This car is the Middle East version of the GM Holden Commodore and is badged as a Chevrolet Lumina SS.
Based on the GM-Europe Opel/Vauxhall Omega, though considerably cheaper and certainly not built to the same standard of quality, fit and finish as the Opel version.
The M-East cars come with 4-speed automatic transmission only. There are no options to buy a manual car which was requested through the distributor, or in fact to specify better (up-graded brakes) like any buyer is able to in Australia, New Zealand and U.K. for example.
The 2002 M-E export model also came without the transmission "Power" and "Normal" mode of shifting as was available in all other model years, and it also lacked the limited-slip-differential that every other model came with as standard factory fit too.
The overall fit and finish of the car is average and the paintwork a little patchy (all available showroom cars looked at were much the same, though the MY2004 cars improved considerably in fit and finish along with choice of interior materials).
Inside, the car is comfortable and the controls and instruments are well laid out and easy to use, though the two column-mounted stalks along with most of the dash switches and knobs feel a bit cheap, imprecise and "clunky."
The seats are comfortable enough; though the front seats are on the soft side and lack side support for both the cushion and the backrest.
The whole suspension design and layout is 90% identical to the Omega. The car has "FE-2" suspension (as fitted to all M-E SS-V8 cars) which provides a nice and firm ride.
The brakes are in-adequate and probably the worst thing about the car. A vented 296x28mm disc up front and a solid 286x16mm one at the rear (Euro hatch-backs with 2-litre engines have bigger brakes than this as standard factory fit). In a 1660kg high-performance car it is totally un-acceptable; any medium-to-hard braking WILL cause brake fade.
The car is a safe handler with built-in under-steer, which it does even at moderate cornering speeds.
With the steering being over-assisted and lacking in feel it isn't a car that you would be able to enjoy on twisty roads.
*From MY 2003 the car was fitted with a better steering rack with improved feel.
The A-C system works adequately enough, but doesn't have an intake filter to stop dust coming into the car interior. The consequence is that on start-up there is a musty bad smell in the car for about 30 seconds or so. The only way to REDUCE the amount of dust from coating the innards of the a-c/ventilation system and entering into the car interior is to keep the selector permanently on "recirculate."
The four-speed automatic transmission is based on the old GM TH700-R4 with the exact same ratios, but is now re-designated as a 4L60-E* ('E' for electronic control). First gear is ridiculously low (3.06:1) and with 2nd being a more normal 1.62:1 there is quite a jump (or drop in rpm) when shifting-up; third and fourth gear are well chosen and just about right for the open roads.
** The 4L60-E was deemed to be not reliable enough as fitted to this car model. All V8s from MY2005-on were fitted with the up-rated and much stronger 4L65-E (M32) transmission.
The Generation 3 small block all-alloy engine is good. It is capable of some very impressive steady-speed fuel consumption figures considering.
In the first few years of production (from 1997) there was a lot of concern about "piston slap" and oil consumption issues with this engine.
This example (2001-built engine and so fitted with modified pistons and rings) only had moderate lifter noise (a light, regular tapping) until it reached operating temperature, then it was fine and the tapping disappeared completely. Oil consumption was steady at 500ml (1/2 a litre) every 5,000kms; entirely acceptable.
...Until the engine failure occurred at 41,000kms of very considerate ownership.
A book was published recently by a GM engineer named Will Handzell (Manager of GM Performance Parts no less) titled How To Build High-Performance Chevy LS1/LS6 V8's (ISBN 1-884089-84-4) who mentions (on page 49) detonation problems sometimes being encountered on cylinder #7 with Generation 3 LS1 engines. The remedy or "tip" was to fit a cylinder head coolant vent-tube from the earlier build engines.
(From start of LS1 production in 1997 until the end of year 2000 the engines were fitted with these tubes and it was routed to both the front and rear of each cylinder head. Whereas from 2001-on it was reduced to just a cross-over pipe between the front of each cylinder head only).
This example did encounter exactly this problem. All the other seven cylinders and pistons were perfect upon inspection by the only competent workshop known to the owner in the country. It was discovered that part of the #7 piston crown had broken off and whilst caught inside the cylinder had become trapped between the piston and the cylinder wall before disappearing out of the exhaust pipe. This caused the steel cylinder-liner (only 0.100" thick) to "bulge" out against the block cylinder wall enough to fracture it. Effectively rendering the engine block scrap.
This required a new block and complete rebuild at the owners expense.
In summary this is a car built to a cost and personally do not feel they have been properly validated for use in the UAE or Middle East climate judging by the amount of component failures seen at the car dealer workshop and having been in contact with quite a few different owners.
Just one example of this is the auto transmission is not fitted with a separate, external oil cooler which it badly needs here judging by the amount of problems it has given in these abnormal conditions***
*** According to the GM owners handbook for this vehicle; Abnormal Servicing conditions are relevant when the vehicle use is:-
A- Driving less than 10,000kms in 6 months.
B- Dust, dirt and loose road material (and sandy conditions I would add).
C- Muddy and wet areas.
D- Cold weather (below 5C) and when most trips are less than 5kms.
E- Stop-start driving, excessive idling or low speed operation as experienced in inner city driving, e.g. taxi or door to door delivery.
F- Caravan or trailer towing.
G- Extended heavy load or high speed operation in outside temperatures above 35C.
H- When driving more than 250,000kms per 5 years.
Yet although the car qualifies on at least three counts in the table above for extra service care:-
1) Dust and sand is everywhere here.
2) Extended idling in these temps (inevitable as summers are 50C and more so A-C is a must have).
3) Extended high-speed driving at outside temps above 35C.
To their credit, engine oil changes are recommended at every 5000kms here, but no dealer that I am aware of changes the transmission fluid every 20,000kms as is recommended under the abnormal conditions servicing requirement.
I would never buy a car from this manufacturer again.