What's New for 2006
The Monte Carlo receives significant revisions for 2006. On the outside, Chevrolet has altered the car's styling with new front-end styling and taillights. Inside, the Monte Carlo benefits from a redesigned instrument panel, improved audio systems, more comfortable seats and standard front side airbags. Mechanical changes include a stronger body structure, retuned suspension geometry for enhanced stability and improved braking systems. There are also new engines for the Chevy car: a base 3.5-liter V6, an upgraded 3.9-liter V6 and a new 5.3-liter V8 for the SS trim, which replaces last year's supercharged V6. Finally, the lineup of trim levels has been shuffled slightly to accommodate a new luxury-oriented LTZ trim.
Although it debuted in 1970 at the height of the muscle-car era, the Monte Carlo wasn't just another Chevrolet street machine looking for a fight. Instead, the Monte was Chevrolet's bid for customers who wanted a sporty, upscale coupe that provided a balance of performance and comfort in a stylish package.
Additional performance was still an option as the Monte Carlo could be ordered with the famed "SS" package just like its "A-body" siblings. Super Sport Monte Carlos had one of two 454 V8s, beefed-up suspensions and "SS" badges inside and out. A new model was released in 1973 sporting even swoopier sheet metal, but Chevrolet put the kibosh on the SS package due to stiffening emissions restrictions.
Second-generation Monte Carlo models lasted until 1978 when an all-new, and considerably smaller, version debuted. The third-generation model offered a V6 for the first time, but the Monte still retained the arcing lines and long hood/short rear deck appearance of its predecessors. Just three years later, the fourth-generation Monte arrived. Although it initially retained "A-body" underpinnings, the Monte Carlo was quickly switched over to the new "G-body" platform in 1982. The Super Sport package returned in 1983, although this time around it consisted of mostly cosmetic changes. Chevy car buyers loved it anyway as the Super Sport Montes proved to be quite popular throughout the '80s.
Production continued until 1988 when the Chevy Monte Carlo was replaced by the Lumina coupe. This was not to be the end, however, as the Lumina coupe became the Monte Carlo once again in 1995. At this point the Monte Carlo had been softened and rehashed with front-wheel drive and V6 engines that barely hinted at the performance of years past. The current Monte Carlo debuted in 2000 with more distinctive styling and new underpinnings from the Impala sedan. Significant changes for 2006 bring the Monte Carlo closer to today's buyers needs. An enhanced structure promises improved driving dynamics, while fresh interior and exterior styling give a more modern appearance.
Changes under the hood include a new 3.5-liter V6 with 211 hp and a 3.9-liter version that makes 240 hp (the same as last year's supercharged SS). The SS model's supercharged V6 has been dropped in favor of a 5.3-liter V8 with 303 hp and 323 lb-ft of torque. That's great and all, but with this much juice going to the Monte Carlo's front wheels, torque steer is inevitable. Even with this year's upgrades, the 2006 Chevrolet Monte Carlo is a cruiser coupe that's more at home on the freeway than twisty mountain roads. If you really want performance, the surprisingly roomy Mustang is a better bet.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Chevrolet Monte Carlo is a two-door coupe that comes in four trim levels: LS, LT, LTZ and SS. The LS model comes with 16-inch wheels, air conditioning, power door locks and windows, a tilt steering wheel and remote keyless entry. Stepping up to the LT model gets you dual-zone manual air conditioning and a remote vehicle starter. The LTZ includes heated leather bucket seats, an upgraded audio system, 17-inch alloys and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The SS offers 18-inch wheels, a performance suspension and full-perimeter ground effects.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard engine is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 211 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque. Optional on the LT and standard on the LTZ is a 3.9-liter V6 with 240 hp and 242 lb-ft of torque. All models employ a responsive four-speed automatic transmission that sends the power through the front wheels. The SS has a 5.3-liter V8 making 303 hp and 323 lb-ft of torque. To handle the extra power, the SS uses a heavy-duty version of GM's four-speed automatic.
Antilock brakes and traction control are standard on the 3.9L-equipped LT, the LTZ and the SS; they're optional on 3.5L-equipped cars. Front-seat side airbags are optional on all Monte Carlos. In government crash tests, the current-generation Chevrolet Monte Carlo received five stars (out of five) for protection of the driver and front passenger in a frontal collision.
Interior Design and Special Features
As far as coupes go, the Chevy Monte Carlo is spacious and comfortable. The seats are wide and can accommodate a variety of drivers, and even the rear seats are usable. This year's updates bring a cleaner, more modern design that even incorporates an input jack for portable music players. The SS cockpit benefits from sporty metallic trim.
The 2006 Chevrolet Monte Carlo handles well enough to suit its intended buyer. Large four-wheel antilock disc brakes and meaty performance tires give it respectable stopping power and grip, but the 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 all three engines are torquey off the line. While the SS model may be appealing to power-hungry buyers, installing a V8 of this size in a front-wheel-drive car invariably results in torque steer and a nose-heavy feel. Our recommendation? Stick with the better balanced LTZ and its plenty powerful 3.9-liter V6.