Chevrolet Monte Carlo is the most winning car name in NASCAR racing history, and that heritage is certainly evident in the shape of this new 2006 Monte Carlo SS. Now when Chevrolet puts the SS, or Super Sport, badge on a car or truck, it means get ready for a bit more performance than its everyday kin. But this year the Monte Carlo SS gets an extra big dose of oomph with its first V8 since 1988.

Chevrolet's Super Sport badge is a dead giveaway for extra juice under the hood. But for the 2006 Monte Carlo SS, it's a totally modern pushrod V8 that delivers that big extra thump. That big power comes from a small block 5.3-liter, the Monte's first V8 in over 15 years. Along with the Impala SS, it also marks the first small block fitment in front-wheel drive Chevrolets. As in the Impala SS, the 5.3 cranks out 303 horsepower and 323 pound-feet of torque. That's 63 horses more than last year's supercharged V6.

But attached to a 4-speed automatic, the new V8 delivers V6-like fuel economy ratings of 18 city/28 highway, thanks to GM's Active Fuel Management that shuts down four cylinders during highway cruising.

The 5.3 V8 moves a reworked chassis with a wider front track and stiffer aluminum engine cradle. Topping that platform is the familiar NASCAR-inspired 2-door profile. For 2006 the Monte gets revised styling including a new front end with larger headlights, and diamond-pattern grille. Plus a new Nextel Cup style spoiler and chrome exhaust tips in the rear.

This more robust SS rides on the firmer FE4 suspension, supported by standard 18-inch alloy wheels wearing all-season performance tires. Put those tires on the track as we did and they'll run to 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. The quarter mile romps by in 14.5-seconds at 101 miles-per-hour. The engine is really gutsy off the line, rising quickly to a flat torque curve that continues all the way to 6,000 rpm. But the FE3 suspension is still a bit soft, as the front end hops a bit.

Take to the curves, such as those of Savannah, Georgia's Roebling Road Raceway, and you'll find that the SS doesn't mean sports car. Clearly tuned more for the street than track, there is plenty of body roll and front plow. Lateral transitions are fairly crisp, however. Add in standard traction control, and the SS sticks to the track surprisingly well.

The fixed-ratio steering is a little short on feel, as is the pedal for the 4-wheel ABS disc brakes. They stop the car from 60 in a longish average distance of 138 feet. As expected, the nose dives a bit, but the chassis remains straight and stable, which also describes the ride on the road. The Monte SS feels solid and very smooth, making it an excellent highway burner.

A comfortable cabin is a big factor too, with a new cockpit-style dash featuring refined dual-zone climate controls and GM's well integrated BlackTie CD/MP3/XM Ready stereo. It's a sleek and comfortable cruiser with gobs of power, for a base price of $26,990. Looks like a sweet deal to us.

Now, if you need a car that is the height of versatility, but you still want Super Sport punch, check out this 5-door; Chevy's 2006 Malibu Maxx SS. Like its Monte Carlo cousin, this Super Sport version of the ultra-versatile Maxx gets a power boost, although it is more modest. The 3.5-liter V6 is replaced by a variable-valve timing pushrod 3.9-liter with 240 horsepower, a gain of 39, and 241 pound-feet of torque.

The 4-speed automatic feeds power to the front, and its 18-inch 225/50 tires on alloy wheels, all controlled by a stiffer sport suspension and variable assist steering.

It's a combination that makes those runs to the grocery store a lot more fun. The bigger V6 yields a 0 to 60 of 7.5 seconds. While no barn-burner, it does better the typical Malibu V6 by over half a second. And the tighter suspension delivers a much more entertaining drive.

But whether you go standard or Super Sport, the Malibu Maxx offers unrivaled versatility for a family car. The 60/40 rear seat slides almost 7-inches fore and aft. It also reclines and folds for up to 41-cubic feet of cargo space, while the front passenger seat folds for long items such as skis or lumber.

The Malibu Maxx SS delivers both practicality and performance for a very reasonable base price of $23,890. The 4-door Malibu Sedan is also available in SS trim starting at $23,490.

So if you want to add more zest to your daily drive, but don't want to break the bank or give up everyday practicality, from our viewpoint, considering any Chevrolet wearing the Super Sport badge is a move that won't disappoint.


  • Engine: 3.9-Liter V6
  • Horsepower: 240
  • Torque: 241 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 7.5 Seconds