Used 1998 Chevrolet Lumina
Edmunds' Expert Review
While in college, one of our staffers attended the 1989 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mich. 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 Lumina 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. In 1995, Chevrolet revamped the car. It was a vast improvement over the first-generation model, offering dual airbags housed in an ergonomically correct, straightforward dashboard. The exterior shape is modern and, dare we say, attractive. Even more amazing, the Lumina performs well, although the feel of the car really doesn't transmit any inkling of performance capability thanks to poor brake pedal feel and vague, disconnected steering.
Still, the numbers are there, and when equipped with the 3800 V6 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 Lumina nonetheless keeps itself planted to terra firma with little fanfare. The LTZ was originally due for the 1997 model year, but at the last minute, production was severely curtailed due to a lack of a powerful engine option. A twin-cam 3.4-liter V6 was supposed to go into the LTZ last year, but rumored durability issues forced Chevrolet to dedicate all production of that motor to the Monte Carlo Z34. During the delay, designers concocted machine-faced aluminum wheels for the LTZ. Evidently, these are supposed to help sport sedan shoppers get over the loss of the Impala SS. Fat chance.
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. For 1998, the Lumina can be equipped with GM's OnStar 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 fine blend of function, value and performance. This is one GM product that was done right the first time, just like the new Malibu, which should be investigated closely by buyers interested in the Lumina. It's almost as big, is more comfortable and carries a lower price tag.
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This year General Motors is getting serious with its Lumina LTZ sport sedan. Last year, the LTZ package consisted primarily of a few exterior badges and some exclusive wheels, nothing in the powerplant or underpinnings seriously suggesting that this vehicle was any different than the garden variety Lumina favored by homemakers and rental fleets. Perhaps because its in-house competition, the Pontiac Grand Prix, Oldsmobile Intrigue, and Buick Regal, has gotten so much stiffer in the last year, or maybe because Chevrolet is sick of being disregarded when the term "sport sedan" comes up, they have finally infused the LTZ with the equipment that it needs to go fast.
The primary responsibility for this vehicle's metamorphosis lies with the Series II 3800 V-6 engine that is now an optional addition to the LTZ's engine compartment. This engine is the same one that we've raved about in the powerful Pontiac Grand Prix GT, Oldsmobile Intrigue, and Buick Regal LS. Producing 200 horsepower and 225 lbs./ft. of torque, this motor gives any car lucky enough to be equipped with it neck-snapping acceleration and strong mid-range passing power. Transferring that power from the engine to the front axle is an improved 4-speed automatic transmission. While we prefer a manual tranny, this automatic does a decent enough job of selecting the appropriate gear when we were climbing hills or passing on a two-lane road.
To help the Lumina LTZ exploit its newfound energy the bowtie boys have beefed up the car's suspension and braking systems. The LTZ's suspension, referred to as the Ride and Handling Suspension in Chevy parlance, receives 4-stage valving in the front struts to help control ride motion. Also new this year are 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes that resist fading more than last year's front disc/rear drum setup.
All of this work has certainly changed the personality of the Lumina LTZ. What was forgettable and almost laughable last year becomes a serious contender this year in the macho arena of stoplight drags and freeway on-ramp merges. Although we appreciate the Lumina's speed, we wish that Chevrolet had put a bit more effort into the car's suspension and chassis. We have complained about the Lumina's harsh ride and steering in the past, and these problems persist on this model as well. Expansion joints and small potholes send a serious shudder through this vehicle's steering column, and the suspension crashes on medium-sized dips in the road. These would not be major complaints if we were evaluating a typical mom-mobile, but this car is supposed to appeal to the enthusiast in the family. We don't know of any enthusiast that would be comfortable with these sensations at the high speeds that the LTZ is capable of travelling at.
The Lumina LTZ's interior is a bit of a disappointment as well. Although it is comfortable and functional, there are no interior differences to distinguish the LTZ from the Lumina LS that Hertz is renting to your Uncle Phil and his family at the airport. Looking at that bland dashboard and uninspired instrument panel gives no clue as to how quickly this car will blast down the freeway. Our other gripe about the Lumina also center on the interior. Although it has spacious seating for five, the LTZ's chairs do not offer the driver or passengers the kind of support needed for comfortable negotiation of winding roads.
On the plus side of the ledger, the Lumina LTZ does have an attractive shape that will undoubtedly wear better than the obnoxious Ford Taurus SHO and look-at-me Pontiac Grand Prix GTP as the years roll by. A true stealthmobile, there is nothing about this car's exterior that would make a police officer want to point his radar gun at you rather than the Honda Prelude in the next lane. Other things we like about this car are its 15.5 cu.ft. trunk and high level of standard equipment that includes things like air conditioning, alloy wheels, stereo with cassette, power windows and door locks, power outside mirrors, and 6-way power driver's seat.
The Lumina LTZ is getting closer to what Americans want in a performance sedan. If this car had been introduced three years ago, we would have undoubtedly sung its praises to high heaven. The fact remains, however, that while Chevrolet has slowly been fiddling with the Lumina's recipe, other marques, including others within the GM family, have reinvented how we think of the sport sedan. More than fast-with-four-doors, the new entrants in this crowded field include highly refined cars like the Oldsmobile Intrigue and Buick Regal, and sophisticated vehicles like the Nissan Maxima and Toyota Camry. The Lumina offers one of our favorite engines in a nice shape with a functional interior. So do the Buick Regal and Oldsmobile Intrigue, with the added benefit of improved chassis rigidity and more refined suspension and steering components. At the end of this century there are plenty of cars that can whisk the family away quickly and stylishly. If we were choosing one for ourselves, we would take a pass on the Lumina in favor of one of GM's newer designs..
Used 1998 Chevrolet Lumina Overview
The Used 1998 Chevrolet Lumina is offered in the following submodels: Lumina Sedan. Available styles include LS 4dr Sedan, 4dr Sedan, and LTZ 4dr Sedan.
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Should I lease or buy a 1998 Chevrolet Lumina?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.