Reviews

Oldsmobile Aurora Road Test

Reading Time: 7 minutes
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 oldest car brand, is currently in its death throes. With dwindling sales and six other divisions in GM’sstable, (Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Cadillac, Saturn, GMC) economics dictated that the Oldsmobile division was expendable.

Does that mean that you should steer clear? Not at all. Oldsmobile’s current lineup includes some of the best cars that GM is currently producing, and GM is topping every Olds off with a 60 month/60,000 mile General Motors protection plan. GM assures that parts and service for Oldsmobile will continue to be available through any GM dealership.

OldsMotor Vehicle Company was founded by Ransom Eli Olds in 1897 and had a long proud history that spawned many industry firsts including the first mass-produced car in America, the Oldsmobile Curved Dash, not to mention one of the first Jingles, “In My Merry Oldsmobile”. Oldsmobile is also credited with introducing the first modern American front-wheel drive car with the introduction of the 1966 Olds Toronado.

Over the years, Oldsmobile had a number of popular and distinctive models including: 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 the previous model which was produced since 1995, it is an attractive cruiser with a decent amount of flair combined with good handling and plenty of power.

I found this new Aurora to be a roomy car with a large trunk and plenty of room in the back seat. There was a fold down arm rest with built-in cup holders and a storage compartment back there as well. On the down side, the rear windows go down only about a third of the way. The reason for this is that Olds chose not to include quarter windows in the rear doors in deference to the stylists who didn’t want to break up the clean lines. The downside is that the rear door glass is too large to fit completely into the doors.

This was a quiet, good riding car that felt as substantial as it looked. The big bucket seats were supportive and comfortable and included a 4-way power lumbar control which hit the spot on my fourteen hour drive from New York to Detroit. The dash wrapped around the driver so that everything was within easy reach. The 4-speed automatic shifter did not have a manual control to allow me to shift on my own, but I didn’t miss it on my trek to Motown.

The dash was well organized with clear easy-to-read gauges and well-marked controls. There were steering wheel controls for the radio and climate control system that helped me to keep my eyes on the road while I was twiddling with the radio. The dual-zone climate control system allowed me to set the desired temperature and forget it. The system turned on the heat or AC as needed and automatically adjusted the fan speed to keep the cabin comfortable. There was a control on the passenger door that could modify the temperature for the front-seat passenger if they didn’t like the setting I chose. The knob allowed the passenger to change the temperature by up to eight degrees 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 temperature control on the center panel within easy reach and some even have a button to synchronize the two sides if desired.

During my extended road test of the Aurora, I encountered the gamut of road and weather conditions which this big Olds handled in stride. The Precision Control System, a computerized skid control program, handled the inclement weather in stride. The system detects impending loss of control and intercedes by modulating engine power and applying one or both front brakes to help you regain control, 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 cruiser that gobbled up the miles with ease. It was equally at home on winding country roads as it was on the interstate with easy handling and good directional 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 jab the gas an inch or two in order to get an energetic response from the engine. But once you get used to it, you tend not to notice it any more until you jump into another car and find yourself jerking the throttle until you reacquaint yourself with the way a normal throttle feels.

Fear not, once you plant your foot down on the go pedal, you are greeted with a rush of 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 mode that you can shift for yourself, but you 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 missing your 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 internet services as well as a voice activated phone. The new services are called Virtual Advisor and Personal Calling. Calling time is purchased in advance in the form of units which can be replenished at any time by pressing the 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 than not. There are actually two computers that you are interacting with: TheOnStar computer in the car which understands a series of commands that allow you to access the hands-free phone and accepts spoken commands such as”DIAL”, where the system responds “Number Please”. You then 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 the OnStar Virtual Advisor where you will then interact with another voice activated computer that seems a whole lot more powerful. This computer will guide you 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 minute sports scores to stock quotes and even offer to read your e-mail to you! This speech recognition system is quite sophisticated, but far from perfect. If a person that I was talking to used the phrase “Excuse me?” as often as my Virtual Advisor friend did, I would refer her to an ear doctor friend of mine. But, technology is barreling along at a frantic pace and it won’t be long before they iron out the kinks (or tell me to take the marbles out of my mouth). The beauty of it is that when they do get it right, you reap the benefits because it’s not the computer in your car, it’s their computer that’s continually upgraded.

While Virtual Advisor is a neat feature, let’s not ignore the other interesting features in this car. For instance, there is an Oil life monitor which allows oil change intervals of up to 10,000 miles based on how you drive the vehicle. It bases its recommendations on how the car is driven 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 tires properly 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 American car that it is. It’s a great swan song for a proud division that I personally believe is being shot down before its time. I have had several Oldsmobiles 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.

How would I improve this car?

How does the Aurora fit your driving 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 Type4.0-liter V8, DOHC Aluminum block and aluminum heads
Horsepower250 @ 5,600 RPM
Torque260 @ 4,400 RPM
Fuel RecommendedPremium 92 Octane Unleaded.
TransmissionFour Speed Electronically Controlled Transmission with Intelligence (ECT-i)
Tires – StandardP235/55R17   H-speed rated all-season Michelin touring tires
Overall Length199.3″
Wheelbase112.2
Width72.9″
Turning Diameter37.4 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight3,802
Fuel Tank17.5 Gals.
Miles Per GallonEPA city 17, hwy 25.
Acceleration 0 to 607.5 Seconds
Base Sticker Price$34,305 plus $670 destination charge

2001 Oldsmobile Aurora 4.0L V8 Front Wheel Sedan

Standard Equipment

Major Available Options

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Author

Charles Ofria

Automotive Expert

Charles Ofria was an automotive journalist who was active in the automotive industry for over 40 years. During the '70s, he was owner-operator of Ofria Automotive, a thriving auto repair shop in Brooklyn, NY. During that time he became involved with auto mechanic training when he set up courses to help prepare mechanics to take the then new A.S.E. (Automotive Service Excellence) mechanic certification exams.

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