior $1,800; 17-inch chrome wheels $1,155)|
|Price as tested||$40,995|
|Type||2-door, 5-passenger full size coupe|
|Engine||3.8-litre V6, OHV, 12 valves, supercharged|
|Horsepower||240 @ 5200 rpm|
|Torque||280 @ 3600 rpm|
|Tires||Goodyear P235/55R17 W-rated|
|Curb weight||1598 kg (3522 lbs.)|
|Wheelbase||2807 mm (110.5 in.)|
|Length||5026 mm (197.9 in.)|
|Width||1846 mm (72.7 in.)|
|Height||1403 mm (55.2 in.)|
|Cargo capacity||447 litres (15.8 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 13.4 L/100 km (21 mpg)|
|Hwy: 8.2 L/100 km (34 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|