Graded: Chevrolet Front-Wheel Drive ‘Z’ Cars

Welcome back to Graded. Here we discuss legendary marques, models, or trim packages, and then affix a letter grade to a selection of vehicles falling under that topic. The grades mean nothing and are completely arbitrary. I fully encourage you to tell me what I got wrong and how you would grade them instead. Have some fun with it.

Chevrolet has a long history of affixing the letter ‘Z’ to its sportiest cars. So many legendary Corvette and Camaros over the decades have worn the Z proudly. The Z28, Z06, ZR1, and ZL1 to name a few.

But in the 1980s and 1990s, Chevrolet decided to take things up a level and start applying the ‘Z’ treatment to its front wheel drive cars. Coupes, sedans, compacts, or mid-size – it didn’t matter. The ‘Z’ floodgates had officially opened and made for some cool cars. Below is a selection of seven vehicles that I have given a grade to, based on nothing more than my own personal preferences.

1986 Cavalier Z24 Hatchback

AutoLobotomy Grade B

For the 1986 model year, Chevrolet added a little more performance to the compact Cavalier with the addition of the Z24 model. It featured a 120 hp V6 engine that could be paired to a four-speed manual transmission. It also came with exterior upgrades that looked great on the three-door hatchback model.  

1990 Beretta GTZ

AutoLobotomy Grade A

Alright, this car may not have a trim that begins with the letter Z, but it still has one at the end at least. Plus, this is arguably the highest performance Beretta every made. It came with a 180-hp 2.3-liter QUAD4 engine and a 5-speed manual. To ensure it handled as well as it accelerated, the GTZ came with an upgraded FE7 suspension.

1992 Lumina Z34

AutoLobotomy Grade A-

The Lumina Z34 came with a fairly stout engine for its time, a 3.4-liter V6 making 210 hp. Best of all, it could be combined with a five-speed manual transmission. The Z34 also got a suspension upgrade for improved handling. But the Lumina, even in Z34 guise, was never a cornering monster.

1993 Cavalier Z24 Convertible

AutoLobotomy Grade B+

By 1993, the Cavalier was coming to the end of its second generation. The Z24 was still available and could now be had with a five-speed manual transmission and a 3.1-liter V6 making 140 hp. For those who loved a little fun in the sun, this sporty compact could even come as a convertible.

1994 Beretta Z26

AutoLobotomy Grade A-

In 1994, high performance Beretta’s finally conformed to family nomenclature and were branded the Z26. The QUAD4 and manual transmission combination were still available, but with less power. There was also a 160 hp V6 available for the Z26, but only paired to an automatic transmission.

1996 Monte Carlo Z34

AutoLobotomy Grade C+

When the Lumina entered its second generation, the coupes were spun off into their own model line, resurrecting the fabled Monte Carlo name. The Z34 remained and still included the 3.4-liter V6 engine which in 1996 now made 215 hp. But it could only be had with a four-speed automatic and the Monte Carlo was more of a powerful cruiser than a sporty performance coupe.

1996 Cavalier Z24

AutoLobotomy Grade B

In 1996 the third generation Cavalier Z24 received a new engine, a 150 hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Although it made decent power and could be had with a manual transmission, the Cavalier Z24 had lost a bit of its performance clout by this point. The upgraded body work did look nice though and the suspension upgrades improved handling.

Thank you for reading

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