1997 OLDSMOBILE BRAVADA
by Matt/Bob Hagin
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 30,285 Price As Tested $ 30,800 Engine Type 4.3 Liter V6 w/SCFI* Engine Size 262 cid/4300 cc Horsepower 190 @ 4400 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 250 @ 2800 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 107"/66.5"/180.9" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 4043 pounds Fuel Capacity 18 gallons Tires (F/R) P235/70R15 Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/all-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content 95 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 16/21/18 0-60 MPH 11 seconds Payload 1277 pounds Max towing capacity 5300 pounds * Sequential central-port fuel injection
(When Oldsmobile went into the sport/utility vehicle market a few years back, it decided that since most of those rough-riders never go off-road, there was a clear place for a "civilized" SUV, one designed to see light duty only. Bob Hagin thinks that's just fine, but son Matt still prefers having a low-range transfer case on hand - just in case.)
MATT - Dad, I never thought I'd admit it, but there's a lot to be said for an SUV that concentrates on creature comforts rather than on doing well crashing through the underbrush or crawling through bolder-strewn creek beds. I don't miss having to row a stick-shift through the gears, especially in traffic, and I could get used to a machine like the Bravada doing all the bad-road thinking for me. It's very sedan-like in its ride, and it has full-time four-wheel-drive, so there's no fiddling with buttons or levers when the road gets rough, wet or slippery.
BOB - It's almost a misnomer to call the Bravada an SUV, Matt - "multi/purpose vehicle" would be a better name. It's a good buy for a shopper looking for a car that can double as a light-duty truck, and can transport the family up to snow country where road conditions get bad. And it's classy enough to not look like it just came in from running the Paris-to-Dakar Rally. It's comfortable as well, and the list of luxury equipment that comes standard is impressive. I don't like leather seats, but the power lumbar adjustments up front made it easy to re-adjust them while covering long distances. I also liked the full-time four-wheel- drive, a system that takes all the guesswork out of driving. So it doesn't matter what the road is covered with, the Bravada gives maximum traction all the time.
MATT - Olds engineers designed a lot of high-tech stuff to make the driving easy, Dad. On older all-wheel-drive systems, there were problems with the mechanicals on dry pavement. Differences in friction during turns were hard on the transfer cases and CV joints. In the Bravada, it's automatically compensated for by a liquid-filled viscous coupling in the transfer case, and when the road really gets slippery, the rear axle uses a limited slip differential that works at low speeds. The system uses the anti-lock braking system, too. If there's a patch of snow and ice on the road, the system automatically engages 4WD as soon as it detects slippage. It all works automatically and the driver doesn't have to do much except steer and uses the brakes and the accelerator at the appropriate times. So actually, the only time it's necessary to shift is for reverse, but I'm uncomfortable with SUV's that don't offer a stick-shift or include a low-range transfer case.
BOB - But this Bravada is really not intended to be a rock-crusher, Matt. Family use in ice and snow is about as rough a duty as the Olds guys intended for this vehicle, but it certainly has enough beans to make most drivers happy. Its 4.3 liter V6 engine puts out 190 horses and there's 250 pound/feet of torque to give a 0 to 60 time good enough to keep up with traffic easily. The engine is a scaled-down version of the venerable GM "small-block" V8, but with a couple of countershafts to dampen out engine vibrations that are inherent with V6s. The brakes on the Bravada are new this year in that the company finally got around to putting discs on the rear. Oldsmobile did a neat thing in incorporating a new system of marking all the major parts with the vehicle identification numbers in case the machine becomes a candidate for a chop-shop used parts business. And it's getting more minivan-like every year - now the whole rear door can be lifted as one piece to load big stuff and the rear window can also be opened manually.
MATT - "Multi/purpose vehicle" is a good name for the Bravada, Dad, but don't you miss not being able to use a machine like this for crashing through the boondocks or going through really rough terrain?
BOB - I did a lifetime of four-wheeling before you were born, Matt. But the vehicle I drove wasn't called an SUV back then. It was painted khaki and the ride was really uncomfortable. I'll take the Bravada over it any time.