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New Car/Review


by Bill Maloney

As the nameplate for the all new 1999 Oldsmobile Alero seems to have some sort of areonautical illiteration the PR folks for General Motors oldest car division presented the car to the west coast motoring press at the Santa Monica Aero Museum and it was a nice fit. The pristine Alero 2-door coupe and four door sedan looked extremely attractive in a glassed in hanger-like cum banquet room setting while hanging overhead were completely restored World War 1 fighter planes. About 100 scribes gaped at a Fokker D-7 tri-plane, Sopwith Camel, SE-5 and other great examples of aerial combat from the "war to end all wars."

Olds brand manager Randy Fox outlined Oldsmobile's philosophy rebringing out a new line to replace Achieva and while it was very interesting the dialogue and copy could have fit ANY new car in the mid-sized category. His research (5000 prospects) was constructed around such time-worn parameters as: Styling, comfort, roominess, performance and fun to drive. EVERY car in this segment says these very same things so you start thinking just what is it that Olds Alero has to offer that Honda, Ford, Nissan, et al do not offer? What is the ingredient X that makes Alero stand apart? Is it the new high tech sound deadening application? Larger glove box that will take a Thomas street guide? Battery run down protection guage or tire air pressure sensor or the integrated safety cage built around the passenger compartment.

We think it may come down to : price ($18,000), Oldsmobile reputation for quality and Oldsmobile loyalists who go Olds every few years.

The standard motor for the Alero GX, GL and Gl Coupe is the 2.4 DOHC L4 four banger but the engine to opt for in this sporty looking coupe is the 3.4L V6. Engineering-wise according to spokesman Doug Shoemaker, the spark plugs are good for at least 100,000 miles. The V6 engine has a horsepower rating of 170 while the four cylinder version puts out 150 h.p. The 3000 pound coupe which has an EPA of 21 city, 30 highway (4cyl) is popositioned to fight Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger as well as Honda Accord and Mitsubishi Eclipse.

Though we are only able to give you these basic specs and visual impression the Alero will not be available for a test drive until spring and models should be rolling into dealers showrooms in June.

The overall impression is that the car is Oldsmobile conservative in styling but is still stylish and fits nicely into todays small sedan market segment.