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New Car Review

Oldsmobile Alero

Larkin Hill

Waves are crashing, seagulls crying, and the morning fog is just starting to lift. The northern California coastline is trying to recover from it's unusually wet winter: roads closed, receding cliff edges, and the most luscious foliage seen in years. It is already the wettest rainy season since the 1800's, and it continues to come. Despite the dewy morning Oldsmobile's newest 90's line shines through. The Aurora, Intrigue, Shiloette, Bravada, and the guest of honor: the Alero, all sparkle in a row.

While the thought of driving a new car automatically increases my pulse, the generalized and biased perceptions that surround Oldsmobile's reputation keep me thinking about grandma. As I prepared myself for an utterly predictable and easy driving day, I was blown away by a very sporty looking sedan, and an even sexier coupe. Thinking back to Oldsmobile's successful efforts to separate the Intrigue from stereotypes and positioned the it as the "next generation" Oldsmobile, I thought to myself, "they may have done it again." With captivating styling, superior handling and a nifty ad campaign, the Alero has the potential to transcend any preconceived notions. And as a twenty-something year old, I found myself looking twice, titillated at the thought of stepping foot in the stylish coupe.

Sleek styling and precision handling define the newest member of the Oldsmobile family, scheduled to hit the showroom floor Fall of 1999. The primary inspiration surrounding the creation of the Alero was studying what the target market wanted and building accordingly. The three main insights that were found to be most important to the consumers now define the entire package: distinctive exterior, inviting interior, and most importantly, driving enjoyment at a low base price. Targeted to compete with the ever-popular Camry and Accord, the Alero hopes to provide enough incentives to capture the consumer who has previously purchased, or is thinking about purchasing, an imported car.

As we walked out into the not-quite-sunny day, I was instantly drawn to the gold beauty, and despite it being the baby of the family (with the 2.4-liter DOHC 4-cylinder), there was enough perk to pin me to my seat. With two full sized adults it successfully darted up hills and slid around the Santa Cruz curves. 150 horsepower provided more than sufficient energy, which somewhat grumbled a little on the steep grades, but nonetheless conquered any obstacle placed in its way.

The stronger 3.4-liter V6 delivers a powerful boost. With 170 horsepower the Alero whips around bends and bolts up steep grades. The V6 powerhouse is standard on the GLS and optional on the GL model. Both the 4-cylinder and theV6 provide enough power and torque to deliver a satisfying and safe drive in any conditions.

The primary attraction, to compliment the advanced engine, are the standard creature comforts in all models of the Alero. For those who live where the sun does shine, solar coated tinted glass is standard, which will not only curb heat stroke upon entering, but will also save the interior décor from deterioration. All cars come with an auxiliary power outlet, which eliminates the annoyance of having to unplug a cell phone in order to use the cigarette lighter. There are split-folding rear seats, electric trunk release, tilt steering, and air conditioning in all models including the coupe. There is also key lockout protection, which deactivates the door lock switches if the key is left in the ignition. In addition, there are programmable power door locks. To top it off, for all those who get annoyed at drivers who "forget" to turn their signals off when they change lanes, there is a chime that will activate after 3/4 of a mile. All aesthetically placed and convenient.

Bottom Line: This is a cool car with class. It's sporty, fun, and basically not "your grandparents" automobile. This car is predicted to be the largest seller in the Oldsmobile line, and completes their Centennial Plan.