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New Car/Review

Oldsmobile Aurora (2002)

by Brendan Hagin and Mikele Schappell-Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 34,990
     Price As Tested                                    $ 36,005
     Engine Type              DOHC 32-valve 4.0 Liter V8 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 244 cid/3994 cc
     Horsepower                                   250 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               260 @ 4400 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  112.2"/72.9"/199.3"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3849 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                 P235/55R17 H-Rated Performance         

     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.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            18/28/22
     0-60 MPH                                        8.0 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                                  16.0 @ 89.0 mph
     Top-speed                                           130 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

MIKELE - I don't think that we've ever evaluated an Oldsmobile since we've been writing this column, and now the marque is being eliminated by General Motors. Going through your Dad's car library, I found a book on the history of Oldsmobile and I was surprised to learn that it's more than 100 years old - the oldest make in this country. It doesn't seem right that our oldest auto maker is being dropped in '03.

BRENDAN - Which points up the fact that we should enjoy this Olds Aurora while we can, Mikele. It's as close as GM has ever come to challenging imported sports sedans in the areas of handling and performance. It's been around since 1994 and it's undergone some changes over the years that have made it more conservative. That befits a car that's considered something of an entry-level luxury car. We were lucky enough to draw one that carried a 4.0-liter V8 engine rather than the alternate V6. The V8 has a very nice rap to its exhaust and it has the acceleration to go along with it. It's a pretty advanced all-aluminum unit that carries dual-overhead cams that work four valves per cylinder. It puts out 250 horses and get pretty good fuel mileage at 18 around town 28 on the highway.

MIKELE - Oldsmobile has been one of the ongoing favorites in my family for a long time and one of my grandmothers has owned a couple of them. The new Aurora is something of a "cookie-cutter" car but I like its low-nose, high-tail profile that's accented by a sharp crease that runs from its headlights to the trunk lid. I don't know if the low, narrow bulge lines that runs the length of the doors on both sides are to strengthen the sheet metal or to esthetically break up the slab-sided look, but I find it a little disconcerting. It takes away from what would otherwise be a very taut and purposeful look. The two separate air intake "holes" in the nose are non-traditional but Oldsmobile hasn't got a "traditional" grille to try to work into the design. The styling was completely new last year, which means it will be a while before it looks dated.

BRENDAN - You sure see a lot more in a car's design than I do. I simply would have said that I like its shape and especially the almost full-circle wheel cutouts. The interior of the Aurora is a little placid for my taste but there's plenty of adjustment in the driver's seat and the tilt steering so I can stretch out and get comfortable. The driver's and front passenger's seats have a kind of enclosed "cockpit" feeling rather than a single front seating area that's separated by a console. It's really more sports car-like than a family sedan. The front seats are heated, although the weather has been so warm lately, we didn't get a chance to try them. And since it didn't rain either, we didn't get a chance to utilize the traction control system but I did appreciate its stability control unit that came into play when I tried some "spirited" driving in the hills above town.

MIKELE - You didn't tell me about that but I appreciate you not getting "spirited" when I'm driving with you. There was plenty of trunk space in the Aurora and unlike some of its competitors in the low-end of the luxury car niche. I like the fact that the lift-over ledge of the trunk was low enough that I didn't have to wrestle bags of groceries over it when I went shopping. Just for fun, I got into the back seat to see how it felt and I was a little disappointed. It's very soft to me, which is just a matter of taste, but it's also pretty low. I'm fairly tall, so I can see well from the back seat, but my little grandmother would have trouble seeing much of the view if we took her for a drive.

BRENDAN - There's an optional navigational radio system available on the Aurora, but ours didn't have it. It comes with a pair of CD-ROMs, one that has all the major highways and roads throughout the country and another that's specific to the owner's area. Once you punch in an address, the system tells you where to turn and if you make a wrong turn, it tell you how to get back on track.

MIKELE - That beats a glovebox road map, Bren. I can never get those darn things folded correctly after the first time I use one.