The Chevrolet Lumina SS was termed a “real mans’ car” when its final incarnation debuted in SA in 2007.
Based on the Australian Holden VE Commodore, the Lumina SS was as unapologetic as they came, and represented the very best of big hearted, big car qualities – something South African’s have always loved.
The imposing Chevrolet Lumina SS (available as a sedan as well), was bigger than its predecessor in every way, and not surprisingly was 100kg heavier. With its deep skirting all round, flared fenders, large rear wing, with short overhangs, it was certainly racy. The interior was comfy no doubt, and incredibly spacious, but lacked the refinement you would have found in German saloons.
That said, the Lumina SS wasn’t try to compete with them – it was a modern day muscle car after all. Under the bonnet was the L98 V8 – a motor the Lumina shared with the Corvette. It displaced 5967cc (up from 5667cc), and featured a basic two-valves per cylinder setup operated by push-rods with hydraulic lifters activated by a single cam in the block. Fuel injection and a compression ratio of 10.4:1 contributed to outputs of 270kw and 530nm. Compared to the model it replaced, the motor was moved back 82mm towards the firewall, to aid its 52/48 weight distribution. It was available as either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic.
Drop the clutch on the manual and it will sprint from 0-100kph in just 5.84 seconds, completing the standing kilometre in 25.22 seconds at 213.4kph – impressive for a near 1.8 ton sedan. 3rd gear was particularly powerful, able to run from a walking pace to 150kph – with ease. In fact, 60-120kph in 3rd gear took just 6.38 seconds! Ratios were long, and in 6th gear, it had a theoretical top speed of 380kph – further appeasing modifiers.
That said, there was nothing raucous about the SS’ power delivery – it was actually seamless and very progressive. Its dual exhausts emitted a perfectly pitched V8 growl, and a delightful burble on over-run. Being an American-engined V8, it quickly became a modifiers dream, thanks to its bulletproof motor – with 500kw easily attainable for a daily driven SS.
For a car this big, handling was very good – you could hustle the SS to entertaining levels – however, you needed to be mindful of its limits – or snap oversteer would be the order of the day – combined with a very bruised ego.
It was pretty safe though, fitted with 6 airbags, as well as ABS, EBD, ESC and Traction Control. At the end of its lifecycle, Chevrolet South Africa introduced the SSV, which brought with it upgraded brakes and a revised suspension. Braking was now handled by 4-piston Brembo calipers and 355mm discs up front, while new dampers and stiffer sway bars were fitted – improving high speed stability. The cherry on top were a set of 19-inch chrome wheels that replaced the regular 18s.
It might not have been the most refined or luxurious car, but if there was one thing the Lumina did well was smash nearly everything in this segment in terms of bang for buck. Priced at R349 000 (when the 6.0 SS launched in 2007), there was very little out there that offered this sort of performance and interior space. Price eventually swelled to R506 900 in 2013, as the SSV brought an end to Lumina’s South African story.