2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
Click image to enlarge


Story and photos by Russell Purcell

After a re-launch of the car as a 2000 model to replace the floundering Lumina Coupe, the bowtie brigade added a dressed-up model dubbed the SS (Super-Sport), as the company sought to reclaim some of its performance heritage. Unfortunately, the SS was merely a styling package, bereft of any go-fast equipment. Well for 2004 Chevrolet has remedied this oversight, launching a second version of the SS package which includes a supercharger.


Performance

While not a press-you-into-the-seatback level of performance, the addition of the compact, 90-cubic-inch supercharger to the mix does improve the drivability of the Monte Carlo,

2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
Click image to enlarge

as the small blower steps up to boost performance whenever the need should arise: when exiting corners, accelerating hard to pass or merely entering the flow of traffic.

My test car was equipped with GM’s proven 4-speed automatic, and while no manual-shift mode is available for this car, the engineering team seem to have selected automatic shift points that make best use of the tranny’s gear ratios, whether driving the car hard like you stole it, or staid like your mother on her way to a bridge tournament.

For 2004 Chevrolet offers consumers the choice of two powerplants for the Monte Carlo SS, both of the V6 variety and of a 3.8-litre displacement. The base unit puts out 200 horsepower, while the top-of-the-line ‘Supercharged’ model generates a healthy 240 horsepower. Power delivery on my supercharged tester was very smooth, and the torque band seemed to fall right where it was needed.

Acceleration is sufficient for a car of this caliber although pulling almost 1600-kilograms of American steel down the road robs the car of much of its spark, making the driving experience less visceral than one might expect in a car equipped with a supercharger. A small Looney-sized boost gauge indicates when the supercharger is active, but you will have to listen very closely to hear the subtle whine it emits, which is too bad, as this is the kind of music enthusiast drivers love to drive to.

Capable Brakes

2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
Click image to enlarge

Like most modern cars, the SS Monte Carlo is equipped with now de-rigeur anti-lock brakes, capably supported by a traction-control system. The ABS brakes are standard fare on SS Monte Carlos and seem resistant to fade. Pedal response was very good, with braking forces coming on smooth and steady, as the big four-wheel discs help get the car under control without any drama. This proved to be a winning combination during my time with the SS as many Vancouver streets were flooded after a week-long deluge of rain.

Fallen leaves and debris clogged most storm drains and spillways, making streets and highways a little more treacherous than normal. Tracking remained true, as puddles attempted to pull the front-end of the Monte into lane dividers and oncoming traffic and the slick layer of wet, leafy carpeting gave the traction control system a constant test. Chevy should be commended as I never felt uncomfortable or imperiled while behind the wheel of the Monte Carlo SS. On the one occasion that I chose to disengage the traction control, which is possible at the simple touch of a console-mounted button, it was immediately evident how big a role these electronic aids offer. Even with front-wheel drive and new rubber, the Monte Carlo wanted to spin its wheels and pirouette around on leaf-strewn, rain-soaked hills. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least.


On The Road

While it would be tough to bestow muscle car status on this car, it would be fair to classify it as a capable sport-tourer as predictable handling, a communicative sport suspension and a comfortable ride add up to a car well-suited for everyday duty. The cozy cabin and luxury equipment make for a comfortable driving experience. When pushed hard the Monte Carlo reacts well, with minimal body roll and just a hint of understeer.


Exterior Styling

2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
Click image to enlarge

The styling of the Monte Carlo SS is for the most part well executed, although the front end looks kind of timid and detracts from the whole package. Shapely headlights and small round driving lamps light the way, but to look muscular this car needs a big, gaping air intake or a menacing grille. From the side, sculpted lines sweep up and around the wheel openings, giving the car a very unique profile. The rear trunk sits high and from the back looks imposing due to its ever increasing width. Very stylish tail lamps rise vertically to meet a NASCAR-esque tail fin, while twin chrome exhaust tips peek out from the rear bumper shroud. Attractive 17-inch alloy wheels in a classic 5-spoke star design wear P235/55R17 series, W-rated Goodyear tires and offer the car excellent grip and a sporty look.

Monte Carlo SS models can be ordered with a monochromatic paint scheme, as displayed here in the pictures of my Competition Yellow test vehicle, or with a unique two-tone treatment where the lower edge of the car’s bodywork is painted metallic silver, which is a no-charge option. Embroidered floor mats compete for your attention with door-width kick plates (featuring the Monte Carlo nameplate) and “Supercharged SS” badges on the two doors and the trunk lid.

Personally, I would avoid the Competition Yellow colour as one rainy afternoon, while I navigated through downtown Vancouver, my car was hailed by no less than five pedestrians, all of whom had confused the car for a passing taxi-cab! I partially blame this on the aforementioned ‘timid’ styling of the front end, but human nature played a part as well, as we all have been conditioned to look for large, yellow, American cars when searching for a cab from the roadside.


On the Inside

2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
Click image to enlarge

The interior of the Monte Carlo is a pleasant mixture of retro styling cues like ribbed leather seats (optional) and modern flowing shapes. In fact, the car is a step-up from many GM designs as switches are no longer chunky, rectangular levers or buttons, but more akin to the designs pioneered by the European and Japanese automakers. In short, the design is simple, a well-executed mixture of buttons and levers, some even recessed, soft-touch controls that compliment the overall design. For some reason however, the light switch is mounted on the dash, and takes the form of a plunger-type pull stalk, just like used on the Chevrolet Impala. I can only surmise that this is just another nod to this nameplate’s past.

A sculpted dash drifts into the attractive door panels, framing the optional ribbed-leather seats. Power window and mirror controls are up on the door panel where they belong. The very supportive driver’s seat has power operation for height and reach, but seat back adjustment is manual.

The 3-spoke steering wheel has a positive feel as it is not overly assisted as in many American cars, and comes fitted with onboard switches for the audio system and cruise control.


Room to Stretch

2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
Click image to enlarge

The Monte Carlo can accommodate up to five passengers, but being a coupe, the three in the rear better be children or diminutive adults. I would rather classify it as a 4-seater, but that is because I like to stretch out. Rear leg and head room seemed reasonable, as long as front seat occupants do not sit too far back.

If cargo capacity is important in your purchase decision, the Monte Carlo bests most coupes due to its mid-sized chassis. The big trunk offers up 447-litres (15.8 cubic feet) of space, and can expand to haul longer items when the 60/40 split rear seat is folded down. A cargo net at the rear of the trunk is handy for securing small packages and grocery bags, while deep door pockets, a centre armrest storage bin and a super-sized glove box will help keep you organized.


Bells and Whistles

2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
Click image to enlarge

Chevrolet has equipped all Monte Carlo SS models with a long list of standard features including dual-zone air-conditioning, a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo (cassette is optional), four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS, power locks, windows, and mirrors, aluminum wheels, cruise control and a remote keyless entry system., traction control, tire-inflation monitoring, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and front bucket sport seats with 6-way power adjustment for the driver. Further options include a power moon roof, leather heated seats, OnStar and a driver-side, supplemental seat-mounted air bag.


The Verdict

The Monte Carlo SS offers consumers a roomy coupe loaded with luxurious options, predictable handling and attractive styling at a reasonable price. As a unique looking cruiser to demark your car from the others in the mall parkade this car works, but it is important to note that even with the new supercharger, the Monte Carlo is no muscle car as the SS name suggests.


Technical Data: 2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

Base price $36,565
Options $2,040 ($1,000- – Reclining leather seats, $1,040 – 1SB Preferred equipment group)
Destination and PDI $1,560
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $40,265
Type 2-door, 5 passenger full-size coupe
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.8 litre V6, supercharged
Horsepower 240 @ 5,200
Torque 280 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Tires P235/55R17, W-rated Goodyear
Curb weight 1598 kg (3522 lb.)
Wheelbase 2807 mm (110.5 in.)
Length 5026 mm (197.9 in.)
Width 1846 mm (72.7 in.)
Height 1403 mm (55.2 in.)
Trunk space 498 litres (17.6 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 13.4 L/100km (21 mpg)
  Hwy: 8.2 L/100 km (34 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km

Connect with Autos.ca