2004 Monte Carlo New Car Test Drive
Something comes over us when we're in a Chevy Monte Carlo. It's hard not to fantasize we're rocketing down the front straight at Talladega with 42 stock cars glued to the rear bumper. Or maybe we're going through the inner loop at Watkins Glen, bounding off the curbs as we go through the big chicane. The Monte Carlo has that bad boy look and feel.
No matter what you think of the styling, you'll quickly form a bond with the Monte Carlo. It's just so easy to get along with this car. It's roomy and comfortable and easy to operate. It's fast and fun to drive. It's stable at high speeds for long runs down the interstate and it's great fun on back roads, the same kind of roads that form the roots of stock car racing.
The Monte Carlo also offers a lot of value, with strong performance for the dollar. You see, the Monte's mission is two-fold. Since its debut in 1970, it's been a high-value personal luxury coupe, a car that delivers a lot of visual importance for relatively small monthly payments. But for most of those years, the Monte Carlo has also been Chevrolet's standard-bearer in stock car racing. Keeping ahead of the competition has required constant aerodynamic refinement. So there's a reason the Monte Carlo looks like it does: the Winston Cup rule book. The rules of Winston Cup racing demand the cars we see flying around the high banks are similar to those sitting in the showrooms. The result is an attention-grabbing shape like no other on the road, a shape born in the wind tunnels.
It's a surprisingly practical shape as well. Despite its race-track breeding, the Monte Carlo offers more interior volume that any other car in its class (with the exception of other GM vehicles). Its front-drive chassis is tuned for a comfortable ride and competent handling. An SS model, the only Monte Carlo to buy, provides a potent 3.8-liter V6 to complement its racy good looks. Of course, the Monte Carlo at the local dealership does not have the tube-frame chassis or rear-wheel drive of a NASCAR machine. But the SS does deliver spirited performance, along with a chance to feel connected to a winning tradition.
Two trim levels are offered. Both come with a four-speed automatic transmission.
Monte Carlo LS ($20,465) is powered by a 3.4-liter ohv V6 rated 180 horsepower at 5200 rpm, and 205 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Standard equipment includes air conditioning with separate controls for driver and passenger; traction control; AM/FM/cassette stereo; cloth-covered bucket seats; center console; power windows, mirrors, and door locks; and, new for 2003, remote keyless entry. The suspension is all-independent and bolstered by anti-roll bars front and rear, and the brakes are four-wheel-discs with ABS. Sixteen-inch aluminum wheels are shod with P225/60R16 Goodyear Eagle GA touring tires. An optional Sport Appearance Package ($615) offers unique-looking five-spoke alloy wheels and a race-inspired rear spoiler.
Monte Carlo SS ($23,030) relies on a 200-horsepower 3.8-liter V6. Its tires are the same size as the LS model's, but are upgraded to Goodyear Eagle RSA performance rubber. A Sport Suspension package, with higher-rate springs and four-stage strut valving, is available only on the SS. Without this package, you might as well be looking at an Impala, which adds the practicality of rear doors. All SS Monte Carlos come with a side-impact air bag for the driver, cruise control, pollen filtration, fog lamps, full instrumentation, sport seats with adjustable lumbar support for the driver, OnStar communications, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and a more modest rear deck spoiler.
A High Sport Appearance Package ($2100) is available for the SS that includes full ground effects, a race-inspired deck spoiler, unique aluminum wheels, stainless-steel exhaust tips and a red bow tie identification in the instrument cluster panel.
Options for all Monte Carlos include power seats ($325), power sunroof ($795), and a premium CD stereo with six speakers ($445). For 2003, serious audiophiles should choose optional XM Satellite Radio, with 100 coast-to-coast digital channels, including 71 music channels (more than 30 of them commercial-free) and 29 channels of sports, talk, 24-hour news, and children's entertainment. Chevrolet claims that XM's sound quality is remarkably close to a compact disc.