New Car/Review

1998 OLDSMOBILE BRAVADA

by Tom Hagin

oldsmobile
SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 30,645
Price As Tested                                    $ 31,375
Engine Type                 OHV 2-valve 4.3 Liter V6 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 262 cid/4300 cc
Horsepower                                   190 @ 4400 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               250 @ 2800 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                    107"/67.6"/183.7"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     4086 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/five-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            16/20/17
0-60 MPH                                         10 seconds
Payload                                         1301 pounds
Towing capacity                                 5000 pounds
     * Sequential fuel injection

Oldsmobile was wise to re-introduce its slow-selling Bravada when its GM corporate siblings, the GMC Jimmy and Chevrolet Blazer, were redesigned for the 1995 model year.

Since then, Olds is selling Bravadas as fast as it can build them. And since luxury SUVs continue to be hot items, it doesn't look as if the company has any plans to stop producing them

OUTSIDE - Most of its body panels and sheetmetal are shared with the Chevy/GMC twins, though Oldsmobile has grafted a few design cues from its automobile line onto Bravada. These include the signature "twin kidney" grille separated by the new Oldsmobile logo and body-side cladding - minus the "ribs" of the previous vehicle. For cargo-loading ease, the tailgate is split in two, with the upper portion made of glass and the lower portion functioning much like that of a pickup's tailgate. New this year are a set of bright-faced six-spoke alloy wheels, each being more than two pounds lighter than before, and a heated outside driver's mirror. Also new is a slightly redesigned rear step bumper with rubber non-skid strips to make loading cargo onto the roof rack easier.

INSIDE - Inside is where Bravada separates itself from its GMC/Chevy clones. Where those two vehicles must be heavily optioned to reach luxury status, Bravada's options list is short. For 1998, the instrument panel contains new second-generation airbags that deploy with less force, offering smaller and lighter occupants a bit more assurance. Next, the radio and climate controls have been angled toward the driver to make adjusting the controls less of a reach. Finally, a pair of audio systems are new this year, with a standard AM/FM cassette or a cassette/CD system that is optional. Comfort-wise, Bravada's standard leather upholstery (cloth upholstery is a no-cost option) is soft and supportive, and now covers a new six-way power driver's seat with a new feature for 1998 - a power recliner. Also new are optional seat heaters and a split rear bench seat with headrests that fold automatically when the seat is flipped down.

ON THE ROAD - Powering Bravada is a tried-and-true 4.3 liter V6 engine that produces 190 horsepower and a whopping 250 lb-ft of torque. It is connected to a smooth and strong four-speed automatic transmission, the only gearbox available. And while the engine and gearbox are first-rate, what deserves the most mention is Bravada's full-time four-wheel-drive system, called SmartTrak. Instead of a viscous limited slip center differential, which has been state-of-the-art for many years, Bravada uses an electronically- controlled transfer case that works much the same as before, but now gives quicker reactions to wheel slippage, which in turn activates the 4WD system. It also transfers 100 percent of the engine's power to the rear wheels on dry pavement, reducing the negative influence of the drive line on the steering and front suspension components on dry pavement.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Bravada rides on a full chassis, with rugged body-on-frame construction. Its suspension is independent up front, with upper and lower control arms, torsion bars for springs, and a thick stabilizer bar. In back is a solid axle with leaf springs and another stabilizer bar. This is pretty much the standard 4X4 setup these days, though it can be tuned by the maker to create a balance between a firm and a soft ride. Bravada's ride is just between the two, and while most won't see much off-road use, it is more than capable in the rough, except where a low gear range is necessary. Snow country is where it shines best, as it switches almost imperceptibly between rear and all-wheel-drive on alternating patches of icy and dry pavement. And since Oldsmobile made four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock (ABS) standard equipment last year, the whole package feels very well-rounded.

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

OPTIONS - Our tester was fitted with a Value Options Package that added the CD player, a tow package and white-letter tires for $545. California emissions are $170, and the destination charge is $515.

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