New Car Review

1998 OLDSMOBILE INTRIGUE

by Tom Hagin

oldsmobile
SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 22,100
Price As Tested                                    $ 24,970
Engine Type                OHC 2-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SPFI*
Engine Size                                 231 cid/3785 cc
Horsepower                                   195 @ 5200 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               220 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                    109"/73.6"/195.9"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3496 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    18 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/60R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (abs)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            19/30/23
0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       16.5 seconds @ 86 mph
Top speed                                           125 mph
     * Sequential port fuel injection

If anyone is unsure of the future direction of Oldsmobile, they should take a test ride in its new Intrigue, the car that replaces the Cutlass Supreme, once the company's midsized sedan sales leader. The Intrigue is well-built, solid and offers a dose of styling flair.

Intrigue comes in either base or uplevel GL trim which is the version we tested this week.

OUTSIDE - Bearing more than a minor resemblance to its sibling, the Aurora, the Intrigue is available is sedan form only. It has a clean, unobtrusive shape, and there is no grille or corporate badges on the outside. A pair of snorkel-type inlets deliver air into the engine bay, and the sharp nose sweeps up very gradually to a curved roof line. The wide headlamps are thin and covered with jeweled lenses, while a set of fog lamps reside down low in the fascia. Targeting mid-sized imports as the main competition, Olds has done well to narrow the gaps between the body panels, and to create a new more solid platform. Almost everything attached to the exterior is body-colored, (mirror housings, bumpers, side strips, etc.) save for a thin band of chrome around the windows. Our test car came with polished aluminum wheels and a small rear spoiler.

INSIDE - Olds continues with a simple, easy-to-use interior layout that we first observed in its Eighty-Eight. Analog gauges are clearly displayed and all controls and switches are within easy reach. The dashboard on the Intrigue is low, so visibility is good from the driver's seat. The attention to chassis stiffness is evident inside, where squeaks, rattles and outside noises are absent. The ignition key is dash-mounted, and the stereo is located above the ventilation controls. Two passengers in back will find good headroom with lots of legroom and extra toe space under the front seat but three is a crowd. Our GL test car came with upscale standards such as power windows, outside mirrors and door locks, and cruise control, heated mirrors, dual zone automatic air conditioning, rear window defogger and an AM/FM cassette stereo.

ON THE ROAD - The engine used in the Intrigue is a 3.8 liter V6 that produces 195 horsepower and 220 lb-ft of torque. It uses an internal balance shaft to smooth inherent vibrations, and electronic fuel injection for reliability and economy. Its power rating is competitive with others in its class, even though it lacks the sophisticated dual overhead camshafts and multi-valve technology offered in most of its mid-sized competition. Fuel economy is good at 19 mpg city/29 mpg highway, especially so since the car weighs nearly 3500 pounds. There is more than enough torque and power, which is strong until about 4000 rpm, where power drops off and things get noisy. Mated to this is an electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission, which GM labels the 4T65E. It has achieved numerous awards for its performance, and is one of the smoothest-shifting and quietest gearboxes available.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The Intrigue rides on a chassis shared with other GM mid-sized cars, and in various forms, has been for a long time. Each GM division uses their own suspension features such as special bushings, different front end alignments, shock valving and steering settings to extract a unique ride from virtually identical platforms. The fully independent suspension uses struts, coil springs and tube shocks at all four corners, along with a sway bar at both ends. Our car came equipped with the optional Autobahn package which included uplevel performance Goodyear tires and larger front brakes. It tracks true at speed, with only moderate body roll in tight corners and behaves quite well over potholes. The steering is speed-sensitive, and is an updated version of the Magnasteer magnetic rack-and-pinion system first introduced on the Aurora. Four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock (ABS) are standard.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS and side-impact beams are standard.

OPTIONS - Leather upholstery: $995; Autobahn Package: $230; uplevel CD stereo system: $200, steering wheel radio controls: $125; chrome wheels: $600.

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