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Oldsmobile Bravada AWD (2002)

By Matt/Bob Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 34,167
     Price As Tested                                    $ 36,877
     Engine Type              DOHC 24-valve 4.2 Liter I6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 256 cid/4157 cc
     Horsepower                                   270 @ 6000 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               275 @ 3600 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  113.0"/75.4"/191.8"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4637 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.7 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P255/60R17
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            15/21/18
     0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                                      1150 pounds
     Top-speed                                       6100 pounds
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(Oldsmobile is the oldest car maker in the U.S. says Bob Hagin. His son Matt therefore finds it understandable that its latest SUV, the Bravada, is much more like a car than the GM truck it's based on.)

MATT - Oldsmobile has been around a long time and until the advent of the car-branded sport/utility vehicle, the company hasn't put out a commercial vehicle of any kind - unless you count police cars and taxi cabs. But back in '91, Oldsmobile began putting its logo on the omnipresent General Motors mid-sized SUV and labeled it Bravada. Basically, it was the same machine that was on the showroom floors of other General Motors brands - same V6 motor, same suspension system, same truck chassis. The difference between the Bravada and its corporate clones was that the Olds was trimmed-out to be a luxury version and not intended to be taken into the boondocks on fishing trips. It didn't have a low-range transfer case or any driver-controlled drive line systems. Its strong point was luxury winter cruising, where ample ground clearance was a plus during wet, nasty weather and where it didn't need any driver input to keep the thing on the straight and narrow.

BOB - And the '02 Bravada still follows that formula, Matt. It's built for comfortable cruising rather than for bone-jarring jaunts through creek beds and over fire trails. The frame of the new Bravada is a ladder-type unit that's as sturdy as a tank and holds the front and rear suspension systems exactly in the alignment parameters that the engineers designed. The front suspension on our all-wheel drive Bravada is a coil spring system that has more deflection range than the old design, and the solid rear axle is located by trailing links and a panhard rod. In order to give it a boulevard ride, Olds engineers utilized an air-bladder type rear springing medium that incorporates an onboard air pump. As the cargo and passenger loads increase and the rear end sags, the bladders are automatically inflated to level out the chassis.

MATT - The all-wheel-drive system on the Bravada is always in operation. Under normal conditions, only the rear wheels are powered, but if the computer picks up front-to-rear wheel spin, power goes to all the wheels. The system stays in all-wheel-drive until the computer doesn't detect any further loss of grip. All Bravadas carry a lock-up differential in back and there's an optional 4.11 rear axle ratio available if its owner wants to do some serious trailer towing. But the most exciting thing about the new Bravada is its new engine. The old V6 concept is gone and the new powerplant is a new-design 4.2-liter straight-six that's all aluminum and has dual overhead cams that push on four valves per cylinder. It puts out 270 horses, which is 80 more that the antiquated pushrod 4.3-liter V6 that it replaces. The Olds PR people say that it puts out as much power as a V8 of the same size but gets lots better fuel mileage.

BOB - The interior of the Bravada is very luxurious and the option list on our tester included an upscale sound system and a glass sun roof. But it's strictly a five-seater in that there isn't even an optional third-row seat offered. I don't think that third-row seats are used very often in SUVs unless they're used for Little League transportation but it's a big selling point for vehicles in this segment. I'm told that even though this new Bravada is longer than its predecessor, it's going to take a "stretched" version at some future date to provide enough room for that extra seat in the back.

MATT - On the highway, the Bravada does a great job of smooth cruising but on sweeping turns, it gets a little sway going that's hard to correct. There's no sports suspension option available but other versions of this mid-sized SUV offered by other GM brands have stuff like this available. The Bravada is definitely the country-club luxury version of the design.

BOB - But there must be a bit of the old Oldsmobile performance panache in the Bravada, Matt. For the first time in history, an SUV truck was the pace car at the Indy 500 and it was a Bravada.