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New Car/Review


Oldsmobile Alero GLS Sedan (2001)

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 21,965
     Price As Tested                                    $ 22,215
     Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 3.4 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 205 cid/3350 cc
     Horsepower                                   170 @ 4800 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               200 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  107.0"/70.1"/186.7"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3102 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  14.3 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/50R16
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            21/32/27
     0-60 mph                                        8.5 seconds
     1/4 mile (E.T.)                     16.5 seconds @ 84.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           105 mph
                * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

Oldsmobile is an interesting part of the General Motors. It arguably has the strongest lineup of passenger cars in the GM family, and its Alero entry-level vehicle isn't just some swoopy sheetmetal wrapped around an aging, ailing chassis but a well thought-out weapon in Oldsmobile's import-fighting arsenal.

Designed to attract younger buyers who would think first of an import, Alero is available as a coupe or sedan, in base GX, mid-trim GL and as our tester this week, the top-line Alero GLS.

OUTSIDE - Introduced as an all-new vehicle in 1999, to say the Alero is simply a restyled replacement for the now-departed Achieva would be a mistake. Alero was designed by the same GM chief designer who penned Cadillac's provocative new Evoc sports car. The Alero is fresh and tasteful, with long, slender headlamps, a grille-less nose and two air inlet snorkels below the bumper line. Stylish body lines and creases accent its curved roof line and windshield, while its long wheelbase and wide stance make it look much larger than its EPA compact car rating suggests. New this year are new 16-inch polished alloy wheels. Painted alloys are also available, as are either performance or touring 50- series tires.

INSIDE - Oldsmobile did a fine job of duplicating the ergonomic successes of the imports, with switches, knobs and gauges all at arm's reach. The analog instruments are housed in an oblong binnacle with an easy-to-read speedometer and tach. The audio controls are above a trio of simple rotary knobs that control the heat and air conditioning, while the center console sweeps between the front seats and around a meaty shifter handle. The front bucket seats are shaped nicely, with soft stuffing and covered in leather in the case of our GLS. The front seatbacks have been scooped out to help improve knee room, and while two standard-size adults will fit fine in back, three across will be tight. Standard GLS equipment includes air conditioning, power windows, outside mirrors and door locks, fog lamps, keyless remote, power trunk release and an AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo system with eight speakers.

ON THE ROAD - While the GX and GL models come standard with a 150 horsepower four cylinder engine, Alero GLS is powered by a 3.4 liter V6 engine that produces 170 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. It's an iron block/aluminum head design, with a more efficient catalytic converter and high-resistance spark plugs and wires to improve efficiency. In comparing Alero's power to some of its direct competitors, things come up just a bit short. Off-line launch is good, thanks to a healthy dose of torque that peaks at a low 4,000 rpm, but under heavy acceleration, things are not as smooth and quiet as the best in the class. A five-speed manual transmission is available in the four-cylinder model only, while a smooth-shifting four-speed automatic is the sole gearbox available for the GLS. To enhance grip on slippery surfaces, an all-speed traction control system is standard equipment.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Normally, when a car is outfitted with large, wide, "grippy" tires, it will handle very well around corners and through a slalom course. But this is not the only reason Alero GLS sticks to the road. A fully independent suspension that utilizes MacPherson struts up front and a tri-link setup in back help keep the car gripping tenaciously while it's going where it's pointed. Our car had an optional Sport Suspension Package, which includes sportier shocks, firmer springs and harder bushings at key locations. There's also a stiffer anti-roll bar up front, which reduces body lean in heavy cornering. A speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering system is standard, while four-wheel disc brakes with a revised-for-2001 anti-lock braking system (ABS) are standard.

SAFETY - Next-generation dual dashboard airbags, ABS, traction control, rear seat child tether anchors and a trunk release safety handle are all standard.

OPTIONS - Sport Suspension, $250.