Category Archives: Chevrolet

1999 Chevrolet Lumina LTZ Sedan (264)

Overview:
This 1999 Chevrolet Lumina LTZ is a pretty basic sedan, but it comes with a price to match at about $20,000. The model was introduced in 1990 to be Chevrolet’s high-value, six-passenger midsize sedan. They were aiming at the family market where nearly 75% of buyers are married and said price was the primary reason for their choice. The Lumina is available in a base, LS and this LTZ model.

Recently I tested a Mercedes S500 with electronic controls that I hated. This Lumina is the antithesis of that over complicated system. It has easy-to-use controls that provide everything you really need at literally one fourth the cost of the S500. It also hangs tough against its competition noted below. I’ve tested all and a lot of the reason to buy one over the other will depend on personal preference. Daughter Jenny think foreign built is better, but that ain’t necessarily so. In fact they just bought a Dodge Ram. It’s all the rage you know. Of all those noted here I tend to lean to the Toyota Camry, but I’m becoming more impressed with the fit and finish of American cars including this Lumina. US automakers have come a long way over the past 35 to get back at the Japanese auto industry who dealt such a blow our US autoworkers back in the 1960‘s. Detroit was set up by the fat cat union bosses when they pushed salaries so high US carmakers were unable to compete effectively with their hungry Japanese counterparts.

Historically, Unions did a lot of good after the turn of the 20th century, but outlived their usefulness by post WW II days. That appendage is yet to be cut out because too many people have come to depend on unions for their living. Such necessary organizations like laws of the land should both have “Sunset” clauses in them. Thus they go away after they’ve done their jobs. Gets complicated, eh?

In any case a new generation of American car buyers couldn’t be influenced to buy American. They were too many, and they didn’t have loyalty to the war veteran union workers who were making our cars. They bought foreign products in record numbers and had no clue it would ultimately hurt them by contributing to a failing economy decades later. The recent move back to American made cars wasn’t so much a conscious effort to shore up the economy as it was a renewed confidence in the Big Three who have earned their way back into favor. I also believe the revival was in part due to yet another generation of buyers who would reverse their parent’s exodus to foreign made – everything.

And yes, I’m guilty. I was in that exodus generation that abandoned the American carmakers. I had returned from the orient and Japan in particular where I found the enterprising, hard working Japanese people worthy of my support so they could rebuild their broken country. But then I wasn’t around to experience Pearl Harbor and all that followed during the war years. Even if I had been, seeing Hiroshima would still have altered my sense of duty to my own country. I was ashamed and felt guilty for something I had no control over. Plus I was a poor struggling student in the 1960’s and Japanese cars cost a lot less. I sold out for a little bit of what I thought should be the American dream. It was a matter of individual economics.

Bottom line: American cars are now the best value in the world. Nice job Detroit – or is that Germany and Japan. Who owns Detroit, anyway?

The competition:

Buick Century $18,855 – $20,225, Dodge Intrepid $20,390 – $22,085, Ford Taurus $17,560 – $29,115, Honda Accord $15,350 – $24,550, Mitsubishi Galant $17,357 – $23,757, Oldsmobile Intrigue $21,640 – $25,020, Subaru Legacy $19,195 – $24,295, Toyota Camry $17,098 – $25,058, Volkswagen Passat $21,200 – $28,150.

Good News:

Well priced, powerful engine, fuel-efficient, roomy interior and spacious trunk

Bad News:

Uncomfortable seats, plain wrap styling.

Standard Equipment:

3.8 liter 200-hp V6 engine, four-speed automatic trans, dual airbags, child safety locks, daytime running lights, anti-lock brake system, air conditioning, power steering, windows and door locks, cruise control, theft-deterrent system, tilt steering wheel and stereo with tape.

Gas Stats:

19 City and 30 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $20,360.

1999 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 (263)

Overview:
This 1999 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 takes me back to 1991 when I bought the second Camaro of my life. It was new, white with a black convertible top, and only $22,000. The first Camaro coincidentally was white with a black top as well. It was a used 1967 model that I bought in about 1974 for $1,100.

The Alpha and the Omega of my Camaro experience and coincidentally the Alpha and Omega for Chevrolet’s Camaro, which it introduced in 1967 to compete with the Ford Mustang.

Things were much less expensive in the 1970’s and in 1974 my house cost $43,000 which isn’t uncommon for the price of some of today’s cars. The 1967 today, in its then condition, would probably go for nearly the $27,000 you’d pay for this new 1999.

Yes we made much less income back then, but the disparity somehow didn’t seem that great. Today that same house is on the market for about $450,000. If you analyze the numbers however they come out amazingly consistent, on average, over the past 40 years. Take a look at some ballpark figures:

  1964 1974 1984 1994 2000

Salary $10,000 $20,000 $40,000 $80,000 $120,000

House $20,000 $40,000 $80,000 $160,000 $320,000

Car          $2,000  $4,000   $8,000  $16,000   $24,000

From this you can deduce a car will cost you about 20% of your annual income to pay cash. It would cost you about 30% of your annual income each year to pay to live in the house.

If you ever wondered where your money goes it boils down to some pretty basic stuff. Two cars and a house, fairly typical, take about 40% of your income, Uncle Sam takes about 50% and food clothing and recreation take about 20%. That leaves a minus 10% that comes from savings or is charged to your credit card. I have a suggestion for that budget surplus Clinton is boasting.

Well in keeping with the formula to keep us surfs too busy to complain, the car plays its roll by giving us the wheels to get to that job to pay for everything – almost. Bob Barker would say “Come on down”, the price is right at between $16,705 – $28,115. Trouble is Bob; mom didn’t work back then. Dad could make enough for the family including a vacation. Now mom works and the two can’t coordinate time for a family outing.

Anyway, what you get in this Camaro is relatively very good. This classic muscle car gives much better mileage than did that 1967, which got about 7-12 mpg compared to 17 and 24 mpg today. Gas has gone up from about $.35 / gal to $1.35 / gal, so for every 10 miles driven you paid about $.35 back then and today it costs about $.70 to travel that same 10 miles.

You also get a safer more comfortable car today with gadgets like Acceleration Slip Regulation (traction control) and a high-powered Monsoon stereo system as available options. Camaro’s middle name is performance and has been a successful racecar for many years. Today, there’s bound to be a Camaro racing somewhere in America on any given race weekend.

Camaro is available in four trims: Camaro (base) and Z28, each as a 2-door coupe or convertible.

The competition:

Chrysler Sebring $19,735 – $26,560, Dodge Avenger $18,940 – $21,185, Ford Mustang $16,520 – $25,270, Honda Prelude $23,450 – $25,950, Mitsubishi Eclipse $17,697 – $20,187, Pontiac Firebird $18,250 – $30,460, Toyota Celica $21,440 – $25,009.

Good News:

Heart stopping styling and heart starting performance, thrilling acceleration, ease of use convertible top that adds to making this car flat out Fun to drive and relatively speaking it is a decent value for the money.

Bad News:

Tiny back seat makes this car, for all practical purposes, a 2-seater, visibility is not too good with the top up, difficult to get in and out of, poor storage area in the trunk, passenger side bump in the floor where the catalytic converter is situated.

Standard Equipment:

5.7-liter 305-horsepower V8, auto trans, power 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, dual airbags, daytime running lights, air conditioning, theft-deterrent system, 200-watt Monsoon AM/FM stereo cassette system, 16-inch aluminum wheels, a limited-slip differential, tilt wheel, folding rear seat, power folding top, and an available 6-speed manual transmission.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 24 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $27,850

2000 Chevrolet Impala LS (262)

Overview:
Nice styling and handling with reasonable price tag was my first impression of this Y2K Chevrolet Impala LS. Impala is available in two trims: Base and LS. It is considered a full size car but it has a smaller look and feel while retaining the roominess. Its name has been around for over 40 years since its introduction in 1958.

It became Chevrolet’s best-selling car in its second year of production. More than a million were sold in 1965 alone—a record that still stands for a single brand name.

I really did get a good feeling driving this car. It’s the kind of car you’d guess the price to be much more than it is. But moreover it has a feel of more expensive cars. Solid ride and comfortable seating and other interior features to enhance the perception. The interior is not only well appointed, the fit and finish is high quality for the price. I had just come out of a big top of the line Mercedes so the mere fact that I didn’t sense a huge step down speaks volumes of what the car is like.

Brother John had a black 1958 Impala that he wrapped around a telephone pole when we were in our late teens. I remember that car well and can still recall that awesome indentation of what that phone pole did to the drivers side door. With a whack like that you had to be in your teens to survive the blow. This 2000 model doesn’t look like that car but has the same unique character. Perhaps the only similarity is that it has round taillights like those on the Impala’s of the 1960s. But unlike earlier Impalas, the 2000 model features front-wheel drive.

In addition to having a great looking interior it is also very roomy. Friend Ilona thought the back could seat four big people, but it really isn’t made for four. Only three seatbelts. The trunk is also very spacious, but I bumped my head on the latch when I reached in to get my golf clubs. That smarts. Either I’m a klutz or the design lacks something. It doesn’t fold out of the way as well as it could. The door handles also bothered me. You know, the kind that your fingers slip off as you pull it up and out. I’ve always liked the look of those handles, but I’ve never liked how they operate. However, the design if modified slightly can work very well. For example, the Chevrolet Camero handle operates on the same principal but it is much better. In spite of these complaints I could see buying one of these and would recommend it to my kids. They have young families now and developing careers so the looks coupled with the economy make this a great car for the times. It would be great for the working mom or dad. Less expensive to operate than that yuppie BMW and still looks great. For the mom who takes the kids and being a mom a little more seriously I still like the minivan line, like Venture from Chevrolet.

The competition:

Buick LeSabre $23,235 – $27,340, Dodge Intrepid $20,120 – $22,965, Ford Taurus $17,560 – $29,115, Honda Accord $15,200 – $24,300, Mitsubishi Galant $17,357 – $23,757, Nissan Maxima $21,049 – $26,249, Oldsmobile Intrigue $21,640 – $25,020,

Subaru Legacy $19,195 – $24,295, Toyota Camry $17,098 – $25,058, Volkswagen Passat $21,200 – $28,150.

Good News:

Rich styling, very roomy, good performance and great mileage, feel of more expensive foreign cars with reasonable American prices.

Bad News:

Difficult door handles, trunk lid opening could be better.

Standard Equipment:

3.8-liter V6 200 horsepower engine, 4-speed auto trans, includes air conditioning, power windows and door locks, intermittent wipers, rear window defroster, theft-deterrent system, AM/FM stereo system, cruise control, center console, power driver’s seat, 16-inch alloy wheels, split-folding rear seat, traction control, dual airbags, a driver’s side airbag, daytime running lights, child safety locks, and anti-lock brake system.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 29 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $22,365

1999 Chevrolet Silverado LS 1500 (261)

Overview:
Well, it was a bit of a surprise that this Chevrolet Silverado is GM’s best-selling vehicle. But it should be no surprise considering it is flat out one of the best pick ups on the market, in my view. It is slightly behind Ford’s F-150 in overall sales. One of my favorites is the competitive Dodge Ram, but if you have a thing for Chevrolet you’ll likely lean toward the Silverado rather than the Ram or F-150.

I have to tell you it was culture shock after the prior week in an S500 Mercedes Benz – the cost of which would buy three of these Silverado’s. But I also have to say that the truck was a refreshing change. I was thrilled to once again operate the radio and air conditioning on my own without computer interference. Literally those high tech cars try to take over your life. Sometimes less is better. I could actually rotate a dial to change radio stations. Know the feeling?

Naturally I’m not comparing this truck to the Mercedes, but try this one on for size… this Silverado doesn’t even have a vanity mirror on the driver side visor. Instantly I had a flashback to my 1955 Ford ½ ton pickup. It didn’t have vanity anything. Check it out. Roll up windows, manual seat adjustment, rubber mats separating you from a metal body and frame.. you get the idea – real basic in those days.  What then? Does GM expect only men will buy this truck? How would a woman put on her makeup while driving?

Ok, so it’s a truck. That’s something I forgot until I went over the same dip I just went over the day before in the Mercedes at about the same speed. This Silverado took it like a truck. But from the inside the luxury and comfort makes you forget you’re IN a truck. And this is really a truckers truck. It’s beefy, solid, sits high for good eye contact with drivers of 18 wheelers and has the power to pull a house. I’d rate it at the top of the truck competition.

I don’t like to complain, but the mileage sucks which is especially noticeable with rising gas prices. My 1955 Ford V8 got nearly as good mileage and the price of gas back then was about 20 cents a gallon. And while I’m complaining, I think the third door should be on the driver’s side where it is likely to be used. Take a look around GM. Most cars “and trucks” on the road only have one occupant – the driver. Hellll-oh, anyone home?

You’re right –  “me thinks I protest too much”. But some things just bug you. Anyway, on the positive side, even though today’s trucks are quieter and more luxurious than we deserve they are still trucks nevertheless. The suspension is stiff for the jobs a truck is called to do. So the ride is not exactly car like, but in all fairness manufacturers have done a great job of giving us the best of both worlds.

I like the truck a lot and shouldn’t compare with how things were baaack in the good old days. Ever get flashbacks of those days? In a dream state this morning I drifted back in time to the nostalgia of my pre-teens. I revisited the wonderful feeling of sitting on the living room floor listening to “The Shadow” or “The Lone Ranger” by a warm fire on a cold evening. It snowed in Pasadena that year and it was a welcoming we hadn’t expected moving from Massachusetts to sunny California. Dad must have cringed to think he hauled a 25 foot trailer behind a 1946 Chevrolet sedan only to have to shovel snow again. He’d given away his snow shovel when we left Boston. Ever get those flashbacks?

This Silverado 1500 is a ½ ton and the 2500 is a 3/4 ton and they come in regular and extended cabs, two or three doors, a pickup bed with flared sides or straight sides, multiple wheelbases and 2- or 4-wheel drive. It is interesting to note that 75 percent of pickup trucks sold are half ton; 60 percent have extended cabs and 56 percent are 4X4s.

The model I tested had a bed liner, and it was a bit of a disappointment in how it fit. I thought there must be options, so I asked around. Partner and race driver Price Cobb told me about an alternative that’s hot right now. He said Rhino Linings has a “Sprayed-on” liner called Tuff Stuff and it even comes in colors. It is made of polyurethane so things won’t slip and slide. If you have questions on this option, e-mail me or call 626 398 3054 for the low down.

The competition:

Dodge Ram 1500 $14,795 – $23,580 Ford F-150 $15,285 – $29,995 GMC Sierra Classic 1500 $22,796 – $25,946 Toyota Tundra $14,995 – $27,830.

Good News:

Quiet ride, handles well, four-wheel disc brakes for reduced stopping distances, Chevrolet quality, powerful, car like roomy interior.

Bad News:

Poor mileage, long turning radius, bumpy ride, restricted visibility, third door on wrong side, poorly installed bed liner.

Standard Equipment:

Vortec 5300 5.3 liter 270-horsepower V8 gas engine, 4-speed auto trans, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, dual air bags with deactivation switch for passenger side, three door, tilt wheel, power steering – windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, independent front suspension with multi-leaf rear springs, trailering wire harness, front recovery hooks, air conditioning, dual power mirrors, stereo with CD and cruise control.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 18 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $25,895

1999 Chevrolet Venture Minivan (254)

Overview:
This week’s review is the Chevrolet Venture minivan. It is perfect for young families and I wish they had them when my kids were little. And it’s interesting to note that my rich and not so rich relatives like what minivans have to offer. When they have real family concerns this vehicle platform is very appealing for a few basic reasons.

 

 

For starters, it is easy to get in and out of for young and old than its more popular rival, the sport utility vehicles, or SUV. It is car like in most every way but better. Cars are good before and after kids and the SUV is fine after the youngest kids are twelve and older. That’s when they have outgrown their little league and soccer uniforms and are ready for some serious “off road” camping trips. It’s like the auto industry is actually listening to consumer needs. In this case they hit the jackpot with the minivan, because it falls smack dab between the old style van, (like the Chevy Astro Van, Chrysler’s Caravan and Voyager and VW’s Euro Van, etc.), and the sport utility’s (like Jeep, Chevy Blazer, Ford Explorer, Infiniti QX4, etc.). It fits so well and serves a need so perfectly that it’s no surprise this vehicle has grown so in popularity.

A couple of years ago after daughter Jenny had been wrestling with car seats, toddler and all the rest for about a year, her wish was to someday own a minivan. The need has grown by magnitudes now that she has number two child. I thought twice about visiting while driving this Venture but I did anyway and it heightened her sense of urgency to buy a minivan. “Which one is best, dad?” – Jen, they’re all really good and they all look the same. The only difference in appearance is the manufacturers badge. I suggested they test drive a few to get a feel for which seemed better from the standpoint of: ride, solid feel, and be sure it is well insulated (so the world can be sparred the screaming kids), and neat features like this Venture’s baby seat built in to one of the seat backs, and of course PRICE. And since all the competition is closely priced, that will be more a factor of how much the dealer will “DEAL”. As for this Venture, Jenny, I like it just fine. It handles great, is powerful, comfortable, fun to drive, good gas mileage and I simply like Chevy’s.

My first car was a 1934 coupe with a rumble seat – and no, I didn’t buy it new. I’ve since owned a 1946 Pickup, a 1957 2-door hard top, a 1967 2-door Malibu hard top- which I did buy new and that’s the one I brought you home from the hospital in, a 1967 Convertible for the fun of it, a 1971 Station Wagon – to be practical (they didn’t have minivans then), and finally a 1991 Camaro Convertible – to relive the thrill of it all when I wasn’t riding my Harley Davidson. And I loved them all.

Chrysler dominates this class but since its introduction in 1997 Chevrolet’s Venture seems to have met consumers wants. It is squarely in the current mainstream of minivan design and if you, like me, lean toward Chevrolet products, you’ll include this one in your test drive and consideration. Venture is available in three trims: Regular 3-door and 4-door and an Extended 4-door. Venture’s windshield features a unique metallic coating that helps keep the interior cool and serves as the radio antenna as well. I like the look of the regular length model, but I have to say the storage space is almost useless. You literally have about one foot of depth to the last row of the eight seating configuration. If you don’t need more than five seats, forget my last comment.

I hope I answered your question Jenny….(buy the Cheeevy), love, Dad.

The competition:

Chrysler Town & Country $27,385 – $36,340, Dodge Caravan $18,205 – $31,710, Ford Windstar $18,425 – $30,415, Honda Odyssey $23,000 – $25,800, Mercury Villager $22,415 – $25,015, Oldsmobile Silhouette $24,610 – $31,200, Plymouth Voyager $18,205 – $23,075, Pontiac Montana $21,325 – $24,040, Toyota Sienna $21,508 – $26,574.

Good News:

Comfortable ride, good performance, smooth shifting trans, lots of neat features including built in baby seat, storage compartments and cupholdera galore for all the rug rats, Chevy reliability.

Bad News:

Less than solid sounding front doors, poor engine access – but only the service department will complain.

Standard Equipment:

3.4-liter 185-horsepower V6 engine, 4-speed auto trans, dual front and side airbags, anti-lock front disc – rear drum brake system (ABS), daytime running lights, power door locks and outside mirrors, theft deterrent system, dual sliding doors, air conditioning, integrated pollen filter, multiple cupholders, intermittent wipers, tilt steering wheel, and AM/FM stereo.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $22,045

1999 Chevrolet Astro Van (252)

Overview:
This Astro Van reminds me of my youth when vans didn’t have windows and were used in business for delivery etc. Chevrolet says this is a heavy-duty minivan, but this along with vans like Ford Econoline, Dodge Ram Wagon, GMC Safari (sister of this Astro) are, to me, just Vans. The VW Euro Van also falls into this category.

All are taller, have much more ground clearance and are simply more truck like. Thus, they still seem more suited to business applications where 8-passenger heavy-duty capability is important. Also, if you have a boat to tow and lots of kids and luggage to haul on vacation, this is likely better than other minivans.

Most of the reasons for owning a minivan, namely family use, are to get the kids around town, to and from school, soccer and little league practice etc. For that use, my preference is the smaller minivans like the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey. These lower to the ground minivans

are better for passengers who are likely to be real little people who would have more difficulty getting in and out of the larger vans. You can visualize mom taking the kids and the neighbor’s kids to school, to the park, or Disneyland. Beside having to help the little ones up that first high step, she would have to do all that from the passenger side, since the larger vans often only have one sliding door and that is on the passenger side. Most minivans now come with two sliding doors and that driver side rear door is invaluable.

The catch (and there usually is a catch) is the price. You’ll pay $8-10,000 less for this Chevy Astro Van than the Honda and Toyota noted above. I guess I could do a little “high-stepping” for that kind of pocket change. Get this; the Retail Price Range is only $19,725 – $23,252 for this heavy-duty minivan and it’s available in 2- or 4-wheel-drive. There is an all-new all-wheel-drive (AWD) system for 1999, and it operates in rear-wheel drive until wheel slippage occurs, at which time torque is immediately transferred to the front wheels to help regain control.

While most minivans are based on car platforms, the Chevy Astro is very much a truck. In its cargo van configuration, it has been very popular with fleet operators since being introduced in 1985. Astro has one of the most powerful engines in its class and at 5,500 lbs. boasts the best towing capacity. I rather liked the unique optional rear “Dutch Doors,” which combine a full liftgate window with split-panel hinged doors below. But they didn’t have latches to keep them open and I found them annoying, so I didn’t use them as much as I could have.

There are 24 major van and minivan model lines for sale on the U.S. market this year and Vans and minivans—together—comprise almost 11 percent of all new vehicles sold in the U.S., with minivans outselling full-size vans three to one. That fact tells volumes about how people have gravitated to them recently. I predict they will find even more favor with families and if mom has here way, they will buy a minivan and not the 4-wheel drive, off road macho SUV.

The competition:

Dodge Caravan $18,105 – $31,610 Ford Windstar $18,425 – $30,415 GMC Safari $19,789 – $23,316 Plymouth Voyager $18,105 – $22,975 Volkswagen EuroVan $30,650 – $35,310

Good News:

Priced well, assembled in the United States, versatile with seating for eight and capable of hauling a heavy load or pulling a trailer, good visibility with big rear window with the Dutch door option.

Bad News:

Poor fuel consumption, high off the ground which can cause parking problems in regular garage or in public parking areas, high center of gravity makes handling tricky, restricted legroom for driver and front passenger because the engine and front wheel wells protrude inside the cabin.

Standard Equipment:

4.3 liter V6 190 horsepower engine, 4-speed auto Trans, dual air bags, anti-lock brakes, theft deterrent, air conditioning, 8-passenger seating, stereo with cassette, tinted glass, power mirrors, Dutch doors in rear, chrome wheels and remote keyless entry.

Gas Stats:

16 City and 20 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $22,198.

1999 Chevrolet S-10 Xtreme Pick up (246)

Overview:
The Chevrolet S-10 took a ride to east LA and got a makeover. It then became the Xtreme that we’re looking at this week. Well… this has to be an all-time first for Chevrolet if not the industry. It has to be the first production “Low Rider” ever.

Chevrolet is hoping to attract a younger audience with lowered ground effects, wheel flares, integrated fog lights, special 16-inch wheels, and Xtreme graphics that promise to eliminate the need for a trip to the aftermarket shop or Pick a Part.

I think they have achieved their goal of attracting the younger crowd because they were the ones who did double takes when they saw it. And see it they must, because if you believe the sad high school statistics they surely won’t be reading about this, or any vehicle for that matter. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

The odd thing is that as you approach the truck it looks like a, well a truck. But after you drive it for a few miles you forget you’re in a truck. It’s so low as to give the impression that you are in a passenger sport car. That is until you hit a dimple in the road. It’s like 20 miles of bad road, even on reasonably good roads, thanks to the ZQ8 Sport Suspension. That suspension reminds me of the Cheeevees and every other car with “Torched” springs very common in the 1950’s and early 1960’s if you couldn’t afford to do it right. You probably never did that, but I know I did. You got a “Radical Rake” with a torch and a little bit of weight on the bumper. Then, wa-la, cool car. It was Norman’s idea dad, honest. But then it was my Olds 88 so Norm thought it was a great idea.

I was also the proud owner of a couple of pick up trucks back then so I did appreciate the extended cab feature of this Xtreme Chevy. It even had a third door option on the driver side for access to the extra inside storage area. Great for my golf clubs etc., but then it made the small jump seat behind the passenger unusable. It didn’t matter though, because that jump seat is for contortionist ‘little people’ who can find their way into that back storage area.

This Xtreme comes standard with an inline 4-cylinder 120 horsepower engine, however I tested a model with the optional V6 175 hp engine that was very adequate. Handling, albeit rough, is great and not truck-like at all. With the low center of gravity cornering is slick.

The body styling is unique and the one I drove had the “Sportside” option for a few little reminders of the old days. Rear fenders and small rubber padded areas reminiscent of the ‘running boards’ of those early vintage pick up trucks.

The competition:

Dodge Dakota $13,360 – $19,765, Ford Ranger $11,845 – $19,435, GMC Sonoma $12,204 – $20,015, Isuzu Hombre $11,545 – $20,075, Mazda B-Series $11,345 – $22,435, Nissan Frontier $11,490 – $20,190, Toyota Tacoma $12,698 – $24,688.

Good News:

Different, fun to drive, pick up truck convenience, low, which makes entry easier, economical to operate.

Bad News:

Rough ride, no towing available on this Xtreme package.

Standard Equipment:

2.2 liter inline 4-cylinder 120 hp engine, 5 speed manual transmission, 16″ wheels, fog lamps, air conditioning, tachometer, leather wrapped steering wheel.

Gas Stats:

23 City and 29 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $15,370. The model I drove added options for Sportside, third door, reclining buckets, tinted glass, AM/FM with CD, V6 engine, tilt wheel and cruise control, power windows and door locks that brought the price to $22,063.

1999 Corvette Convertible (241)

Overview:
In a word… awesome. This could be the end of the story about this Corvette Convertible, and surely the shortest review ever. But there are other words to describe this car. Incredible comes to mind. If you don’t read another word, you know enough. I love this country.

I love that we still lead the way in so many things. I love that we have the ingenuity to produce such a great car that is “nearly” affordable. With a retail price range of $38,197 – $45,095, you can own the excitement of one of the world’s finest sports cars.

I was reminded of the reason for our leadership in the development and design of anything and everything. I attended the graduation of a friend from the world famous Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. One of the areas of education they excel in just happens to be automotive design. And I believe one of the reasons for their notoriety is the rich diversity of nationalities represented in that school. One third of the graduating class were from about twelve other countries.

History of the Corvette: It was introduced in 1953, in 1975 the convertible was discontinued, and in 1986 the convertible reintroduced. The 1999 model year is the fifth-generation Corvette and includes the first fixed-roof ‘Vette since 1967. It delivers the same performance of other trims but for a lower base price. Also new for 1999 is a Heads-Up Display, which is a projection of speed and other information onto the windshield only visible to the driver.

Handling is spectacular which is made possible by the cars improved rigidity. It finally gave engineers the ability to improve the handling characteristics that are relatively unique to Corvette. It is very noticeable to those who have driven Corvettes over the years, and is bound to draw praise from supporters and critics alike. The design incorporates a combination of an Active Handling System with the ABS and Traction Control systems to give this car equal or superior handling of any car in the world. This combination of computer assisted handling makes it almost impossible to spin out, or oversteer. I could have used that technology in the Porsche I lost control of on the Willow Springs racetrack. Professional race driver David Murry, who drives for Porsche, was my passenger and although he tried to correct my steering problem he wasn’t fast enough and we did a complete 360 on turn number three. The Active Handling System reacts in a fraction of a second. I drove the same track on the same day in this Corvette and didn’t have that problem. But I have to admit I probably pushed the Porsche harder because of the perception that it is better since it is “more expensive”. Not!

The 1999 Chevrolet Corvette is available in three trims: Hardtop, Coupe and Convertible.

I love convertibles, and have owned several over the years. They are not real popular with the fairer sex, probably having more to do with paying $50 or $100 to have their hair done. King Solomon had the same problem with his 1000 wives. Vanity, he said, everything under the sun is vanity.

The competition is pretty awesome too, and I’ve driven all except for the Lotus Esprit. But I have to tell you, for the money, this Corvette is a hands down winner.

The competition:

Five countries bring us: Dodge Viper $65-68,000, Lotus Esprit $84,000 Porsche 911 $65- 80,000, Ferrari F355 $121-141,000, Acura NSX $84-$88,000, Mitsubishi 3000GT $25-44,000, Toyota Supra $31-40,000

Good News:

Solid ride, handling as if you’re on rails, great trunk space, awesome acceleration, flat out fun to drive, the best control of any car on the market, great pricing, convertible top simple to put up and down, made in USA.

Bad News:

Two-seater limitation, space behind the seats “is” the trunk – which means I could hear my golf clubs rattling around, top is manually operated.

Standard Equipment:

5.7-liter V8 345 hp engine, 4-speed auto trans, traction control, 4-wheel independent suspension with anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), power speed sensitive rack & pinion steering, aluminum wheels, extended mobility tires with low pressure warning, air conditioning, remote entry, theft-deterrent system, AM/FM stereo cassette, sport bucket seats.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $44,999 and $48,678 after option additions of adjustable seats, Active Handling, Heads up display, climate control, tilt and telescopic steering wheel.

1999 Tracker a 4-door 4-wheel drive hard top (240)

Overview:
This weeks Tracker is great for those who want a sport utility type of vehicle at half the money of this very popular segment of the automotive market. I’ve heard a lot about the Toyota RAV4 as Tracker’s closest competitor and that is true enough from the Stats where they look like sisters.

The most significant difference is that the RAV4 has 4-wheel independent suspension and the Tracker has a rear live axle. Secondly is that, feature for feature, the RAV4 is about $2,000 more.

Background: Both are Mini Sport Ute’s and the Tracker replaced the discontinued Geo brand for the 1998 model year. In the early days of the Tracker it wasn’t even a mini utility in my view, but Chevrolet has taken it up against the competition and it is very strong. Tracker owners are under age 35, which is right where Chevrolet wants to be and they refer to it as “the sport utility for young-minded, adventurous, expressive buyers.” For off road use Tracker has a full ladder-type steel frame and nearly eight inches of ground clearance. I didn’t drive the convertible model, but I’ve heard the claim is true that folding top is specifically designed to be easy to raise and lower. Trackers are built in Canada by CAMI, Inc., a joint venture of General Motors and Suzuki, which also sells this vehicle as the Suzuki Vitara.

The 1999 Chevrolet Tracker is available in four trims: a 2-door convertible in 2WD or 4WD, a 4-door hardtop in 2WD or 4WD.

The 4-door 4-wheel drive model I tested was well equipped and at the top end of the price schedule. I truly enjoyed driving the vehicle and haven’t tested many of the mini utilities. They have become a player in this segment of the market, and I think folks will appreciate the added fuel efficiency. I also believe they won’t get their knickers in a twist over the obvious trade off of less power and performance of their larger, more luxurious relatives.

If you have money to burn, these Mini’s won’t excite you. But for the cost conscious who share the desire to own a Sport Utility, this is just the ticket. And considering that over 75% are used in town anyway, the lack of size and power will never become an issue. I think we Americans tend to buy more than we really need. Gas prices here in the US have been much lower than the rest of the world so we haven’t paid much attention to making them better. We go for big and heavy probably because we can. The rest of the world is far more practical. I think that mindset will change in the future.

If you’re budget won’t justify a $30,000 sport utility, you can opt for a mini utility from the list below for half the dough, or buy two, one for you and one for your better half.

The competition:

Honda CR-V $18-20K, Isuzu Amigo $15-20K, Jeep Wrangler $14-20K, Subaru Forester $18-22K, Suzuki Grand Vitara $13-19K, Toyota RAV4 $15-17K, Kia Sportage $14-18K.

Good News:

Clean lines, car-like comfort, affordable, good gas mileage

Bad News:

Limited space, lacks power

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter 4-cylinder 127 horsepower engine, 4 speed automatic trans, dual airbags, daytime running lights, child safety locks, 4-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS), AM/FM stereo, rear-seat heater ducts, fuel tank skidplate, power steering and Scotchgard protection, shift-on-the-fly 4WD system and automatic locking hubs, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel.

Gas Stats:

22 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $15,935

1969 special purpose – Chevrolet Trail Blazer (309)

Overview:
This week we had the opportunity to go to the mountains in the Chevrolet Trail Blazer. Sequoia National Park where there are Lions, No Tigers, but lots of bears. I bumped into two but wasn’t in the Trail Blazer. Boy, that will get your heart started. and if you love cars as much cheap nfl jerseys as I do, this version of the Blazer will help you enjoy seeing the USA in cheap jerseys nfl your Chevrolet.

We toted gear for three people for a week very comfortably without using the roof rack. I’ve tested all the competition except the Ford Explorer, but generally if you turn them upside down you’ll find they’re all sisters. There simply isn’t enough difference in the lot to really get excited about. SUV’s are so popular manufacturers don’t seem to be willing to go too far out on the “difference limb”.

And although Explorer may lead the pack in sales, it isn’t by much and perhaps the slight increase in width and height of the Explorer over the Blazer is more important to buyers. I’ve owned lots of both Ford and Chevy’s and have usually opted for the Chevrolet family.

Handling & Performance:

Mineral King is at the south end of the Sequoia’s and was annexed not so long ago into the National Park. After leaving the main highway 198 through Visalia, you’ll have to negotiate 639 turns before you reach the Silver City store and cabins or camping areas. I didn’t tire a bit after the 4 hours of freeway driving to get to the turnoff from Los Angeles. The V6 delivered all the power needed to climb to 7000 feet over black top and dirt roads.

Styling:

Ya gotta love GM for the consistent car lineup they’ve maintained over the years. Chevy products just exude confidence in the area of quality and command attention as being a leader in design. Jeep, on the other hand was first on cheap jerseys nfl the scene as far back as WWII and the standard on which others are measured. It’s always been a favorite of mine in this category.

Fit and Finish:

Good.

Conveniences:

I never wanted for any feature. In fact, I’ve got to tell you a little story. I’m driving from Silver City to Mineral King were most of the trailheads start for the most beautiful hiking in any country. So I push the On Star blue button and wa-la, “Welcome to On Star – this is Brian, how can I help you?” Whoa, says I to Brian, I’m testing this and wanted to know if it would work here in the wilderness. Brian says, “I have you traveling east on Mineral King Road in a Trail Blazer”. Thanks, Brian and On Star. That is really convenient and adds comfort or peace of mind. And the On Star operators are always so damn polite. For more information, you can go to www.onstar.com.

Cost:

If you could get it without the On Star you could save a bunch, but it appears to be standard.

Recommendation:

To me, as noted above, Jeep is the benchmark of all SUV’s. Thus, I’d start there and test-drive all the competition in order of preference according to styling.

The competition:

Dodge Durango $26,310-28,310, Ford Explorer $19,970-34,565,Honda Passport $22,800-30,150, Jeep Grand Cherokee $26,895-34,635, Land Rover Discovery $33,350-34,150, Mitsubishi Montero Sport $20,493-28,524, Nissan Pathfinder $27,349-31,299, Toyota 4Runner $22,288-36,818.

Good News:

Comfortable ride and great seats for the 5-hour trek to Sequoia National Park, good handling, built like a rock? Well, maybe not that good but basically quality construction, autotrac / automatic 4-wheel drive works well, nice interior.

Bad News:

I keep harping on the poor gas mileage and no one listens, this is narrower than the Explorer, for example, therefore seating of 5 may be less comfortable than you’d like, poor visibility typical of all SUV’s.

Standard Equipment:

4.3 liter 190 horsepower V6 engine, 4-speed auto trans., autotrac 4X4 transfer case, climate control, power steering, daytime running lights, dual air bags, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, On Star system, stereo with CD, 18 gal fuel tank, theft deterrent system, 8-way power driver seat, keyless remote with theft alarm.

Gas Stats:

16 City and 20 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $31,765.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
Copyright © 2014 – An Automotive Love Affair.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
Copyright © 2014 – An Automotive Love Affair.