Chevrolet Lumina


The Chevrolet Lumina wasn't by any means a bad car, but it was one that came late to the party and overstayed its welcome, as you'll learn in this article.

Chevrolet introduced this midsize coupe and sedan as the 1990 Lumina -- the overdue replacement for the nearly decade-old Chevrolet Celebrity.

Chevrolet Lumina Image Gallery

The 1990 Chevrolet Lumina Euro package picked up where the Celebrity Eurosport left off.
The 1990 Chevrolet Lumina Euro package picked up where the
 Celebrity Eurosport left off. See more pictures of the Chevy Lumina.

Unlike the Celebrity, which was basically an elongated compact car, the Chevrolet Lumina had genuine midsize dimensions. It also had a modern all-independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes. It was available in firmer-suspension, sporty-trim Euro guise, too.

But Lumina's four- and six-cylinder engines were rough running and underpowered compared to the benchmarks from Honda and Toyota. The styling of the Chevrolet Lumina was out of date as well.

Where the best rivals enjoyed a design that pushed their wheels out to the edges of the car to create a planted-on-the-road stance, Lumina was saddled with long stretches of body extending beyond its wheels. It also suffered an unflattering mix of curves and straight lines that robbed the look of any harmony.

Chevrolet's chief designer later admitted that the styling of the 1990-1994 Chevrolet Lumina was from a blueprint that was seven years old at the time the car was introduced.

There were some high points. A contemporary dual-overhead cam V-6 was available starting with the 1991 Chevrolet Lumina. And the 1995 Chevrolet Lumina introduced a body with updated styling and a new interior. That did make the car look fresher, even though the basic underskin structure wasn't changed.

For most of its life, the Chevrolet Lumina lived in the sales shadow of the Ford Taurus and was regularly outsold by the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

Lumina would soldier on through the 2000 model year, continuing to ride that same basic 1990 platform. Tellingly, the Accord and Camry were completely redesigned three times over the life span of the Chevrolet Lumina.

Check out the profiles and pictures of each model year, beginning with 1990 on the next page.

The restyled 1995 Lumina was praised for its appealing new body and its sensitive, convenient dash and instrumentation.
The restyled 1995 Lumina was praised for its
appealing new body and its sensitive,
convenient dash and instrumentation.

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1990 Chevrolet Lumina

1990 Chevrolet Lumina Euro
The 1990 Lumina Euro had a rear spoiler and
standard air conditioning.

The 1990 Chevrolet Lumina took the place of the aging Celebrity sedan. The Lumina was introduced in the spring of 1989 as an early 1990 model. A coupe version followed in the fall. Both were members of the GM-10 W-body family that had spawned the Buick Regal, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and Pontiac Grand Prix front-drive coupes two years earlier.

The Lumina was the first four-door sedan to be built off the W-body platform, though Chevy's GM siblings got their own sedan versions when the Lumina coupe debuted.

Powertrains carried over from the Celebrity, though both the four-cylinder and V-6 engines produced more power: The 2.5-liter four was boosted from 98 to 110 horsepower, while the V-6 was enlarged from 2.8 liters to 3.1, bringing 10 more horsepower for a total of 135.

The four-cylinder came with a three-speed automatic transmission, while the V-6 teamed with either the three-speed or an optional four-speed automatic. Four-wheel disc brakes were standard across the board.

In addition to the base models, Chevy continued the sporty tradition of the Eurosport Celebritys with Euro versions of the Lumina. These cars came standard with otherwise-optional V-6 engine and air conditioning, while also gaining a rear spoiler and 15-inch alloy wheels to replace the standard 14-inch steel wheels.

1990 Chevrolet Lumina Euro rear
Standard on all 1990 Luminas were 4-wheel disc brakes,
power steering, and an all-independent suspension.

1990 Chevrolet Lumina Facts

Model

Weight range (lbs.)

Price range (new)

Number built

Lumina

3,113-3,194

$12,140-$14,240

NA


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1991 Chevrolet Lumina

1991 Chevrolet Lumina Z34 coupe, base coupe, minivan
Models in the 1991 Lumina lineup included (front to back) the
Z34 coupe, the base coupe, and the minivan.

The 1991 Chevrolet Lumina line introduced the sport-oriented Z34 coupe. Base and Euro sedans and coupes were still offered, but the Z34 was the sole recipient of GM's new 3.4-liter Twin Dual Cam V-6, with double-overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and up to a rousing 210 horsepower.

Other Z34 exclusives included a standard five-speed manual transmission (unavailable elsewhere in the Lumina line), special ground-effects lower body panels, a louvered hood, filled-in grille, rear lip spoiler, and wider 225/60R16 tires. Ordering the optional four-speed automatic dropped horsepower slightly, to 200.

Other Luminas got only minor changes, among them a body-colored slatted grille in place of a black-out grille and softer "touring" tires on Euro models instead of high-performance tires.

Base powertrain was again a 110-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a three-speed automatic transmission, but the 3,100-pound Lumina was much livelier when fitted with the optional 3.1-liter V-6 producing 140 horsepower, whether paired with the three-speed or four-speed automatic. Euro models came standard with the V-6.

1991 Chevrolet Lumina Euro coupe
The Lumina Euro coupe returned in 1991.

1991 Chevrolet Lumina Facts

Model

Weight range (lbs.)

Price range (new)

Number built

Lumina

3,111-3,374

$12,670-$17,275

NA

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1992 Chevrolet Lumina

1992 Chevrolet Lumina Z34
The friskiest 1992 Lumina was the 210-horsepower Z34.

The 1992 Chevrolet Lumina gained a new performance-oriented sedan variant along with available anti-lock brakes (ABS) and CD player. Among its W-body siblings (Buick Regal, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and Pontiac Grand Prix), Lumina was the last to get ABS.

Lumina coupes returned in three versions: base, upscale Euro, and sporty Z34. Sedans continued in base and Euro trim but added a new Euro 3.4 model that carried the same double-overhead-cam 3.4-liter V-6 as the Z34 coupe.

However, that engine was offered only with a four-speed automatic in the Euro 3.4, so horsepower was limited to 200, not the 210 it made when mated to the five-speed manual that was available only in the Z34.

Base Luminas continued with the 2.5-liter four rated at 105 horsepower, down five from 1991. The 3.1-liter V-6 that was standard in Euros and optional in base models likewise lost five horsepower, to 135.

The four-cylinder came only with a three-speed automatic transmission; the 3.1-liter V-6 also came standard with the three-speed but offered a four-speed automatic as an option.

Minor changes for 1992 included the aforementioned optional CD player, new manual four-way adjusters for split-bench front seats, and a center storage armrest for Euro models with the split bench, which was optional on other Luminas.

1992 Chevrolet Lumina base sedan
Horsepower on the base 1992 Lumina sedan dropped to
105 with the four and to 135 with the base V-6.

1992 Chevrolet Lumina Facts

Model

Weight range (lbs.)

Price range (new)

Number built

Lumina

3,115-3,402

$12,670-$17,275

256,270

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1993 Chevrolet Lumina

1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro 3.4-liter
Lumina's value-driven nature was unchanged for 1993,
and sales were good.

The 1993 Chevrolet Lumina featured automatic door locks for all models. Doors would lock when the automatic transmission was shifted out of Park; on manual-transmission cars, the doors would lock when the car reached eight mph.

Chevrolet also shuffled some engine choices for 1993. Lumina coupes again came in base, Euro, and Z34 trim, but the 140-horsepower 3.1-liter V-6 was now standard not only in the Euro, but also in the base coupe, which formerly came with a four-cylinder engine.

The Z34 returned with its twin-cam 3.4-liter V-6 producing 210 horsepower with the standard five-speed manual transmission, or 200 with the four-speed automatic.

Sedans were offered in base, Euro, and Euro 3.4 guise. Base sedans again came standard with a four-cylinder engine, but it was now the 110-
horsepower 2.2-liter four from the Cavalier rather than the 105-horsepower 2.5-liter four used previously.

Euro sedans came standard with the 140-horsepower 3.1-liter V-6, which was optional on the base model. Euro 3.4s came only with the 200-horsepower version of the twin-cam 3.4-liter V-6, since a four-speed automatic was standard.

Only the four cylinder and 3.1-liter V-6 came with a three-speed automatic, and only the Z34 coupe could have a five-speed manual. Both V-6s could also be fitted with a four-speed automatic.

1993 Chevrolet Lumina Euro
The 1993 Lumina Euro's upgraded suspension still couldn't
filter out bumps in the road.

1993 Chevrolet Lumina Facts

Model

Weight range (lbs.)

Price range (new)

Number built

Lumina

3,180-3,374

$14,010-$18,675

234,398

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1994 Chevrolet Lumina

1994 Chevrolet Lumina
Sales dipped alarmingly for the 1994 Lumina,
in part because of the lack of air bags.

The 1994 Chevrolet Lumina entered its final season in its original form before a 1995 restyle, having never quite lived up to Chevy's sales expectations.

Always an "also ran" next to Ford's Taurus, it would be replaced with a restyled version at midyear. As a result, changes were few, encompassing more in the way of deletions than improvements.

The base coupe was discontinued, leaving Euro and Z34 versions. Sedans continued in base and Euro trim, offering a Euro 3.4 option package.

Since it enticed few buyers and was rather weak for a car this size, the previously standard 2.2-liter four was dropped this year. Base and Euro models therefore came standard with a 140-horsepower 3.1-liter V-6, while the Z34 coupe and Euro 3.4 sedan again carried GM's Twin Dual Cam 3.4-liter V-6 offering 200 horsepower.

The previous five-speed manual and three-speed automatic transmissions were abandoned, so all Luminas came with a four-speed automatic that gained electronic controls.

One of the Lumina's problems was that it still lacked any air bags at a time when most competitors had one and many had two. Instead, Chevy's mid-size entry made do with door-mounted seat belts that could be left buckled to automatically deploy when the doors were closed.

This was a poor substitute in many buyers' eyes, and Lumina's laudably standard anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes were never seen as a notable advantage.

1994 Chevrolet Lumina Z34 coupe
Standard anti-lock brakes were a big plus for the 1994 Lumina.

1994 Chevrolet Lumina Facts

Model

Weight range (lbs.)

Price range (new)

Number built

Lumina

3,333-3,440

$15,305-$18,675

86,626

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1995 Chevrolet Lumina

1995 Chevrolet Lumina
Pushing hard to win buyers, Chevrolet unveiled a
smartly redesigned Lumina for 1995.

The 1995 Chevrolet Lumina was redesigned for the new model year, after years of running a distant second to Ford's Taurus in the domestic mid-size sales tallies.

Wheelbase remained the same at 107.5 inches, and powertrain offerings didn't change that much, but by all appearances, the new Lumina was a completely different car.

Its flowing contours were more modern and stretched nearly three inches longer overall, while a thoroughly revised interior featured larger gauges, more convenient controls, and -- most importantly -- dual air bags.

Unlike the previous generation, the two-door coupe and four-door sedan wore different nameplates and distinct front and rear styling. The coupe now carried a Monte Carlo badge, while the sedan kept the Lumina name alive.

Both continued to share their platforms with the Buick Regal, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and Pontiac Grand Prix, but one would never guess it from exterior appearances.

Lumina came in base and LS versions, both powered by a revised 3.1-liter V-6 that gained 20 horsepower, now 160, backed by a four-speed automatic transmission. Optional on the LS was the Twin Dual Cam 3.4-liter V-6 producing 210 horsepower, a gain of 10. LS versions came standard with anti-lock brakes, which were a $386 option on base sedans.

Though the new Lumina didn't unseat the front-running Taurus in the styling department, it did offer value-conscious buyers a lower-cost alternative for family transportation. Comparably equipped, a Lumina retailed for about two grand less than its Ford rival.

Yet the Lumina badge didn't carry the same name recognition or reputation as the Taurus moniker enjoyed, so Chevy's entry was never a threat to Taurus's number-one sales ranking.

1995 Chevrolet Lumina
The 1995 Lumina was swoopier than previous models,
and it was considerably less expensive than the Taurus.

1995 Chevrolet Lumina Facts

Model

Weight range (lbs.)

Price range (new)

Number built

Lumina

3,330-3,372

$15,470-$16,970

NA

For more picture-packed articles about Chevys and other great cars, see:

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1996 Chevrolet Lumina

1996 Chevrolet Lumina base model
The 1996 Lumina, in the second year of a
major redesign, saw few changes.

The 1996 Chevrolet Lumina entered the second year of its new design with few changes, though there were some notable features added to the options list.

Base and LS models continued, the latter having anti-lock brakes as standard, the former listing them as an option. Both were powered by a 160-horsepower 3.1-liter V-6 mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.

Optional on the LS was the Twin Dual Cam 3.4-liter V-6 with 215 horsepower, up five from the year before. Ordering the 3.4-liter engine brought LS buyers four-wheel disc brakes in the bargain.

Minimizing maintenance costs were engine coolant designed to last for 5 years/100,000 miles, platinum-tipped spark plugs that were first scheduled for replacement at 100,000 miles, and Dexron III transmission fluid that never needed replacement under normal driving conditions.

New options for 1996 included an integrated rear child seat, a bench- or bucket-seat leather interior for the LS, and a dual-zone air conditioning system that allowed front passengers to select different temperatures for each side of the car.

Scheduled as a midyear option was a power sunroof. Standard on LS and optional on base was an AM/FM stereo with Speed-Compensated Volume, which adjusted the radio to compensate for ambient noise levels.

1996 Chevrolet Lumina LS rear
The 1995 Lumina benefited from technical innovations
that prolonged engine and transmission life.

1996 Chevrolet Lumina Facts

Model

Weight range (lbs.)

Price range (new)

Number built

Lumina

3,330-3,372

$16,355-$18,055

NA

For more picture-packed articles about Chevys and other great cars, see:

  • Classic Cars: Learn about more than 400 of the world's finest classic and collectible automobiles.
  • Muscle Cars: Look back at tire-smoking Chevys and scores of other machines from the golden age of American high performance.
  • Sports Cars: Discover the pleasure of sports motoring at its purest in these captivating articles on the best sports cars from around the world.
  • Consumer Guide Automotive: Here's your source for news, reviews, prices, fuel-economy and safety information on today's cars, minivans, SUVs, and pickups.
  • Consumer Guide Used Car Search: In the market for a used Chevy or virtually any other pre-owned vehicle? Check out these reports, which include safety recalls and trouble spots.