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New Car/Review

1999 Oldsmobile Intrigue

by John Heilig


ENGINE:                  3.8-liter V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:       195 hp @ 5200 rpm/220 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
TRANSMISSION:            Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:            19 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, 19.0 mpg test
WHEELBASE:               109.0 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH X HEIGHT: 195.9 x 73.6 x 56.6 in.
CURB WEIGHT:             3455 lbs
FUEL CAPACITY:           18.0 gal.
CARRYING CAPACITY:       16.0 cu. ft. 
TIRES:                   225/60R16
INSTRUMENTS:             Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, 
                         water temperature, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:               Power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, 
                         cruise control, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio
                         with cassette and CD, ABS, dual air bags. 
STICKER PRICE:           $24,370

What if Oldsmobile took its highly successful Aurora four-door sedan and shrunk it? Intriguing idea, isn't it? And indeed, that's what Oldsmobile has done with the Intrigue.

Externally, the family resemblance between the Intrigue and the Aurora is uncanny. Both cars share the same aerodynamic shape and front and rear end appearances. Inside, of course, the luxury in the Intrigue is not as good as you would expect in the Aurora, but don't forget, you're paying about $15,000 less, too. Still, the Intrigue has leather upholstery and a full complement of power accessories, so it's no slouch in its own right.

Intrigue is powered by the General Motors standby 3.8-liter V-6 engine that develops 195 horsepower in unsupercharged form. This is more than enough power for the Intrigue. Even power-hungry I was uncomfortable with the Intrigue. This same engine with a supercharger on it, as used in the Regal, develops 240 horsepower, which isn't really necessary in a mid-size family sedan.

Even without the blower, the Intrigue had good acceleration, a top speed that can get you ticketed in most states, and fine performance at speed.

The engine is coupled to a four-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels. Like the engine, the transmission is tried and tested in many other GM products, so it probably isn't going to deliver any surprises. In service, we found that leaving the lever in D gave perfectly adequate performance.

Intrigue has some nice features, including the leather seats with good side support I mentioned before. You're not going to be racing in the Intrigue, so the relatively solid suspension is not designed for high-speed cornering.

Fuel cap and trunk releases are located on the dash and are clearly marked. Cruise control and sound system switches are located on the steering wheel, and I missed them when I left the Intrigue for another car after a week. For entertainment, there is an AM/FM stereo radio with an in-dash CD player. We have learned that we prefer in-dash units because we're not locked in to what we pre-selected and put in the trunk.

Our tester had a digital HVAC system that worked fine, especially the AC part that kept us cool in some hot weather we had during the week. The car also has power windows and mirrors, power door locks and assist handles at the three passenger positions.

What I liked most about the Intrigue was its feeling of solidity and security. Like the Cutlass I drove a while back, and the Alero prototypes I drove in November, the Intrigue has a comfortable solidity that you don't get in many cars these days. You get the feeling you're driving a much more substantial car than the mid-size it really is. I think that in order for Oldsmobile to overcome its problems it has to continue building solid cars such as the Intrigue that give this feeling and transmit it over a couple of years.

Intrigue is a good, solid car with a bunch of nice features. It is unfortunate that in the General Motors hierarchy, it must compete with the similar Cutlass and Buick Regal and Century.