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Oldsmobile Aurora 4.0 (2001)

by Carey Russ

Oldsmobile Full Line Video footage (14:04)

The Aurora heralded a major in direction at Oldsmobile when it was introduced in mid-1994. With its unique, futuristic looks, it was most definitely "not your father's Oldsmobile." It was meant more for import-minded people, a younger, more upscale group than the Olds buyers of the past. And it truly was a harbinger of cars to come from Oldsmobile, in both styling and intent. Its influence can be seen in the midsized Intrigue and the compact Alero. But almost six years is an eternity in today's fast- changing auto industry, especially in the fast-paced entry-luxury car segment in which the Aurora competes.

Entry-luxury is where emotion meets logic, with prestige combining with value. There is very serious competition from a host of high-value, extremely competent machinery from the U.S., Europe, and Japan. The large number of new entries in the class since 1994 made the original Aurora grow old quickly. Once, Olds would have made few changes in response to competition. That is not the way to success today, and so there is now a completely-new Aurora. Actually, there are two new Auroras, one with a newly-developed version of the 4.0-liter quad cam V8 and another with the 3.5-liter V6 engine that was bred from the Aurora V8. Both share styling, with the only obvious difference being the V8's larger wheels and tires.

The 2001 Oldsmobile Aurora is smaller and lighter than the previous version, but has more interior space. It is distinctive, and definitely an Oldsmobile, if not as radically-styled as the first- generation car. But, in every way, it is an improved vehicle that takes advantage of the advances in construction techniques in the past five years. A brand-new 4.0 Aurora has been my transportation for the last week, and I had the opportunity to drive the 3.5 as well at the press introduction last Fall. In either form, Oldsmobile has made a good car even better. The world's oldest car company has gotten its second century off to a great start.

APPEARANCE: Recursive design? As the original Aurora influenced the Intrigue and Alero, they, in turn, have influenced the 2001 Aurora. It's not as radical as the first-generation Aurora, but just as unmistakably unique. The twin air intakes set into the front bumper fascia are a styling cue that originated with the first Aurora. The new car has large, oval ones much like the Intrigue, but it's front end is shorter and blunter that the gen-one Aurora's or the Intrigue's. Wide, low headlights, another Olds hallmark since the first Aurora, and an interesting series of vents in the mid-bumper give it a distinctive face. Subtle creases break up the otherwise broad, flat expanse of the hood. To the sides, crisp, angular fender flares give it a muscular look. The tail is truncated, with large, complex wraparound taillights in place of the full-width panel of the original Aurora. Chrome trim is minimal, found only around the side windows, and, optionally, on the alloy wheels. In a class where styling tends to be bland, the Aurora stands out.

COMFORT: Although the new Aurora is six inches shorter than its predecessor outside, it has more interior space. The all-new interior has a more open, airy feel, too, thanks to a generous window area and a contemporary medium gray over "sandstone" design. Its status is proclaimed by standard leather upholstery and real wood trim on the doors, instrument panel, and central console. The Aurora is designed for driving in comfort. Instruments are well- shaded for easy visibility, and the driver information center, climate, and stereo controls are placed in the center of the dash, in an extension of the console that is angled towards the driver, cockpit- style. Auxiliary audio and climate controls are found on the leather- wrapped, tilt-adjustable steering wheel. Dual sun visors, with extensions on the main visors, help considerably when driving into glare. The comfortable front buckets are both six-way power- adjustable in the 4.0 V8, and feature shoulder straps that mount to the seat frame in both versions. Rear passengers have plenty of leg and head room, and amenities including cooling vents and a center ski-passthrough and armrest with cupholders and storage space. The trunk is marginally smaller than in the previous version, but it is more accessible.

SAFETY: All 2001 Auroras have a safety-cage chassis design, energy-absorbing interior materials, front and front side airbags, and four-wheel antilock disc brakes. Traction and stability control systems are standard on the 4.0 and available on the 3.5.

ROADABILITY: The 2001 Aurora a luxury sedan with sporty character. While its fully-independent suspension is calibrated more firmly than that of its predecessor, it is still basically tuned for comfort. But that comfort does not come at the expense of driving ability and pleasure. In V8 or V6 form, it's a fast touring sedan that combines all-day comfort on the highway with good abilities on convoluted secondary roads. The slightly-lighter V6 version feels a little more nimble in the twisties due to its lower weight.

PERFORMANCE: In either form the new Aurora has plenty of smooth power. The dual overhead cam, 32-valve, 4.0-liter V8 may have the same basic design and displacement as before, but nearly every part inside is new. Although its 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque are the same ratings as the earlier engine's, the new version is quieter and more efficient, and meets LEV emissions standards. It gives the Aurora 4.0 good acceleration, and produces a muted rumble. The 3.5-liter V6's 215 hp and 234 lb-ft, allied to its 120 lbs lighter weight, give the Aurora 3.5 plenty of zip, too. Both versions of the 2001 Aurora use Hydra-Matic four-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmissions.

CONCLUSIONS: Oldsmobile has made a good car even better with the 2001 Aurora, and has proven that American manufacturers can compete against the best the world has to offer in the luxury class.

2001 Oldsmobile Aurora 4.0

Base Price              $ 34,305
Price As Tested         $ 36,670
Engine Type             dual overhead cam, 32-valve V8
Engine Size             4.0 liters / 244 cu. in.
Horsepower              250 @ 5600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)          260 @ 4400 rpm
Transmission            4-speed electronically-controlled automatic
Wheelbase / Length      112.2 in. / 199.3 in.
Curb Weight             3880 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower   15.5
Fuel Capacity           17.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement        unleaded regular, 87 octane
Tires                   P235/55 HR17 Michelin Pilot MXV4
Brakes, front/rear      vented disc / solid disc, antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear  independent MacPherson strut /
                          independent multilink
Drivetrain              front engine, front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      17 / 25 / 18
0 to 60 mph                        7.6  sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)                    15.9 sec
Coefficient of Drag (cd)           0.32

Chrome-plated wheels               $ 800
Bose Premium sound system          $ 500
White Diamond paint                $ 395
Destination charge                 $ 670