New Car Review

1996 OLDSMOBILE LSS

by Tom Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 26,010
     Price As Tested                                    $ 27,622
     Engine Type                             3.8 liter V6 w/PFI*
     Engine Size                                 231 cid/3791 cc
     Horsepower                                   240 @ 5200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               280 @ 3200 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   110.8"/74.7"/201.6
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3625 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/60R16
     Brakes (F/R)                              Disc-ABS/drum-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                            18/27/23
     0-60 MPH                                       7.7  seconds
     1/4 mile (E.T.)                       15.9 seconds @ 90 mph
     Top Speed (Est.)                                    109 mph
     * Port fuel injection

Next summer, Oldsmobile will celebrate its 100th anniversary - the first such celebration by an American car maker. But rather than live in the past, the company is pressing ahead with a plan that calls for new products, all aimed at competing not with its General Motors in-house competition, but squarely at the most popular imported cars in its category.

The Oldsmobile LSS, first introduced as an options package to transform its Eighty Eight family car into a sports sedan, is now offered as a stand-alone vehicle within the Olds line.

OUTSIDE - LSS styling is aimed at reducing its association with other 88 models, but you'd have to assemble the lineup side-by-side to spot the differences. A new grille, along with inset fog lamps, new front and rear fascias and bodyside molding are the added exterior features for 1996. LSS models wear very little brightwork, as the LSS badges have disappeared from the front fenders, and Aurora-inspired 16-inch alloy wheels are standard equipment. High performance P225/60R16 touring tires are standard as well.

INSIDE - The LSS already possess one of the most user-friendly dashboard layouts in the industry, but for 1996, it's been freshened a bit for more convenience. LSS models are equipped with such standard comfort items as power windows, door locks, trunk lid release and outside mirrors, plus leather seating, cruise control, steering wheel- mounted controls for the stereo and ventilation, along with a lighted vanity mirrors at both front seating positions. Its front bucket seats are soft and wide, with a center console and floor shifter between the two. A handy overhead console houses a small storage compartment and map lights, while its air conditioner features dual climate controls with digital displays for inside and outside temperatures. The standard audio system is a six-speaker AM/FM cassette stereo, while a CD system upgrade with a power antenna in optional. Variable-speed intermittent wipers are also standard as is the "Twilight Sentinel" automatic on/off headlamps, and extendible sun visors.

ON THE ROAD - Two engines are offered on the LSS, and both stem from an age-old design, (from 1962) which removed two cylinders from a V8 of that day. And while it's been redesigned many times since then, a 205 horsepower 3.8 liter V6 is standard, but the L67 options package adds a 240-horse version of the same engine by way of a belt-driven supercharger. This "blower" features 45 percent more displacement than last year's version, which even then gave an impressive 225 horsepower - and the new engine is even better still. Its equally impressive 280 lb-ft of torque is greater than many V8s, and gives great passing power, especially at freeway speeds. Added to this silky power delivery is one of the smoothest four-speed automatic transmissions available, along with traction control, which gives LSS the ability to successfully challenge many more expensive imported luxury sedans. An added bonus is its fuel economy, as we were able to attain 23 mpg under normal driving. But with the LSS, the temptation to "floor it" is unavoidable.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - New this year is magnetically-variable power steering, which offers low-effort turning at slow speeds, but provides a more linear feel as the vehicle's speed increases. The suspension is quite basic with independent, strut-type underpinnings all around. LSS models are equipped with Oldsmobile's Touring suspension, which adds stiffer springs, upscale shocks and front and rear stabilizer bars. Even with stiff suspension, however, the ride is plush and provides very comfortable long distance cruising. But when the road twisted, LSS exhibited grip to confidently cope with the curves. Braking is handled with front discs and rear drums. We'd like to see four-wheel disc brakes offered, but four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) are standard equipment.

SAFETY - LSS covers all the latest safety gamuts: dual airbags, ABS, side-impact beams, and daytime running headlamps.

OPTIONS - A CD player upgrade adds $200, while a power moonroof is a $995 option. The L67 engine power package adds another $1022.

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