Road Test: Chevrolet Lumina SSV Auto

It’s as old school as a carrier pigeon, but Ray Leathern tries to find some refuge in the simpleton, Aussie engineering, of the V8 Chevy Lumina SSV.

This is a problem you see, I don’t like Aussies… No really, if you’re an Australian, visiting out shores to follow some or other sporting team, you’re presumably sans shirt, wearing a backpack, obsessed with scoring weed, or our women and weeing on every second tree you pass by.

Now that I think about it though, I can find a few things I like about the Aussies in fact. I like the way Richie Benaud is still cricket commentating. I like the Aussies’ total lack of competitiveness in Super rugby all of a sudden and let’s not forget the big one, I like the Holden… ahh, I mean V8 Chevy Lumina SSV.

The thing is though, I should say I ‘used’ to like it, because the one we all know has been around for ages already and now it’s just had a few tweaks done to it to keep it fresh. That’s why it’s called the SS ‘V’ all of a sudden. It may sound like a dramatic change to the badge, but it’s a not so dramatic change to the car.

All you really need to say about a car like the Lumina SSV is: It’s fast, it’s not very stable at high speed or in the corners, it has an enormous wafting steering wheel and it’s built ‘big’ like a sheep shearer’s thighs. They come in ludicrous colours as well but, if like me, you get a silver one, it can almost pass for understated.

The size and proportions of the Lumina haven’t grown from the previous model. The enormously flared wheel arches still reside at the front over a new design of 18-inch alloys and they cut an ominous line to the front air dam that has been slightly reshaped. It doesn’t have lines that are meant to mimic water cascading in three directions over each body panel and it doesn’t have anything as obvious as LED running lights. It does still have the tiniest wing mirrors ever fitted to a car. Seeing what’s going on behind you would be easier if you used the tiny mirrors your dentist shoves in your mouth once every year to see how much plaque buildup you have in there.

You hear the expression, it looks fast even when its stationary, well a Lumina sedan just looks like it’s got its feet up in front of the telly and is giving you a big Aussie middle finger whenever it’s stationary. Step inside the cabin to find all dark,, hard touch, materials and the switches that look like something from a Hi-Fi Corporation mega sale. The central display, which governs the climate control and stereo, is new on the SSV and it is easier to operate.

Then you stick in the chunky key and breathe life into the V8, Corvette derived motor. ‘Che, che, che, booomm…’ at idle the entire chassis jiggles a little and if you rev it you rock from side to side. It’s a baited sound at first, but there is no mistaking the huge displacement bubbling under the bonnet. Its alloy block gives the same 270 kW and 530 Nm as any other Lumina SS, which results in an identical 0 -100 km/h sprint of around 6.5 seconds.

The transmission is really the only thing you need specify on your Lumina SSV and the 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic could not be more different. The manual is strong, heavy, manly, but certainly the most rewarding when you give it a boot full and feed that 6.0-litre power onto the ground. The automatic is a bit less involving, but easier to live with every day, its appreciative of good economy too in the way it will shift to 6th gear at speeds as low as 70 km/h.

The Chevy Lumina SSV is rewarding in a straight line because of its simple 6.0-litre grunt. I constantly found myself on pole position at the traffic lights and with nothing more than a rev of the massive engine, all comers turned the other way. The Chevy Lumina was ‘the law’ at the lights. Of course, occasionally you will encounter a corner and this is where the Lumina SSV skives off for another larger out the fridge. The steering is wooly at best, the ride is soft, not hard or communicative and unleashing all its meaty torque without due care and careful input will leave you living or dying by the grace of the ESP.

On the otherhand, if you’re interested in all that rear wheel drive, tyre smoking malarkey you’ll probably find yourself on a race track or spacious mall parking lot, where you can let the tail swing out to your heart’s content. I bet you’ll find it exhibits quite a lot of roll mid corner, it’s also very tail happy, with plenty of grunt to keep the wheels spinning, but not quite enough communication through the steering to be ideal. Well that’s my impression of it anyway when going for the full monty.

Not that I was really all that bothered, because the big Chevy didn’t seem all that bothered either about how I was getting along with it. That is the biggest problem with this car and more specifically its manufacturers – General Motors. They just seem as though they couldn’t be bothered with it anymore. This SSV is mechanically identical to the 2006 model and to use a phrase an Aussie would understand ‘…what’s that all about?’ 2006 in automotive terms is a century ago. Whole new types of cars have been invented since then. I want to go drive one of those now.

What we like…

  • Its 6.0-litre V8 is the soundtrack of America… and err, Australia.
  • Adjusting your mirrors and your seat is as complicated as it gets.
  • Styling is classic muscle car big and it is cheap.

What we would like…

  • More power or more economy or some sign of development from the last 6 years.
  • More handling from the chassis and more response from the steering.
Quick Facts
Base Price R467 400
Warranty 5 year / 120 000 km
Engine Capacity 5 967 cm³
No. Of Cylinders 8-cylinders, V-formation
Aspiration Naturally Aspirated
Power 260 kW @ 5 700 r/min
Torque 517 N.m @ 4 400 r/min
Transmission 6-Speed Automatic
Drive type Rear-wheel drive
Acceleration 0-100 km/h in 6.5 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed 250 km/h (electronically limited)
Fuel Consumption 12.0 l/100km (claimed combined)
CO2 Emissions 292 g/km

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Ray Leathern

About Ray Leathern

Ray Leathern has been test driving and critiquing cars for over five years now. He won the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ) 'Highly Recommended for Internet' prize in 2012, is a member of the SAGMJ committee, as well as being a member of SA's 2012 Car of the Year jury. Ray's passion for motoring knows no bounds. What Ray writes, we read and we suggest you do too. Follow Ray on Twitter.

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