Ryan Bubear pilots the fire-breathing Chevrolet Lumina SSV sedan...
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A six-litre V8. Some 260kW and 517Nm.
I'm tempted to end the review right there, just seven words in, because you've got what you came for, didn't you? The figures are what it's all about, right?
Well, no. There's more to the Chevrolet Lumina sedan than that. Sure, all that oomph is the Lumina's most likely selling point, but it's not quite that simple.
These days, pretty much every major manufacturer (Chevrolet included) has a clear focus on efficiency. It's all about finding the best balance between an admirable fuel consumption figure and a spasm-inducing power figure — using as little fuel as possible for as much grunt as possible. This has resulted, in part at least, in the redefining of the dark art of forced induction. Turbocharging, and to a lesser degree supercharging, have become more and more common on everyday vehicles.
But, somewhat refreshingly, the folks at General Motors have decided to retain the Lumina's old school feel with this latest incarnation of the Lumina. No fizzing, and no turbo whistling... just good old fashioned V8 warble.
Smooth and quiet
Despite its vast displacement, the Lumina is surprisingly civil at idle. There is no rough, lumpy tick-over. Instead, it's as smooth and quiet as a small hatch. Only once the right pedal is firmly depressed — and all that power is transferred to the tarmac through the rear wheels — does the assault on the senses truly begin.
But that's exactly where the Lumina is most remarkable. Yes, a tasty plate of aural awesomeness is served up. And, yes, the needle seems to spin around the speedometer with the eagerness of hardly-walked dog chasing its own tail. But the massive powerplant never seems to be under any strain at all, even under heavy acceleration, and cruises at 100km/h with the tachometer reading just 1500rpm.
The power is truly impressive, but you don't realise just how fast you are travelling until you glance down at the instrument cluster, before a shocked look crosses your face. Flying along at well over the national speed limit (not that that is something we would admit to doing, or indeed endorse) feels like an absolute dawdle. It's almost as though the heavy Lumina (it has a GVM of 2354kg) is merely stretching its legs, when it's actually standing toe-to-toe with far more expensive machines.
The manual reaches 100km/h from standstill in just 6.6 seconds, with the automatic getting there faster still (a mere 6.25 seconds). Both top out at 250km/h.
Auto: cheaper and quicker
We had the ever-so-slightly cheaper automatic (unusually, the manual is more expensive, although it does have a smidgen more power) on test. There is very little hunting from the six-speed auto 'box, which also features a manual tap-shift function. The 'box performs best when the accelerator is given a prolonged push, but nevertheless does a fair job in traffic at lower speeds. Handling isn't nearly as bad as one would expect from a heavy "muscle car", and the ride is also surprisingly comfortable, despite the sports suspension.
From the outside, few changes have been made to the Lumina's design. The front bumper, headlights, fog lights and 18-inch rims are all "refreshed", and a splash of chrome detailing has been added to the mix. The engine remains untouched, as does the dual exhaust system, with four menacing tailpipes poking out from under the rear bumper.
Inside, a few more welcome changes have been made, including a redesigned instrument cluster and centre console. In fact, the new interior is quite an improvement over the previous version, and the front seats are particularly comfortable (the driver gets a four-way power adjustable seat). Leather trim is standard, as is the dual-zone climate control. Bluetooth, cruise control, MP3/iPod/USB connectivity, and all the usual bells and whistles are part of the package too. The rear-park assist, handy on a vehicle measuring about 4.9m-long and nearly 1.9m-wide, does a fine job considering that a glance in the rear-view mirror results in an eyeful of whacking great spoiler...
The Lumina does well in the practicality stakes — in terms of space, anyway — with the cavernous boot able to swallow some 496 litres of luggage. Four doors and plenty of interior room both front and back also mean the tank-like sedan can function as a family-carrier.
But, of course, there is a flip side to this. As with almost any vehicle packing a serious punch, fuel consumption is the big trade-off. Own a Lumina and a heavy right foot, and you'll soon be on a first-name basis with the local petrol attendants, especially if you do most of your driving at peak hour and/or make many short trips.
Chevrolet claims a combined fuel economy figure of 12.3 litres per 100km. At one stage, my average consumption was at a staggering 17. A reasonably lengthy trip spend mostly in the higher gears soon saw that figure fall to 14, before it stabilised at 14.2 despite a few more battles with traffic. Even with a 71-litre tank and plenty of patience, the fuel gauge needle drops all too rapidly if you're someone who has to worry about such things.
With its penchant for going rather fast, rather quickly, one would expect a raft of safety features. And that's exactly what the Lumina serves up; think ABS, EBD, EBA, ESP, dual-stage front airbags, roof-mounted airbags, all the obligatory crumple zones and a re-inforced safety cell. In the after-sales department, it's also well-covered, thanks to a five-year or 120 000km warranty, and a three-year or 60 000km service plan.
So, yes, the Lumina's relatively budget brawn is its distinguishing factor. But, if you're prepared to keep quenching its thirst with its favourite brand of that oh-so-pricey go-forward juice, it'll show you that there's a whole lot more to it.
Yip, old school's still positively cool.
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Click through to page 2 for specs and pricing.