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New Car/Review

Road Impressions: Oldsmobile Aurora

Andrew Frankl
European Bureau Chief

It could not have been easy to work for this famous company whilst sales dropped from 1 million cars to around 330 thousand per annum. It would be fair to say that had they not been part of GM Oldsmobile may well have joined Edsel and all the other names which are now history. Well, they did not and they are certainly coming back with a vengeance!

The transformation started back in '94 with the launch of the first Aurora which was bravely aimed at the ever-growing imports. 100 thousand Auroras later the plot is certainly working. In its latest guise the car is certainly very attractive to look at. It certainly fooled me. We had one at Monterey as part of our Western Automotive Journalists test day. Day One consists of what is knows as a ride and drive- we had 11 cars for the afternoon and swopping every 10 miles or so got a brief glimpse of each and every one. I did not look at the badge on the front of the car, just got in, said hello to the guy sitting in it and said" this is nice, is it an Acura?" No, was the answer, this is an Aurora, but thanks for the compliment. I meant it. Leather seats, burl walnut around the cockpit, a nice looking gearlever, it certainly did not feel like the Pontiac I drove down from San Francisco. The two cars are poles apart.

Driving the Aurora confirmed my initial impressions. The V6 engine revs freely and pulls well. Just like my illustrious colleague Michelle Krebs of The New York Times I much preferred it to its V-8 sister. Not only is it an extra 4000 dollars it seems pretty pointless. Interestingly enough Aurora's only US made rival, the Lincoln LS is exactly the same- much nicer with the smaller engine. Whilst it is certainly no rival apart from the fact that it has four wheels, the Mercedes CLK is also much, much nicer with the 3.2 liter engine than with the 4.3.

The car is silent and the ride is good. The 215 V-6 pulls well and the fuel consumption is certainly on par with is rivals. It also runs on regular gas/petrol , no irrelevant matter when prices of premium fuel are over 2 dollars 20 cents a gallon at nearby Shell pumps..

The car is six inches shorter than the previous Aurora and I am afraid it shows. According to the company there is more room inside. Could have fooled me! There were three of us in the car during our test run and I elected to sit in the back. It would have been OK had my friend in front of me been less than 6 feet tall but under the circumstances I was happy to trade places after a while. It was not unacceptably uncomfortable , it was on the limit. For school kids it would have been perfect.

Whilst in the back I also discovered that the headrest was solid. And short. Extremely short. I would respectfully suggest that a car that is intended to take on fine imports in the 30 thousand plus market segment needs something better. Just as the armrest cupholder.. It was so far out of character that words fail to describe it. Tacky to the nth degree. Not that the upholder in the front is anything to shout about. It is very very near indeed to first gear , again something that could be changed easily and I am sure it will be.

Still, if the positioning of cupholders and marginal legroom behind tall people are my biggest beef than Oldsmobile must have done something right. In fact the whole of GM seems to be waking up from a long slumber with deals here, there and everywhere . Not quite in the same league as Jacques Nasser I am afraid but still, a step in the right direction.

Finally, one interesting thing that I've noticed. The word Oldsmobile was mentioned very, very infrequently. It would not altogether surprise me to see it disappear leaving names such as Aurora to fight it out in the marketplace. With no disrespect to tradition it does not pay the rent.