Chev Lumina – big, bold and brash

Driving the new restyled Chevrolet Lumina SSV sedan was not going to be an easy job for Fleet in that, the intention was to specifically emulate the conditions the average company car user would encounter on a daily basis during a work week as well as over a weekend’s worth of leisure time – without simply saying a mental ‘to heck with it’ and pushing the hooligan button.

Proudly, we can affirm all objectives were met – during which time we gained newfound respect for a brutish muscle car that is ‘in your face’ and yet has a side so gentle it could be a character in a Mills & Boon romance novel.

General Motors South Africa (GMSA) introduced some subtle changes to the Chevrolet Lumina SS sedan for 2011 that included upgrades to the vehicle’s specification and changes to the exterior and interior styling of both vehicles.
The front of the Lumina now features a revised bumper and air dam as well as new styling treatments for the fog lights and headlamps. A chrome strip is added to the boot lid just above the number plate on the sedan while a more subtle change is the addition of a V to the nomenclature changing the model designation from SS to SSV to bring the South African models in line with naming of other V series vehicles in the Lumina range.

Significant revisions have been made to the instrument cluster and the centre console of the Lumina. The audio system has been upgraded to include a USB socket and advanced Bluetooth functionality – including mobile phone connectivity. The system features satellite controls on the steering wheel and touchscreen controls via the audio display screen.

The Lumina’s 6,0-litre V8 all aluminium engine remains unchanged with a maximum of 270 kW and a massive 530 Nm of torque driving the rear wheels via either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic gearbox, as was the case with our test car.

The Lumina SSV sedan comes standard with leather seats, dual zone climate control air-conditioning, power windows and side mirrors, sports contoured seats with 4-way electronic adjustment and lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat and sports alloy pedals. A driver information centre in the instrument cluster provides trip, vehicle and audio information.

Safety features include a six air bag system, including roof air bags, as well as an anti-lock braking with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Programme (ESP). Traction control and cruise control are fitted across the range. Handling is enhanced by the advanced linear control suspension system.

Central locking with auto-lock is a standard feature as is an alarm immobiliser system. The alarm system includes a panic alarm.

Generously spacious inside, handsome and robust, the Australian-built car (Holden Commodore over there) offers a useful alternative to more expensive European derived options with similar power and torque and, besides its effortless performance it boasts a massive 496-litre boot.

Whether commuting to the office or hauling down the highway, the Lumina SS displayed a benevolent duality – one part effortless sedan cruiser, the other half, pure four-door muscle car.

Unquestionably, the six-speed auto is superior to the manual version in traffic, GM’s active on demand fuelling technology runs the Lumina SS auto on only half its eight cylinders when things slow down to crawling pace.

The transition from 4-cylinder to 8-cylinder is practically instantaneous and the driver has to really concentrate to try to pick up the lag between throttle input and all-power output.

Thanks to six-engine mountings (instead of four) vibration is well damped, meaning the rewards of a characteristic V8 burble, a gluttony of performance and none of the vibration issues usually associated to sitting behind such a large capacity engine.

There is no question the Lumina SSV is a big….huge…car, so initial impressions tend to suggest it would not be all that nimble through the twisties. Not true. The slightly oversize steering wheel, sort of reminiscent of the ones on cars of yesteryear, feels a little strange at first, soon qualifying its existence as the pace picks up.

With all-wheel independent suspension the Lumina turns into corners with minimal body movement, always seems firmly planted on the road and returns plenty of useful information via the steering to the driver.

The electrickery on board keeps things honest and prevents lurid slides or ‘donuts’ when the loud pedal is pushed too hard, too quickly. Confidence in this system and the response directly from the car mean it can be pushed at pace on most back roads.

However, as mentioned, the intention was not to adrenalize – and we justified out week with the car with an overall consumption of 12,9 l/100 km and managed one highway run getting down to 8,5 l/100 km with the speedo needle glued to 120 km/h.

It is big, bold and brash, but the Lumina is also more car than that suggests.

Courtesy: Fleet magazine

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Colin Windell

Colin Windell is an apprentice retiree, petrolhead, rock music addict, lover of fine food and has been writing about cars for more than 40 years.

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