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Oldsmobile Bravada (2001)

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 31,760
     Price As Tested                                    $ 32,840
     Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 4.3 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 262 cid/4300 cc
     Horsepower                                   190 @ 4400 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               250 @ 2800 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  107.0"/67.8"/183.7"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4173 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.6 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                          P235/70R15 all-season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                 90 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            15/20/17
     0-60 MPH                                        9.5 seconds
     Maximum payload capacity                        1040 pounds
     Maximum towing capacity                         5000 pounds
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

As we began the road test of this week's car, the 2001 Oldsmobile Bravada, the media blares the latest news that General Motors is killing off the Oldsmobile name in a few years. The 102 year-old marque will be fondly remembered.

OUTSIDE - Of the three GM midsize SUV clones, the Olds seems to be the most sophisticated and car-like. The company has differentiated Bravada from the others by incorporating a horizontally-slotted grille, body color bumpers and a liberal dose of plastic lower bodyside cladding. The fender wells are trimmed with a set of beefy flares, which integrate nicely with the side cladding and bumpers. The overall package is somewhat boxy, even with the company's attempt to sweep the C and D-pillars and rear side glass forward. From the side, the roof rails look as if they're a part of the body, which we like. That same roof rack can be fitted with the latest in sports equipment carriers or cargo boxes. Six-spoke alloy wheels are standard, and our test vehicle came equipped with optional raised white-letter all-season tires.

INSIDE - To make Bravada GM's premiere on-road, midsize SUV, much attention went to making the interior luxurious. Soft leather covers the front bucket and rear bench seats, while real-looking faux wood trim resides on the armrests and center console. A standard power passenger seat is new this year, as are memory settings for the driver's seat and a factory-installed OnStar system that can do a number of things, among them connecting its owner to a special subscriber Web site. Also new is a cargo management center. This consists of a custom fit portable plastic cargo tray that fits behind the rear seat. It is leakproof and washable, and has collapsible partitions designed to hold items such grocery bags or gallon jugs of milk. It folds flat when not in use. Some of the other standard equipment includes air conditioning, power windows, mirrors and door locks, an AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo, universal garage door opener, tilt steering, audio controls on the steering wheel.

ON THE ROAD - For power, the Bravada uses GM's corporate 4.3-liter cruise control and air conditioning. Its powerplant is 4.3-liter V6. This venerable design, which GM calls Vortec, has been providing dependable power to the company's small trucks and SUVs for years and with good reason. It produces 190 horsepower, which pushes the over two-ton Bravada around with agility. Add to that a whopping 250 pound-feet of torque, and you have a very capable tow vehicle. Throttle response is excellent, and with its fairly flat torque curve, there seems to always be enough power for passing - even at low RPM. Mated to this is a four-speed automatic transmission, the 4L60-E, which shifts quickly and smoothly, with minimal hunt or fuss. And Bravada's SmartTrak automatic all-wheel drive system normally delivers 100 percent of the engine's power to the rear wheels, unless it detects slippage. Then it sends power to the wheels with the most grip. A locking rear differential further aids traction.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The Bravada is an architypal SUV. It uses a full-frame chassis, but its independent front suspension with unequal-length control arms and coil springs, along with a solid rear axle with two-stage leaf springs in back, provide a smooth ride on the road. The Bravada isn't marketed as an off-road vehicle (it doesn't have a low transfer case range for serious off-roading), so the somewhat soft spring settings and limited wheel travel are not a problem. Its variable rate steering system is light but somewhat uncommunicative, while its four-wheel disc brakes is a welcomed feature in a world where many SUVs offer only rear drum brakes, which are prone to fading and don't stop as well as disc brakes. A four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, side-impact door beams and ABS are standard.

OPTIONS - Raised white-letter tires, $135; heated front seats, $250; uplevel paint, $95.