The power steering has always been a problem with the car; first, the connection hoses came off the pump (easy fix, I spent about $0.75 for a new collar to attach the hose to the pump). After the first repair, the steering groaned when turning to the left and braking (this was about July of 2001). After changing the fluid out, there was no problem with the steering at all, until recently. It turns out that there's a leak on the steering rack itself. This is not Chevrolet's fault, but rather the local service station where I had the fluid flushed, etc. Basically, they didn't put things back together properly.
Another problem was one stall. The factory battery was still in the car, and very low (on this particular day, the air temperature was about 13 degrees Fahrenheit). Anyway, the oil gasket was cracked (now replaced for free by the dealership, as it was in that condition when they sold the car to me), so oil had been leaking. The oil light came on, the car stalled, and the battery was dead (right in the middle of an intersection too!). I replaced the battery, oil gasket, and refilled the oil. There have been no problems since.
The only other thing was that the engine was sluggish when I took the car on a test drive. The dealership (which was actually a Dodge dealership -- I bought the car used) replaced the spark plugs, and put in fresh oil. I immediately added fuel injector cleaner, and the car's performance improved dramatically.
I wouldn't necessarily say that the 3.1 Lumina is a high-performance car, but it certainly has good pull with the V6. I really love letting that thing roar as I accelerate -- there's nothing like having people stare at a sedan that's out-running their "performance" coupes.
The engine itself is in excellent shape. Although it has nearly 160,000 miles, it runs more smoothly than many peoples' 80,000 mile cars. Why? The previous owners obviously maintained it relatively well. Whomever did the maintenance though, obviously overlooked the problems with the steering pump.
I personally don't like the automatic trassmission, but with the overdrive, the car can accelerate from speeds in excess of 75 MPH while climbing hills.
One of the best features of the car is the interior. Although I had it re-upholstered (simply because I didn't like a red interior with a red car -- the fabric and carpets were in excellent shape when I bought the car), the car is extremely comfortable. Unlike most new cars with harder seats that offer less room, the Lumina has very comfortable seats that allow the driver and passengers to arrive at their destination feeling refreshed. The downside is a lack of a cup holder, however I have the 60/40 split front seat, so I can wedge most drinks in between the sections.
The factory sound system wasn't all that great (non-Bose), but it was easy for me to replace all of the parts (even the receiver, because the previous owners had replaced the oversized GM-Delco factory radio with a standard sized tape player), and the car's acoustics are amazing. I can play music at half the actual volume level of other cars (namely the Ford Taurus, Contour, Explorer, and the Volvo S70), but the decibel level reaching my ears is the same.
The suspension on this particular model of the Lumina (Euro and Z34 have sportier suspensions) is a little too luxurious for me, however it handles quite well. To steal from a Volkswagen ad, the Lumina has sumo size (it's about 25% longer than most comparable sedans) and ninja reflexes.
The car's size gives the driver a feeling of security, and for a good reason. I have seen two car accidents involving Luminas. One was merely a fender-bender -- for the rear ended Lumina. The small economy coupe behind it had a crushed front end. The other crash was on the interstate. The Lumina driver had minor injuries (he was only going 55), but had gone off road (icy conditions).
With the new battery, the car is extremely reliable in cold weather (roughly -10 Fahrenheit was the coldest time I started the car), and is in beautiful condition -- especially for having never been garaged.
In essence... although the sedan has an image of a family or retirement car, if it's been properly maintained, it performs quite well. I certainly do enjoy the throaty rumble of my 6 cylinder when compared to the buzz of a 4 cylinder.