1999 Chevrolet Lumina Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bob Storck Bob Storck Editor
August 7, 1998

WESTON, Mo. - You could almost hear Dinah Shore warbling away on some love ballad. This is Missouri, Middle America – corn as high as an elephant’s eye, an ice cream parlor with twisted iron chairs … even a company-league baseball series playing itself out on four diamonds. Our Lumina felt as home here as in a Norman Rockwell painting.

The Lumina came along in 1988 as an ’89 model, when the rear-drive platforms were dropped. Beginning with the ’95 model year, the Monte Carlo name was attached to what had been the Lumina Coupe. Monte Carlo had been a solid one for Chevrolet, having been affixed to a line of luxury performance coupes that first appeared in 1970 and ran through 1988, when the Lumina arrived.

Lumina's rocky launch

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Even GM admits that the Lumina had one of the most difficult start-ups in company history. Chevy built only four-door Luminas when the model was introduced. They were followed by the Lumina Coupe about eight months later. And despite the success of the NASCAR model with the same name (and a racing movie featuring Tom Cruise cruising in a Lumina), they cost more to make than their sale proceeds generated.

When the Lumina was introduced, it did no better than the Celebrity - the model it replaced - against the likes of market leaders such as the Taurus, Accord and Camry. It badly trailed all three in sales. In fact, the two-door was seventh in that segment.

This was clearly disappointing for Chevrolet, since Lumina always has been a solid car, only needing some feature refinement and marketing to turn it around. When it was re-worked two years ago and the Monte Carlo model added, the old magic started to come back. Now the Monte Carlo Coupe is No. 1 in its market, having passed Thunderbird before Ford dropped it last year.

1999 Chevrolet Lumina

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The front seat is comfortable and has plenty of headroom, and six can be squeezed in, if needed. The interior is a welcome change from Chevy's usual dull and clumsy styling. In addition, GM finally took the hint and is offering a single key for use in the ignition, trunk and doors.

Lumina long on Chevy value

The 1999 Chevrolet Lumina, currently the largest sedan in the Chevrolet family (since the demise of the rear-drive Caprice/Impala), continues its tradition of high value for safety-conscious consumers. With the most standard safety features for the price of any six-passenger vehicle in its class, Lumina LS is big on both safety and value.

"Lumina exemplifies the Chevrolet tradition of value," said Don Parkinson, Lumina brand manager. "It offers family buyers loads of standard equipment as well as an impressive safety package. In fact, Lumina was the only four-door midsize to receive a top five-star rating for driver protection in the recent front-end federal highway traffic safety administration crash tests."

The cars come standard with dual airbags, air conditioning, anti-lock brakes (optional on Lumina Sedan), and an anti-theft system. Dual zone temperature controls were added to reduce driver/passenger friction. Additionally, Lumina offers many child protection features, including child security rear door locks, rear-seat safety belt child comfort guides and a power window lockout feature (optional on Lumina Sedan).

Another feature is daytime running lights, which provide low current to the headlights whenever the engine is running. This makes vehicles more visible and has proved to be a deterrent in preventing accidents.

A superior safety package is only one dimension of Lumina's appeal. Lumina delivers added peace of mind with a standard PASS-Key II theft-deterrent system and the optional dealer-installed OnStar system. OnStar provides 24-hour access to the most comprehensive and user-friendly communications service developed to date for the automotive industry, including Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite technology - all connect by computer to an in-car cellular phone.

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1999 Chevrolet Lumina

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More muscle for '99

The standard engine is the 3.1-liter overhead valve V-6 developed by Buick, which puts out 160 horsepower. But for performance hounds, there’s also an optional 3.8-liter unit that delivers 200 horsepower and gobs of torque. This replaces the four-cam 3.4-liter V-6 that had 15 more ponies, but lacked torque at lower speeds. The former engine was also more expensive to make and notoriously noisy.

There are three basic versions: The Lumina Sedan and Lumina LS feature the 3100 V-6 engine, while the Lumina LTZ includes the 3800 Series II V-6 engine standard for '99. Both powerplants include 100,000-mile platinum-tip spark plugs and 150,000-mile extended-life engine coolant. For additional driver confidence, Lumina provides a three-year/36,000-mile GM Bumper to Bumper Limited Warranty, 24-Hour Roadside Assistance and Courtesy Transportation programs for its owners.

Chevrolet makes as good a transmission as anyone does today and better than many cars that cost much more. It is well tuned to the V-6 engines and encourages you to select the gears manually during spirited drives on hilly and winding roads. This year it is even better, with an electronic clutch for smoother shifts.

Most major changes to the ’99 models involve new suspension features and a new color. Auburn Nightmist Metallic exterior color replaces Deep Purple in the Lumina lineup.

Lumina Euro erased

The Euro package previously available on the Lumina is history, but most of the features are available in the LTZ package or on the option list. The firmer suspensions can be complemented by 16-inch aluminum wheels. The LTZ also includes four-wheel disc brakes with ABS for effective cooling and enhanced brake performance during hard braking, a dual-outlet exhaust and bucket seats.

In all, Chevrolet offers five sedans targeted to meet the needs of any age group, lifestyle and budget: In addition to the Lumina, there are the Malibu, Prizm, Cavalier and Metro. With such a selection, Middle America will be singing all the way to Branson and back.

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