What's New for 1999
Chevrolet adds standard equipment to the LTZ and introduces Auburn Nightmist Medium Metallic to the base and LS models.
While in college, one of our staffers attended the 1989 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. The 1990 Chevrolet Lumina was displayed at the show in coupe and sedan form, and this young man thought the vehicle was some kind of funky, ill-conceived concept car, like those oddly shaped safetymobiles created during the 1970s. Few showgoers even seemed to notice the silly silver Luminas as he inspected the angular styling, all the while wondering if GM had missed the boat on Ford's success with the Taurus. When the Lumina hit the streets for the 1990 model year, he couldn't help but laugh every time one passed him on the street. Amazingly, the Lumina went on to become a bestseller, due in part to strong fleet sales.
These days, a different Lumina prowls Chevy showrooms. A vast improvement over the first-generation model, the current Lumina offers an ergonomically correct, straightforward dashboard. The exterior shape is modern and, dare we say, attractive. Even more amazing, the Lumina performs well in LTZ trim, although poor brake pedal feel and vague, disconnected steering really doesn't transmit any inkling of performance capability.
Still, the numbers are there, and the Lumina LTZ is just as nimble as upscale rivals from Chrysler and Ford. Braking and cornering abilities are not extraordinary for the class, but the LTZ nonetheless keeps itself planted to terra firma with little fanfare. Formerly optional equipment like a 3800 V6, performance-oriented tires and 16-inch machine-faced aluminum wheels are now standard on LTZ. Base and LS models are decidedly duller all around, with a barely adequate 3.1-liter V6, mushy suspension and plastic wheelcovers.
Chevy engineers claim the current-generation Lumina is the result of intensive consumer clinics, and that the car was designed in accordance with the research findings. Styling was not a strong issue among sedan buyers, a point well proven by the popularity of the previous-generation Lumina. Fortunately, Chevy saw fit to give the Lumina a tidy, attractive look that is marred only by a somewhat characterless and protruding proboscis.
Inside, seats could use more support and firmer padding. Controls, however, are easy to see and use, and fabrics are treated with Scotchgard to repel the occasional Dairy Queen spill. Lumina can be equipped with GM's On-Star Mobile Communications system, which uses a cellular phone and global positioning satellite (GPS) to pinpoint the car's location for emergency purposes. The system can also be used to get directions when the driver is lost, or book reservations at a restaurant or on a flight.
With a competent car and a pricing structure that undercuts Ford and Chrysler, Chevy's Lumina offers a blend of function, value and performance (LTZ) most Americans will find appealing.