Friday, June 17, 2011

2001 Monte Carlo SS

The turn of the millennium was a time that involved a lot of change. Major terrorist events took headlines but the significantly less interesting back story was the slow fall of the American auto makers. The big three (GM, Chrysler, Ford) have been losing market share consistently for a long time. Each auto maker would begin implementing long over-due plans to rehabilitate there company over the coming decade. In 2011 we can see Ford's solution was most successful as both General Motors and Chrysler entered a form of bankruptcy requiring government aid to stay alive. 

The 2001 Monte Carlo SS was produced from a struggling General Motors. The peculiar thing is that its build quality isn't where I encountered any issues. I found the cars short comings to be evident in its design. I remember when the car was brand new it was a desirable, sexy car and even a status symbol. Perhaps my perception of the car suffered along with GM's public reputation. The design is the polar opposite of timeless as it quickly became dated in looks and feel. It was no longer cool to drive a big comfy low slung car(Ford Thunderbird revival failed to further that point) when SUV's were made in so many variations. The Monte might have fared better if it had a sporting nature to suit its coupe styling but it didn't. It really was a car aimed at pleasing people partial to big late 70's-early 80's coupe's. It's a very comfortable car and could corner adequately but the under-steer at the limit and the flat un-supportive "luxurious" leather seats don't work well in sports driving situations. The power was decent at 200hp and 225ft.lbs fed from a 3.8 OHV V6 to the ground through a 4 speed automatic transmission. The transmission is another source of agony for anyone looking for a hint of performance from their "SS" model. It is slow and squishy(like the suspension) almost certainly aimed at pleasing the now elderly spines reminiscing about the SS models of the 60's. The car surprisingly returns great gas mileage. I was consistently finding myself getting 20mpg in primarily city driving and along a long road trip when the car was 10 years old & had 130,000kms I still received an honest 30mpg. Incredible numbers considering the car's size. Credit goes to the 3.8 Series II V6 engine which is arguable the most reliable engine GM produced to that date. The real cause of the great highway mileage must have something to do with NASCAR inspired aerodynamics. The one real issue with this car resides in how it is not as advertised. Along with a lot of SS models of this generation(Cobalt, FWD Impalas) the SS badge is used to sell a few performance improvements. In previous generations the SS badge represented something that was a world away from the standard car. The extra 20hp you get in the 01' SS monte only manages to compensate for the extra weight added over the base LT model with leather, Bose stereo, and a sunroof. The Monte Carlo SS isn't by any means a performance variant but merely the top "luxury" model. To the cars credit, so long as it is considered in a different light it is a successful bargain luxury coupe.

The upside to owning the confused Chevy is that it is a reliable efficient land yacht. It really should read "SS Monte Carlo" on the Bow and not the other way around! I point out the cars size because as a coupe it is massive. It shares platforms with the full size Impala and as a 2-door has the wingspan of a mastodon! Be careful in parking lots. The trunk space is great, and you and your date could potentially fall witness to morning sickness after exploring the back seat head room together. It is also a comfy car almost designed specifically for long road trips. The only inconveniences you might find in owning the car day to day is as follows; rear seat entry(exit's worse), huge doors for tight parking spots, low ground clearance, approach angle and it is relatively boring to drive. The luxury features are all present if a bit second rate. The plastic dash and door panels steal from the feel of the interior but you do get all the bells and whistles possible for a $30,000 car in 2001. The list includes, stability control(futuristic at the time), automatic headlights, cruise control, Bose Hi-Def stereo, leather, heated seats, available OnStar, fog lights and power seats/mirrors/windows/sunroof.

Surprisingly from a then failing GM the Monte Carlo was a great car, suffering only from mistaken identity and a quickly dated design. I would recommend this car to a friend under the right circumstances. The car would have to be well taken car of and have low mileage given that it would be 10 years old at this time. I give the car a 7.5/10.

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