Chevrolet Lumina strengthened with new shape, power and tone
Date Posted: 5/10/2005
Without so much as a whisper of complaint from rubber, my sedan took a dicey downhill curve with the assurance of a sure-footed sport touring car.
Its body wiggled only slightly in deference to lateral forces of motion, the new coil over strut suspension damping that pavement chatter smoothly, a quick steering system telling fingers locked on the fat wheel what they needed to feel, as the powerful engine, reacting to my pedal cue, leaped to action and forged into the next straightaway.
Playing the curves over a narrow strip of pavement warped by the Blue Ridge wrinkles of northern Georgia, I had to remind myself that the car performing these tricks was actually an economical midsize model from Chevrolet.
Lumina, I discovered, has a new personality to match its streamlined new silhouette.
It's so active, yet tight and poised, you could mistake its playful spirit for that of an import.
Unlike many imports, though, Lumina carves out generous space for people in a new cabin that contains comfortable seats, handy accessories and friendly instruments.
The new design, tagged with a 1995 label, represents the most dramatic change for Lumina since its 1990 inception as first in a string of responsive, contemporary Chevrolets.
Designers drew the new car out of what they call a hybrid architecture, extracting the best features of the previous model's structure and advancing with new techniques and systems added to create a highly stable superstructure with strong cross bracing that eliminates squeaks, shakes and rattles.
To this platform Lumina's developers added pliable, dynamic control systems such as rack and pinion steering and a 4-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts, variable-rate coil springs, plus front and rear stabilizer bars to stem body sway.
Then they wrapped the package in galvaneal steel shaped in a pleasing unitized sculpture which cuts through the wind of motion and makes an aggressive styling statement.
Lumina's nose sits low, its grille looks narrow to match the slits of twin aero-style headlamp clusters, the hoodline becomes a bold arch leading to the slope of its contoured windshield glass.
Contrary to some extreme statements with excessive glass and forward-canted cabins, the design of Lumina's compartment flows from more conventional architecture. Thus, the overall appearance seems rooted in mainstream taste, and the interior too caters to a mass market.
That's as it should be, perhaps, because Lumina in its new form has been designed and built to address that broader base, in the manner that Chevrolet once marketed all of its products -- economical cars anyone could like.
And, yes, the new design is definitely economical.
Lumina's base issue sells for $15,995, a price that includes appealing features like V6 horsepower, 4-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, an AM-FM stereo radio, dual airbags for safety, a tilting steering wheel, variable wipers, floor mats, power door locks and childproof rear door locks, analog instruments, lighted vanity mirrors, map pockets and courtesy lights which dim dramatically once the engine starts.
That entry figure positions Lumina at the bottom of the popular midsize sedan market. The fact that Lumina's base engine stocks six cylinders instead of the typical four serves as the first of a number of bonus features.
Lumina's V6, a familiar 3.1-liter powerplant from General Motors, has been reworked for this application to increase horsepower by 20 to 160 and improve fuel economy to 29 mpg for highway cruising.
Lumina's electronically-controlled 4-speed automatic transmission, GM's smooth Hydra-matic shifter, uses a powertrain control module which adapts to changes in engine load and barometric pressure, even variations in altitude.
All aspects of the base Lumina point to a mass appeal -- from the easy entry price to suspension components geared to deliver a softer ride quality and a cabin outfitted with front bench seat split in 40-60 proportions for convenience.
A second model, Lumina LS, narrows the appeal.
It tunes the platform for tighter performance, adding a tachometer and 4-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock feature, plus optional handling gear such as performance tires, firm suspension settings, sporty seats and a dual-cam engine with substantial horsepower upgrade.
The optional 3.4-liter V6, equipped with sequential port fuel injection system and multi-valve technology that puts four valves in each cylinder, features aluminum cylinder heads and pent-roof firing chambers with central positioning of spark plugs to ensure complete combustion.
Horsepower hits 210.
Further, Lumina's optional engine peaks torque at 215 lbs/ft at 4000 rpm, which means there's plenty available when running through lower gear ranges in town traffic.
Despite its high power and usable torque, this new engine operates from regular (87 octane) unleaded gasoline and produces EPA fuel economy figures that climb to 26 mpg.
The Lumina LS lists for $17,495, with the 3.4-liter engine upgrade adding another $960 and a package of preferred equipment, such as power windows and mirrors, cruise control and a keyless remote entry system, moving $500 more to the final line.
A Lumina LS with this optional V6 was the car I steered across those Georgia mountains on a playful morning's run.
A few months later I spent another day testing both variations, as well as their nearest class rivals, on winding circuits through Texas Hill Country west of Austin. Then I lived with a $16,000 Lumina and a $19,000 Lumina LS for a week each to perform hometown driving chores and measure these vehicles over familiar courses.
From these varied experiences I concluded that Chevrolet has produced the kind of bargain which once propelled the brand to best-seller status.
Lumina in either conventional or sporty flavor will please a broad spectrum of buyers with its comforts, thoughtful conveniences and exacting driving manners.
The fact that Chevrolet has managed to package this car with an affordable pricing structure which drops below its primary competitors indicates that I'll see more Luminas on the road as shoppers discover the new charms.
1995 CHEVROLET LUMINA
| Vehicle Specifications:
| 1995 CHEVROLET LUMINA Specs
| Model Options:
| Overall Length:
| Engine Size:
||OHV 3.1-L V6
DOHC 3.4-L V6
LS: Power 4-disc/ABS
| Gas Mileage:
||3.1-L: 19/29 mpg
3.4-L: 17/26 mpg
||$ 15,995 to $ 19,900