Site icon Christina Engela: Author

Chevrolet Lumina SSS Review

Chevrolet Lumina SSS Review

(Christina’s Chevrolet Lumina Review was originally posted in 2006. Unfortunately, since then, I’ve lost the photo I took of the car.)

Does anybody remember that TV advert where you see cars driving past but the sound of the engines are made by the drivers screaming as they go past? Well, that memory came to my mind one night this month. I have a friend who works as a motoring journalist, and that might explain why motor companies regularly give him a car to drive for a few weeks – so he can write fabulous and flattering articles about them!

Occasionally, he’s nice enough to pick me up and take me for a ride with one of the more interesting cars. He puts the car (and my stress level) through its paces. In the past he’s taken me for rides in a VW Passat, numerous Audi’s and even an R800 000,00 BMW that opened and closed its own doors at the touch of a button on the remote – and I don’t mean when taking tight turns like his first car did either! Once, he tried to do a handbrake turn with an Audi A8 that had a button on the dash instead of a handbrake lever… end result? The computer wouldn’t let us. Naughty, naughty. All I remember about the test-drive in the Mini Cooper was going sideways around 90 degree corners at 80kph and the funny marks my face made on the door glass – but the latest car he had was definitely the most noteworthy ever! This particular ride was the fastest, most screams-per-mile, ride of my life, and no I’m not exaggerating! But having said that, it sure was fun! It reminded me of that flick, ‘The Fast and the Furious’ but without nitrous or even something so pedestrian as a turbo!

My friend and I go way back, all the way back to 1987, at high school, when we dreamed about cars of our own. When we first got cars, we were both in the army. I was the daring one and he was the one who drove like a little old lady – in fact, he made a point of kissing the ground after riding with me. Nowadays it’s the other way round, especially since he’s done a couple of advanced driving courses and even dabbled in a little genuine track racing (and even, legend has it, rolled at least one – a Polo, no surprises there) so he kind of knows what he’s doing when it comes to fast driving. But after that trip, I worry about his health. For another thing, I wonder if I will ever see him again. Alive, that is.

He rocked up in a brand new Chevrolet Lumina imported from Australia. I smiled, got in and put on my safety belt and started taking stock of the interior – you know, the things us girls think are important, like leather seats, and the video screen on the dashboard. It was a V8 rear wheel drive, he told me. It had 18 inch alloy wheels on it, he bragged. Then suddenly, in a way that suggested he’d planned it, he dropped the hammer.

My neck hurt just from trying to hold my head up while we were accelerating, so I gave up and just left it against the headrest to avoid injury. At first I thought it had a rotary engine. He laughed at me. When he asked what size I thought the engine was, I guessed 2 liters and he laughed again… and so it went on in-between high speed maneuvers, until he told me it was actually a 6 liter!

He joked that all his passengers found religion – any religion – while driving with him in this car because it went from naught to “Omigod!!!” in 5 seconds. And I can see why. Driver control was still clearly apparent even at high power and speed. We went through the famous ‘s’ bend in Humewood at about warp 1, diced a super-bike up Cape Road and left him standing. Hold on a second – when I say ‘super bike’, I don’t mean it blew off your cousin riding his 250cc dressed up in fancy fairings with cute stickers of naked chicks on – this thing ATE a fucking Kawasaki NINJA! Twice! And spat out the bones while they were still smoking! All I remember seeing of the shocked rider in the rearview mirror on my door was two big, wide white eyes that took up the entirety of his helmet visor as we left him behind for the second time. A little later, the rider caught up and cautiously pulled up beside us at the next red light, popped open his visor and just stared at us, stunned. He didn’t ask about the car. In fact, he didn’t say anything.

Thinking back, he probably couldn’t tell if the grin I wore was from sheer fun or pure terror – and frankly neither could I. At that point, I was certain the thing could blow a sportscar off the road, and was just grateful my friend didn’t spot any of those cruising in the area!

Predictably, this car is no cheap thrill. Whatever type of thrill it is, it costs – quite a bit. He told me it took 500 bucks to fill the tank and just four days to empty it. The tires cost around four thousand a set, with 19 inch rims as an option. It had a rough, aggressive sound to the motor, especially when just idling – which it did at only 500 rpm. Inside the car I couldn’t even hear it – and when running up Cape Road at short bursts of 0 – &?!&* in five seconds – I could still hear the restful adult contemporary tunes on radio Algoa playing just fine. I might not have followed the words though. Or remembered later what song was playing. Apparently this street-going monster is electronically limited to 250kph. Interesting.

By ‘interesting‘, I mean, if you bought a new computer and the salesman told you it’s been limited to 2Ghz but it could make 3 or 4 (on a downhill possibly with a good tail wind), would you be happy with that? After all, the only way to make some computers faster is by putting wheels on them and finding a decent slope… I could only imagine how that drive would’ve gone if it hadn’t been limited. Not that we actually drove that fast ossifer…. Hmm. Shorter.

When I got home, I made a note to check my insurance policies for next time, and tried to massage the knots out of my neck muscles before bed. It was no use. Amazingly enough, I slept like a baby, dreaming of fast cars and thrills and spills. And the puzzled looks on the faces of the bikers we blew off. I look forward to the next time, which is probably as close as I will ever come to driving a car that costs in excess of 400 thousand big ones. But for some reason, come to think of it, I can’t seem to remember the color. Weird.

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