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For Chevrolet, the 1990 Lumina Coupe is another case of better late than never.

While the Lumina is new for Chevrolet as a 1990 model, GM allowed Chevy's sister divisions to start selling a sibling as the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, the Pontiac Grand Prix and the Buick Regal almost a year ago.In any case, Chevrolet recently lent us a Lumina Coupe for a week-long test. It was the upscale, sportier Lumina Euro Coupe. It had a base price of $14,040, and standard equipment included air conditioning, a V-6 engine, sport suspension and some cosmetic items.

It was surprising, however, that there was not more standard equipment considering the base price. Even a rear window defroster was a $160 option. Other options on the two-door test car included an AM/

FM/cassette, tilt steering, power windows and door locks, cruise control, a four-speed automatic transmission and aluminum wheels. They brought the total to $16,580.

The interior is nice looking, with plenty of head and leg room for two adults up front. The front seats are adequately comfortable.

The instrumentation includes a tachometer, a speedometer and gauges for water temperature, fuel level and oil pressure.

The glovebox will carry a pair of gloves, maybe two. Any larger objects, however, must be stowed in a deep bin between the front seats.

Chevrolet (along with the other GM divisions) has taken an unusual approach to federal regulations requiring 1990 model cars to have some form of passive restraint. Those restraints can include either an air bag or a so-called automatic seat belt that will fold over the driver and front-seat passenger. The idea is that motorists should be protected without having to take any action to buckle up.

Chevrolet says that the Lumina has an automatic belt, but it has an emergency release exactly where the release would be on a regular seat belt. Furthermore, if the belt is left-buckled, so it functions "automatically," sliding underneath it is awkward. Some safety groups have criticized the arrangement as undermining the intent of the federal regulation.

The back seat offers enough room for two adults, at least for short trips, and the seats do have shoulder and lap belts.

The standard engine is a 110-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder, although the "Euro" model test car had the optional 3.1-liter V-6. The V-6 produces 135 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 180 foot-pounds of torque at 3,600 rpm.

It was matched to a four-speed automatic, which proved to be a remarkably pleasant combination, with a good blend of responsiveness, quiet and smoothness.

Chevrolet engineers say the Lumina will cover 0-to-60 mph in 10 seconds. It is expected to get 19 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on the highway.

The steering is power-assisted rack and pinion. While accurate, it has a slightly numb feel.

The front-wheel-drive Lumina has an all-independent suspension, which helps account for its ability to handle a rough surface without skittering about. The Lumina also has a solid feeling, and GM's engineers say the body is one of the most rigid of any Chevrolet.

The Euro version tested also had a "sport" suspension, which offered a comfortable ride and handling that was reassuring, if not nimble.

Chevrolet portrays the Euro Lumina as a sports coupe "with unexpected practicality." That's pretty fair, if you don't demand too much from a sports coupe.

Overall, the Lumina Euro Coupe is a likable and competent package, although it lacks the handling and personality that inspires one to take an afternoon and drive simply for the sake of driving.

It is too soon for any information on the reliability of the Lumina Coupe.


(Additional information)

1990 Chevrolet Lumina Euro Coupe

Suggested base price: $14,040

Suggested Sticker price as tested: $16,580; includes $455 destination charge

EPA gas mileage (estimated): 19 mpg city, 30 highway

Fuel capacity: 17.1 gallons

Warranty: three years-50,000 miles. Six years-100,000 miles on corrosion

Major standard equipment: Air conditioning, tinted glass, power steering, AM/FMstereo, sport suspension, 3.1 liter V-6 engine, fabric protector.

Major options: Electric rear window defogger, $160, four-speed automatic $200. cast aluminum wheels, $250.

No. 2 equipment group: AM/FM cassette stereo, power windows, power door locks, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, power trunk opener, guage package with tachometer, twin remote sport mirrors, $1,100.

Engine: 3.1 liter V-6 with multiport fuel injection produces 135 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 180 foot-pounds of torque at 3,600 rpm.

Transmission: Four-speed automatic.

Brakes: Discs front and rear

Suspension, front: MacPherson strut, coil spring and stabilizer bar.

Rear: MacPherson strut, stabilizer bar and transverse leaf spring.

Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinon.

Curb weight: 3,042 pounds

Overall length: 198.4 inches

Tires: 215-60-16

Turning diameter, curb to curb: 39 feet.