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Oldsmobile Aurora Road Test
 
By CharlesOfria

Category: $30,000 - $40,000 Family Sedan
Who should buy this car: Someone looking for a stylish, roomy, powerful sedan built in the USA by an American car company
Comparable models in this class: Buick Regal GS, Chrysler 300M, Pontiac Bonneville, Lincoln LS, Lexus ES300, Infiniti I30

Oldsmobile, America's oldestcar brand, is currentlyin its death throes.  With dwindling sales and six other divisions in GM'sstable, (Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Cadillac, Saturn, GMC) economics dictated thatthe Oldsmobile division was expendable.  

Does that mean that you should steer clear?  Notat all.  Oldsmobile's current lineup includes some of the best carsthat GM is currently producing, and GM is topping every Olds off with a 60 month/60,000 mileGeneral Motors protection plan.  GM assures that parts and service forOldsmobile will continue to be available through any GM dealership.

OldsMotor Vehicle Company was founded by Ransom Eli Olds in 1897 and had a longproud history that spawned many industry firsts including the firstmass-produced car in America, the Oldsmobile Curved Dash, not to mention one of the firstJingles, "In My Merry Oldsmobile". Oldsmobile is also credited withintroducing the first modern American front-wheel drive car with theintroduction of the 1966 Olds Toronado.

Over the years, Oldsmobile had a number of popular and distinctive modelsincluding: The Starfire, Rocket 88,  the front-wheel drive Toronado, theOlds 442, the Cutlass, and now, the Aurora.

While this new Aurora is not nearly as distinctive or exclusive as theprevious model which was produced since 1995, it is an attractivecruiser with a decent amount of flair combined with good handling and plenty of power.  

I foundthis new Aurora to be a roomy car with a large trunk and plenty of room in theback seat.  There was a fold down arm rest with built-in cup holders and a storagecompartment back there as well.  On the down side, the rear windows go downonly about a third of the way.  The reason for this is that Olds chose not to includequarter windows in the rear doors indeference to the stylists who didn't want to break up the clean lines.  Thedownside is that the rear door glass is too large to fitcompletely into the doors.

Thiswas a quiet, good riding car that felt as substantial as it looked.  The bigbucket seats were supportive and comfortable and included a  4-way power lumbar control which hit thespot on my fourteen hour drive from New York to Detroit.  The dash wrapped aroundthe driver so that everything waswithin easy reach.  The 4-speed automatic shifter did not have a manualcontrol to allow me to shift on my own, but I didn't miss it on my trek toMotown.

The dash was well organized with clear easy-to-read gauges and well markedcontrols.  There were steering wheel controls for the radio and climatecontrol system that helped me to keep my eyes on the road while I was twiddlingwith the radio.  The dual-zoneclimate control system allowed me to set the desired temperature and forgetit.  The system turned on the heat or AC as needed and automatically adjusted the fanspeed to keep the cabin comfortable.  There was a control onthe passenger door that could modify the temperature for the front-seat passenger ifthey didn't like the setting I chose.  The knob allowed the passenger tochange the temperature by up to eightdegrees warmer or cooler.  One drawback to this system is that the driver cannot turn that control off without along reach over to the passenger's door to position the knob back to the center.  Most cars with dual-zone systems have the passenger's temperaturecontrol on the center panel within easy reach and some even have a button to synchronizethe two sides if desired. 

During my extended road test of the Aurora, I encountered the gamut of road and weather conditions whichthis big Olds handled in stride.  The Precision Control System, acomputerized skid control program, handled the inclement weather instride.  The system detects impending loss of control and intercedes bymodulating engine power and applying one or both front brakes to help you regaincontrol, in most cases before you even knew that you were loosing it.

When the weather lightened up, I found the Aurora to be a relaxing cruiserthat gobbled up the miles with ease.  It was equally at home on windingcountry roads as it was on the interstate with easy handling and gooddirectional stability.  Throttle response was a bit dull for this big V8,partially due to the overly long stroke of the gas pedal.  You had to jabthe gas an inch or two in order to get an energetic response from theengine.  But once you get used to it, you tend not to notice it any moreuntil you jump into another car and find yourself jerking the throttleuntil you reacquaint yourself with the way a normal throttle feels.

Fearnot, once you plant your foot down on the go pedal, you are greeted with a rushof power and mellifluous sound from the Excellent Northstar derived 4.0 LiterV8engine coupled to a smooth 4-speed Automatic Transmission.  

The automatic on the Aurora does not have a manual modethat you can shift for yourself, butyou can shift down to a lower range by putting the shifter in 3, 2 or 1. You just have to be careful since there are no stops to prevent you from missingyour mark and shifting into a lower range than you intended.

Our Aurora had the newest OnStar system which gave us access to a slew of new internetservices as well as a voice activated phone.  The new services are called Virtual Advisor and Personal Calling.  Calling time is purchasedin advance in the form of units which can be replenished at any time by pressingthe OnStar button and giving the service advisor your credit card number. There is also a service where the units can be replenished automatically.

If you've never talked to a computer and had it talk back to you, then you really should try this system.  While it's not perfect, it does understand what you are saying more often thannot.  There are actually two computers that you are interacting with: TheOnStar computer in the car which understands a series of commands that allow youto access the hands-free phone and accepts spoken commands such as"DIAL", where the system responds "Number Please".  Youthen recite the phone number that you wish to call, one digit at the time. And it will hold you to it with "SLOW DOWN PLEASE".

If you say "VIRTUAL ADVISOR" the system will place a call to theOnStar Virtual Advisor where you will then interact with another voice activatedcomputer that seems a whole lot more powerful.  This computer will guideyou through a slew of services with a cheery female voice that has a pleasant,perky  personality.  She will provide you with everything from up to the minutesports scores to stock quotes and even offer to read your e-mail to you! This speech recognition system is quite sophisticated, but far fromperfect.  If a person that I was talking to used the phrase "Excuseme?" as often as my Virtual Advisor friend did, I would refer her to an eardoctor friend of mine.  But, technology is barreling along at a franticpace and it won't be long before they iron out the kinks (or tell me to take themarbles out of my mouth).  The beauty of itis that when they do get it right, you reap the benefits because it's not thecomputer in your car, it's their computer that's continually upgraded. 

While Virtual Advisor is a neat feature, let's not ignore the other interestingfeatures in this car.  For instance, there is an Oil life monitor which allows oil change intervalsof up to 10,000 miles based onhow you drive the vehicle.  It bases its recommendations on how the car isdriven by monitoring  engine rpm and engine temperature, but does not directly check the condition of the oil.The car also includes a tire pressure monitor to help you keep your tiresproperly inflated.  This is a feature that you will be seeing more of due to government regulation after the Firestoneproblem.

The Oldsmobile Aurora looks, feels, acts, smells and sounds like the Americancar that it is.  It's a great swan song for a proud division that Ipersonally believe is being shot down before its time.  I have had severalOldsmobiles in my garage over the years and have enjoyed every one of them.

But, I guess business is business.  Goodbye Oldsmobile, see you in the history books. 

Feedback
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How would I improve this car?

  • Move the passenger temperature control to the climate control panel.

  • Add a manual e-shift mode to the transmission.

  • You know?  I can't think of anything else.  This is not a bad car. 

How does the Aurora fit yourdriving style? 

Conservative drivers Easy to drive smoothly.  Big and comfortable.  American car look and feel.

Sporty drivers This car will surprise you with its smooth, powerful engine and excellent cornering grip.  I wouldn't call it nimble but it does feel surefooted.

Fast drivers Predictable at the limit.  Precision Control System helps keep you on the intended track, but it only has control of the front brakes.  Brake pedal feel could be better.

Specifications 

Engine Type 4.0-liter V8, DOHC Aluminum block and aluminum heads
Horsepower 250 @ 5,600 RPM
Torque 260 @ 4,400 RPM
Fuel Recommended Premium 92 Octane Unleaded.
Transmission Four Speed Electronically Controlled Transmission with Intelligence (ECT-i)
Tires - Standard P235/55R17   H-speed rated all-season Michelin touring tires
Overall Length 199.3"
Wheelbase 112.2
Width 72.9"
Turning Diameter 37.4 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight 3,802
Fuel Tank 17.5 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon EPA city 17, hwy 25. 
Acceleration 0 to 60 7.5 Seconds
Base Sticker Price $34,305 plus $670 destination charge

2001 Oldsmobile Aurora 4.0L V8 Front Wheel Sedan

Standard Equipment

  • Automatic Air Conditioning, dual-zone, with rear seat heating/cooling outlets and outside temperature display

  • Precision Control System, includes all-speed traction control

  • Battery rundown protection

  • Brakes, 4-wheel disc, anti-lock

  • Electrochromic inside mirror with compass

  • Driver Information Center, with digital readout

  • Fog Lamps, front and rear

  • 8-way power driver and passenger seat with power lumbar

  • Leather trim in seating areas

  • OnStar, 3-button security system (includes 1 year of service)

  • AM/FM stereo, CD player, auto-reverse cassette with 6-speaker Dimensional Sound System and diversity antenna

  • Tire inflation monitor

  • 17" aluminum wheels with painted finish

  • Wipers, rain-sensing automatic

Major Available Options

  • Personalization features, for automatic door locks, remote keyless entry feedback, perimeter
    lighting, driver identification greeting, instrument panel displays, HVAC settings, radio settings and
    passenger window lockout settings

  • Memory Seats

  • Heated front driver and passenger seats

  • Bose, AM/FM stereo, CD player, auto-reverse cassette, seek-and-scan, 8-speaker premium sound system and diversity

  • CD changer, 12-disc, remote, trunk-mounted

  • Sunroof, electric sliding glass panel includes Homelink Garage door opener

  • 17" aluminum, chrome-plated wheels

For more information on the Aurora, visit Oldsmobile.com

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