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New Car/Review


by Tom Hagin


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 35,735
Price As Tested                                    $ 36,965
Engine Type                             4.0 Liter V8 w/MFI*
Engine Size                                 244 cid/3995 cc
Horsepower                                   250 @ 5600 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               260 @ 4400 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  113.8"/74.4"/205.4"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3993 Pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    20 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P235/60R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                 96 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                             0.316


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            17/26/21
0-60 MPH                                        8.1 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     16.2 seconds @ 85.5 mph
Top speed                                           125 mph
     * Multi-port fuel injection

There has only been a couple of cars made in America that are archetypal Cinderella stories: a vehicle that altered the direction of the entire manufacturer's line when it debuts. Oldsmobile's Aurora was one of those vehicles when it arrived in dealerships in mid-1994.

Aurora came on the scene when Olds sales were low, and rumors of the company's demise were rampant in the car industry. But Aurora's sleek design and cutting-edge technology has permeated and strengthened the marque's most recent line of popular sedans.

OUTSIDE - The sleek styling of the Aurora was ahead of its time when it debuted three years ago, and its styling continues to be up-to-date. As a consequence, when restyle times comes around for the Aurora, we'll probably only see minimal sheet metal changes. It has a pointed, projectile-like shape, with a pinched-in beltline and a rounded rear deck surface. It used to look like no other Oldsmobile, but now that the company has completely restyled most of the others in its line, Aurora's likeness can be seen across the line. The attention paid to structural integrity is evident, which gives it a solid feel on the road. The tail section is narrow, however, and access to the trunk has been compromised with its narrow opening and high liftover height.

INSIDE - Both of the Aurora's front bucket seats are powered and highly adjustable, the result being among the most comfortable of the GM luxury car lineup. Some of our shorter testers complained about the high cowl and the large roof pillars, which blocked the view somewhat. The curved and sweeping dashboard is filled with analog gauges, which are capped by an arched panel of hidden "idiot" lights to warn its driver about everything from airbag problems to transmission fluid life. There are few options from which to choose, as Aurora standard features are numerous. Some of those interior features include leather upholstery, a high-powered AM/FM/CD system, power windows, mirrors and door locks, cruise control and electronic climate control which is adjustable for both the driver and passenger.

ON THE ROAD - Aurora is powered by an all-aluminum 4.0 liter V8 engine with dual overhead camshafts and 32 valves. It produces 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque over a wide rpm range. Based on the larger and more powerful Northstar engine that powers the Cadillac line, it is smooth, quiet, and responsive. It delivers relatively good fuel economy for a 4000-pound car at an average of 21 mpg, but premium fuel is required. The transmission is GM's multi-purpose 4T-80 four-speed automatic that features normal and performance shift modes. We found it slow to respond to quick kick-downs of the throttle, but under normal driving conditions it always shifted smoothly and predictably. Aurora also has traction control, the slippery-road device that limits wheelspin. The control system uses a computer to alternately reduces engine power or activates the anti-lock braking system (ABS).

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Aurora rides on an all-independent suspension with strut-type front underpinnings and a trailing link setup in the rear. It gives a taut feel, and remains composed on twisting stretches of blacktop. Its stiff unibody and firm suspension gives precise steering and minimal body roll, but we felt the suspension tuning just a bit stiff during its rebound, as it jars somewhat on broken pavement. Aurora use MagnaSteer, too, a trade name for its electronic variable-assist steering system which makes it easy to turn the steering wheel at slow speeds, such as during parking maneuvers, but gives more road feel on the highway. The steering wheel responded with a slight jerkiness that took some familiarization to produce its smoothest driving. Its brakes work very well, as they are four-wheel discs with ABS to produce short stopping distances with no discernible fade after many "panic" stops.

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

OPTIONS - Our tester's "Autobahn" package included larger tires and a lower axle ratio for $565 over the standard price.