What's New for 2002
Chevy's personal-luxury coupe receives only minor changes for 2002. LATCH child safety-seat anchors, dual-zone air conditioning and three-point seatbelts for rear passengers are now standard on all models. Bright Red and Medium Green Pearl replace Torch Red and Dark Jade Green as exterior color options.
Heritage design is popular these days, and Chevrolet has employed this styling trend on the Monte Carlo. From the traditional "Knight's Crest" badge, script lettering and distinctive headlight treatment to the sculpted fenders and vertical taillights, the MC strongly recalls the '70s and '80s models that made the nameplate a hit.
Under the skin, the Monte Carlo shares a platform with the Chevrolet Impala, which means this is a big coupe -- the full Monte, if you will. Two models are available: The LS comes equipped with a 3.4-liter V6 engine making 180 horsepower, while the SS benefits from 20 additional ponies and more torque, thanks to the venerable 3.8-liter V6 under the hood. Either model comes well-equipped, but to emphasize performance, the SS gets foglights, rocker-panel moldings, a rear spoiler, 16-inch alloy wheels, a full complement of gauges and twin exhaust outlets routed from dual mufflers.
Despite heavy structural bracing and front and rear sway bars, the Monte Carlo still sways and wallows through turns a bit more than we would like.. Large four-wheel-disc ABS brakes and meaty Goodyear Eagle RS-A performance tires give it respectable stopping power and grip, but the lifeless steering doesn't communicate enough road feel to make this big coupe feel sporty. The fact that it only comes with an automatic transmission doesn't help either, but at least traction control is standard on both models.
Inside, buyers looking for healthy doses of comfort will find it in the Monte Carlo, whose cavernous innards were designed specifically to maximize harmony between the car and the driver. Good visibility, thanks to generous expanses of glass, a standard rear-window defogger and large side-view mirrors, is a Monte Carlo hallmark, though the wide C-pillars will likely block vision in certain parking and lane-change maneuvers.
All Monte Carlos come with dual zone air conditioning, power door locks, power windows, tilt steering wheel, a driver message center with oil life monitor, RDS radio technology, theatre-dimming interior lighting, daytime running lights, a tire-pressure monitor and an inside trunk release designed to prevent a child from becoming locked in the luggage compartment. Step up to the SS model, and you get, in addition to performance/cosmetic enhancements, a cargo net, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel with redundant audio controls, remote keyless entry, dual-zone temperature controls and a pollen filter. Options include leather seating, a newly upgraded premium stereo with CD player, power front seats, heated exterior mirrors, OnStar (standard fare on the SS) and a power sunroof.
Large, affordable coupes are few and far between these days. The Monte Carlo long features list and cavernous interior might seem inticing, but we would rather have the top notch build and material quality of Toyota's Solara or Honda's Accord instead. If performance is more of a priority, we would spend the extra money for Pontiac's more powerful and better handling Grand Prix.