How far can you push (ok, pull) front-wheel drive? How about 303 horses, 5.6 seconds to 60 mph and a top end pushing 145 mph? These are the raw numbers for Chevy's updated and seriously pumped-up 2006 Monte Carlo SS coupe. Yes, it has a V-8, the first time one's been available in a Monte Carlo since the mid-1980s. And yeah, it drives the front wheels this time.
For starters, the new SS has an all-alloy 5.3 liter V-8 burbling out a stout 303 horsepower - quite an uptick from the old SS's puny (by current standards) 180-hp "high output" 5.0-liter V-8. For another, it's almost three full seconds quicker to 60 (mid-low fives vs. the mid-low eights for the '80s-era SS).
And finally, there's next to no torque steer when you hammer it, thanks to equal stiffness half-shafts and an extruded aluminum engine cradle and triple engine mounts designed to limit engine flex under torque load, among other refinements.
Chevy has also upgraded lower-caste Montes. The standard 3.5 liter V-6 engine in the base model LS ($21,380) now makes a very decent 211 hp and the mid-level 3.9 liter V-6 that's optional in the LT and standard in the LTZ metes out 240 hp, 60 more than the old V-8 SS of the mid-late '80s. Both V-6s feature variable valve timing, but not displacement on demand. OnStar is standard across the line.
The SS model I flogged at Charlotte carries a base price of $27,130, putting it well below the Pontiac GTO and right in the middle of Mustang GT territory. And while it may not be a direct competitor of rear-drive performance coupes like the Goat and Mustang, it is an alternative - one with real back seats, a big trunk (15.8 cubic feet), a very appealing price tag, and more than enough performance to be credible when the time comes to put up or shut up.
The infusion of V-8 power means that Monte Carlo SS owners are no longer condemned to motor toothlessly around the parking lot at Talladega or Martinsville looking silly in their V-6 pretend stockers - all decal, no cattle. The bark of that 303-hp V-8 is plenty convincing.