Monday, October 15, 2007

Chevrolet Lumina Review

The Aussies call it a Holden, the Brits (if they had it) would call it a Vauxhall and Europe and South Africa, a few years ago, would have called it an Opel.
Now it's a Chevrolet Lumina and in comes in two casings – sedan and bakkie (though officially the bakkie is called a Ute).It doesn't, however, matter what it looks like because each version is powered by a real engine, a six-litre V8 lump unhindered by an excess of electronic gadgetry and easily capable of 270kW and a whopping 530Nm of torque at 5750 and 4400rpm respectively.
The sedan comes with a tail aerofoil about the size of those things that haul people on a mini-surfboard across the ocean at high speed and the bakkie with a streamlined loadbox cover that roars in the slipstream and ground clearance that would barely crest a house brick

The sedan comes with a tail aerofoil about the size of those things that haul....The Ute, I'm told, is the world's fastest production bakkie. No argument there after hitting 195 down the back straight at Cape Town's Killarney race circuit and that while still under the alleged control of a Chevy pace car.
Did I mention the six-litre V8?Sheer pace aside, I'd suggest it would make a great, stylish tow car for a caravan or boat – provided you don't have to haul over anything more rugged than a graded dirt road and your trailer is rated for the speed at which you'll be able to cruise.The sedan is what a real car should be all about; no fancy folderols, instruments that a 90-year-could probably read without glasses and big and wide black leather seats, the one on the driver's side proudly proclaimed at the media presentation as having power adjustment – but it turned out to be for lift-and- tilt… fore-and-aft still needs muscle power
... people on a mini-surfboard across the ocean at high speed.Des Fenner is Chevrolet SA's brand manager. If somebody told me he has a bowtie badge branded on his backside and "Rugby, braaivleis, sunny skies and Chevrolet, tra-la" tattooed around it in a circle, I wouldn't be at all surprised.
The brand, he told me at the launch presentation at the Groot Constantia wine estate in Cape Town, is the biggest under General Motors' corporate umbrella with 4.6-million unit sales worldwide in 2006 and a steadily growing market in South Africa for its products from Australia and Korea.He's aiming to take the SA dealer body to at least 140 by the end of 2007 and to boost sales beyond the more than 2000 of last year that gave the Chevy brand just under three percent of the market.
The Lumina, I'd guess, will do more than its fair share of the job. The bakkie is for a niche market but the sedan (I think I said it has a six-litre V8?) is a big and very viable alternative to snobby status symbols such as BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class, Jaguar, the bigger Volvos and others of that ilk.
Fenner says the Lumina has all the high-tech braking, traction and stability controls and crash protection of any other big luxury car along with serious space, individual air-con and temperature controls, power windows and exterior mirrors and the engine can be hooked to either a six-speed manual or six-speed auto – the latter with manual/sequential selection – at no extra cost. In fact, there ARE no extra-cost items except perhaps a tow hitch."It's an all-new car," the bum-branded one (or so the rumour goes) told me, "with rear-wheel drive architecture and a wider track and longer wheelbase than its predecessor that came to SA three years ago and that has allowed us to create a bigger cabin."
The Lumina has been the top seller in Australia for 10 years."All the sheet metal is new, as are the sports seats, the sports cockpit and the Bluetooth connectivity and the car's delivered with a three-year or 60 000km warranty. It's the sexiest Commodore/Lumina yet built."He's projecting sales of 360 sedans and 250 Utes over the coming year though I promise that, if I had the money, the former figure would be 361 – especially since the cars have a six-litre V8 under the hood – oh yeah, I did mention that…
Anyway, manual or auto, the sedan will set you back R349 000 and the Ute R329 000 - about 15 percent more than the previous model but you do get a V… sorry. Included in that are bigger tyres that have improved handling and longitudinal grip.Contact with the road is provided by 245/45 R18 tyres on 18x8” alloy rims. Strangely, for one so keen on his product, Fenner didn't give any performance figures with his presentation. I'd guess, however, at a seven-second 0-100km/h and a top speed way in excess of 200km/h – 230, perhaps – but what the car really delivers is mid-range acceleration from that huge torque.
It's power and exhaust note as the revs rise is not only exhilarating but also addictive; there's little pretence at sophistication though the cabin comfort is superb; if you love driving, you'll love the Lumina.Standard on both the sedan and the Ute are a sluggish but user-friendly (once you get used to it or – no, seriously now guys – read the instruction manual) trip data computer that includes visual and audible warnings for underspeed and overspeed.
A "night" panel function reduces the lighting to all but the most necessary functions.The Lumina's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, I was told, have been designed to accommodate a broader range of operating conditions and the audio package includes a fascia-mounted six-CD changer and RDS radio feeding a high-performance amplifier and multiple speakers that can be controlled by roller switches on the steering wheel.It's Bluetooth cellular-compatible.
Chevy says fuel-gauge accuracy is excellent thanks to two sensors – something the Aussies probably needed in the Outback when the next fuel station is three days away by hopping kangaroo and the tank is only three-quarters full – at which point I must tell you the car I was driving showed 16.5 litres/100km on the trip computer.Its maker, however, suggests around 14.5 in general use; if you, like me, regard driving as a pleasurable pastime best enjoyed as quickly as reasonably possible and preferably alone, then you also won't care how much fuel this superb machine uses.
Remote boot and fuel flap releases are provided, with the boot release mounted in the glove box, while remote central locking comes as standard, as does an alarm system with a panic alarm feature. A transponder immobiliser system provides anti-theft protection.

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