New Car Review

1996 OLDSMOBILE BRAVADA

By Matt/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 29,505
     Price As Tested                                    $ 30,119
     Engine Type                            4.3 Liter V6 w/SCPI*
     Engine Size                                 262 cid/4293 cc
     Horsepower                                   190 @ 4400 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               250 @ 2800 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  107.0"/66.5"/180.9"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4240 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  19.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P235/70R15
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-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                            16/21/18          
     0-60 MPH                                       11.3 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     17.8 seconds @ 78.4 mph
     Max towing capacity                             5000 pounds

     * Sequential central port fuel injection

(General Motors is a great one for getting as much mileage from one design as possible. With the Oldsmobile Bravada, it entered the upscale segment of the sports/utility market. Bob Hagin thinks that's just fine but Matt Hagin still prefers having a low-range transfer case on hand - just in case.)

MATT - When the marketing guys at Oldsmobile say that they're going for the upscale end of the market with the Bravada, they aren't kidding. According to their press kit, the Average Bravada owner family is in the $100,000 per year income category, college grads and in white collar "professional" jobs. They also point out that 60 percent of their new Bravadas are titled to females.

BOB - True, but I don't think that the sales guys require a copy of a buyer's 1040 income tax form or a diploma, Matt. For what it is, it's a good buy for any family looking for a multi-purpose vehicle. The Bravada is really comfortable and has all kinds of luxury stuff like leather seats and power lumbar adjustments on the front seats. In '96, GM went over to the "aerodynamic look" for this very fancy truck. It's even more sedan-like in that it's got full-time four-wheel-drive so the driver doesn't have to play with buttons or levers when the road gets rough, wet or slippery.

MATT - The system that works it is pretty slick, Dad. The differences between the front and rear tire road friction on dry pavement is automatically taken care of by a liquid-filled viscous coupling in the transfer case, and there's also an Eaton-brand limited slip differential in the back axle, in case things really get slippery at low speeds. It's all one system and it also includes an anti-skid brake system. The ABS works independently in the front, but works on both rear brakes at once. The company calls the system "SmarTrak" and when I'm going skiing and I spot a patch of snow and ice on the road, I don't need to panic, because Bravada will automatically engage 4wd as soon as it detects slippage. That's real-world driving.

BOB - And that includes not having to shift the Bravada. The Oldsmobile plan to market this vehicle to Baby Boomers is evident in the fact that a five-speed transmission isn't offered and the driveline doesn't have a transfer case with a low range for going over boulders and such. The Bravada isn't just a fair-weather friend since it's obviously designed to operate on snow, ice and rain. But don't be in a hurry to plan a trip down through the desert in Baja California. Bravada is better suited for negotiating the slippery highways of Lake Tahoe.

MATT - That lack of a transfer case would bother me a bit, Dad, but maybe my rough-road days are coming to a close. The Bravada is indeed a paved-road SUV and it's 4.3 liter V6 engine is more proof. Its acceleration is amazingly quick and with 190 horses, it can blow the doors off of lots of very good sedans. It's a vintage pushrod design and appears to be a three/quarter version of the old reliable GM "small block" V8, except that the V6 has a built in countershaft to cancel out any engine vibration.

BOB - The Bravada has its headlights on all the time that it's on the road and for a long time, I thought it was a foolish gimmick. But as I get used to daylight running lights being a feature on a lot of modern cars, I find that it helps identify cars that are in moving traffic, especially in the twilight hours. In this era of heavy traffic, an old guy like me needs all the visual help he can get. Another helpful feature that I really liked on the Bravada was the built-in garage door opener that's in a console over the windshield. You put your hand-held opener up to it, push its button a couple of times and that sets the one in the Bravada. From then on, you can park in the garage without having to play with the old hand-held opener on the visor.

MATT - I don't see how that would help you, Dad. You've got so many old car parts in your garage, you had to hang Mom's bicycle from the rafters.

BOB - Hey! that's really "valuable" stuff in there.

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