New Car/Review

OLDSMOBILE ALERO

1999 OLDSMOBILE ALERO GLS

By Tom Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 20,875
Price As Tested                                    $ 21,400
Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 3.4 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 205 cid/3350 cc
Horsepower                                   170 @ 4800 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               200 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  107.0"/70.1"/186.7"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3092 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  15.0 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                             P225/50R15 touring
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Five-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32


PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
city/highway/average                             20/28/23          
0-60 MPH                                      9.0 seconds
1/4 (E.T.)                        17.5 seconds @ 84.0 mph
Top-speed                                         105 mph
	 	 
    * Sequential multi-point fuel injection 

Few in the auto industry are sad to see the demise of Oldsmobile's entry-level compact, the Achieva. This is especially true now, because it has been replaced by an all-new design called Alero. Built in Michigan alongside the equally-new Pontiac Grand Am, Alero comes in three levels of trim: base GX, mid-line GL and top-line GLS, with either two-or-four doors. This week we test a GLS coupe.

OUTSIDE - Alero is based loosely on Oldsmobile's Alero Alpha concept car that debuted at the 1997 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It was a stunning coupe, and garnered many compliments throughout the auto world. And while the production Alero isn't as stylish, its low-slung, swoopy lines offer many hints of the concept car in its profile. On its long nose are wide, slender headlights with no grille and two air inlets under the front bumper. Also, the rakish lines of the roof give it a sexy sense of sportiness, whether it be the Alero coupe or sedan. A set of polished six-spoke alloy wheels are standard equipment on Alero GLS. Mated to these are P225/50R16 Goodyear Eagle LS performance tires, unless Alero is ordered with a Sport Package that adds gripper Eagle RS-A rubber of the same size.

INSIDE - Front bucket seats are divided by a console shifter, and are built to accept a variety of human frames. Our GLS test model came with standard leather upholstery that is firm and supple, while the rear seat folds in 70/30 fashion to allow long items to be transported easily. The simple dashboard layout includes all the necessary items, all within a short distance from the driver's hand. Also, the stereo is high in the dash above the ventilation controls and features easy-to-use rotary knobs for convenience. Equally simple to use are the rubberized, knurled rotary knobs for the climate controls. Standard GLS features include a power driver's seat, AM/FM/cassette/CD system, low tire- pressure warning system, cruise control, power windows, outside mirrors and door locks, air conditioning, extra power ports, remote keyless entry and intermittent wipers.

ON THE ROAD - Standard on all Alero models except GLS is a 2.4 liter, dual overhead cam four cylinder engine. It uses four valves per cylinder and sequential electronic fuel injection to develop 150 horsepower and 155 pound-feet of torque. Power is adequate enough and its fuel mileage is stellar, but it produces noise, vibration and harshness that can be bothersome. Optional on GL and standard with GLS models is a 3.4 liter V6 engine. It's the same powerplant used with GM's triumvirate of minivans, and eliminates the harshness associated with the four cylinder powerplant. It gives 170 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque in a smooth, consistent manner. It has been upgraded since its introduction in the minivans with improved throttle response and better performance from the standard four-speed automatic transmission, the only gearbox available. A five-speed manual transmission is reportedly under development for use with the four cylinder engine. Electronic traction control is standard.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Alero's unit-body chassis has been strengthened to world-class standards. A special cradle system isolates the engine and suspension systems to reduce engine-induced vibrations from reaching the cabin. A new four-wheel independent suspension system consists of gas-pressurized MacPherson struts at each corner, coil springs and anti-roll bars. Alero handling is smooth, poised and confident, with little body roll or tire scrub. A sport suspension package adds thicker anti-roll bars, stiffer suspension bushings and meatier tires. Speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering is standard on uplevel models, and is specifically mounted to the subframe for increased road feel. Also standard are four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock braking system (ABS).

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

OPTIONS - There were no options on our test car.The destination charge added $525.

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