Want to see real, visceral disappointment in action? Tell a friend who loves cars that you got them a lovely Chevy Monte Carlo. Really soak in the delight that you watch play across their face as they imagine themselves behind the wheel of one of America’s most stylish oversized coupés. Then, hand over keys to a fifth-generation Monte Carlo from 1994-1999, and watch all that joy vanish, instantly, replaced with a stunned, bland acceptance, punctuated by the soft wail of a soul dying.
You may think I’m being overly dramatic, but I promise you I’m not. Earlier generations of Monte Carlos have a certain exuberant flair and charm, a sort of gleeful exaggeration that makes them perennial lowrider favorites. More recent ones aren’t exactly great, but you can feel that they’re at least trying, and the sixth-gen ones at least had those headlights that looked like Kermit the Frog’s pupils.
But the fifth-gen, holy hell, it’s as forgettable as a 24-digit phone number. It didn’t even start as a Monte Carlo; in 1995, GM decided that they’d split the already deeply meh Chevrolet Lumina in twain, with the four-door sedan retaining the richly flaccid Lumina name, and the Lumina coupé now debasing the storied Monte Carlo nameplate.
The Lumina-based Monte Carlo was on the same W-body platform as another Meh Car inductee, the Oldsmobile Intrigue, and was a sibling to other boring-ass cars like the Buick Century and the Oldsmobile Whatever Supreme.
The design of these things looks like an experiment to see if it’s possible to administer anesthesia via the optic nerves. The distinctive swoopy front and rear fenders of previous Monte Carlos are gone, replaced with a wind-tunnel-derived tribute to the concept of tepidity.
From some angles, the proportions almost feel nice, but being able to look at one long enough to give a shit is only possible with the administration of potent and likely illegal shit-donation-enhancing drugs.
To be absolutely sure nobody, not even blind people, were confused that this was a new kind of Monte Carlo, one as bland and forgettable as stew made of water and pulped paper, this was the first front-wheel drive Monte Carlo, and those front wheels were driven by a fine, just fine, 3.1-liter V6 making a perfectly acceptable-for-the-era 160 horsepower.
There was also a Z34 trim level with a 3.4-liter V6 that made a respectable 215 hp, and then later in 1998, a 3.8-liter, 200 hp V6, a larger engine that put out less power because it seems everybody quit even pretending to care and that’s what you get, asshole.
The commercials for this mid-’90s Monte Carlo showed that even Chevy’s ad agency had no idea how to make this thing interesting. Look at this ad: you could literally replace the Monte Carlo with any other car and it’d still work just as well:
The ad is touting the absolute basics of any enclosed motor vehicle: moving through space, in your own little room, without getting tired. It may as well be an ad for the very concept of cars.
Chevy made 400 Monte Carlo Brickyard 400 Pace Car option that added a spoiler and some stripes and I guess those have some value to people that like boring things with stickers on them, so that’s something.
Also, the Monte Lumina Carlo was among the last cars to have a front bench seat option, so that’s sort of interesting as well.
Even with something as potent as an optional bench seat, it’s not enough to save the fifth-gen Monte Carlo from the gray, lukewarm waters of the Great Meh Sea. This is especially true because Monte Carlos were once very un-meh cars, so not only is this car boring, it’s a betrayal.
Still, I’m not even angry at it. I just don’t care. No one does.