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New Car Review


By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 16,495
     Price As Tested                                    $ 17,632
     Engine Type                            3.1 Liter V6 w/SPFI*
     Engine Size                                  191cid/3131 cc
     Horsepower                                   155 @ 4200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               185 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  103.4"/68.6"/187.9"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     2805 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  15.2 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P195/65R15
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Five-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                 92 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            22/32/28          
     0-60 MPH                                       10.1 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     15.9 seconds @ 80.2 mph
     Towing capacity                                     1000 lb
     * Sequential port fuel injection

The 1996 Oldsmobile Achieva is available as a coupe or sedan and in Series I, II or III trim levels. While it shares components with other GM stablemates, it contains styling features all its own.

This week's evaluation covers the Achieva SL coupe, with its handful of technological improvements under the hood and between the doors.

OUTSIDE - The current body style was introduced four years ago, and relies on the formula of using a long, pointed hood and short, tall trunk. Achieva's no-nonsense design and clean shape haven't changed much for 1996, but its proportions have withstood the test of time. While Achieva sedan models are styled conservatively, the coupe is targeted at the sporty end of the compact car segment. The standard wheel-tire combination uses bolt-on wheelcovers, but our test Series III model rode on optional alloy wheels, and was fitted with a not-too-large aero-style rear wing, along with twin powered outside mirrors. Our car also came with Oldsmobile's optional sport package, which added front fog lamps, and some convenient interior items. Daytime running headlamps are new for 1996.

INSIDE - Olds has done a good job of redesigning Achieva's interior for the 1996 model year. Air conditioning has been added to the standard equipment list, while dual airbags and comfortable three-point safety belts are also included. Its new instrument panel places all major controls within easy reach of the driver, and user-friendly twist-type ventilation knobs are simple to adjust. The dashboard's analog gauges are large and legible, and include a speedometer and tach, along with fuel level and coolant temperature gauges. Series III models have front bucket seats with an integrated center console and lumbar support for the driver's chair. On the coupes, the front passenger seats uses an easy-entry feature, which slides the seat forward on tracks when the seatback is folded, making access to the rear seat faster. Once in back, coupe seating is snug, with room for two, but a third is a squeeze.

ON THE ROAD - There are two engines available on all Achieva models, but they make otherwise identical Achievas vastly different. The standard powerplant, a 2.4 liter inline four-cylinder engine, is what would be expected under the hood of a compact car. Its 150 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque are quite impressive, as are its dual overhead camshafts, efficient fuel injection system and available for the first time, an optional four-speed automatic transmission. Using the four- cylinder manual five-speed drivetrain makes Achieva coupe a raucous, racy sportster with power to spare. The other drivetrain makes the Achieva downright relaxing to drive. Oldsmobile's optional 3.1 liter V6 produces 155 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, and the four-speed automatic is standard. Also standard with the 3.1 liter/automatic powertrain is traction control to reduce wheelspin on slippery surfaces.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - An underdash beam helps control rattles and squeaks which could develop later in its life, and helps body rigidity. Achieva uses independent front MacPherson strut suspension, with coil springs and an anti-roll bar while the rear uses a beam-type axle with coil springs and a second anti-roll bar. It also uses power rack-and- pinion steering with a unique power steering pump. It now spins directly from the engine, without the need for pulleys, belts and extra brackets. Braking is handled by front discs and rear drums, with a four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) as standard equipment. Since our car used the 3.1 liter V6/automatic combination, it drove smoothly and easily, but had a tendency to plow through extremely tight corners. This is to be expected, however, since Achieva makes no claims as a performance leader. Its price, however, puts it in the category of a value leader.

SAFETY - Dual airbags are new this year, while ABS is standard, and traction control comes with automatic transmission-equipped models.

OPTIONS - The V6 adds $457, while alloy wheels are $285 extra. A power driver's seat is $270 and keyless entry is $125. The $745 Sport Package includes a power sunroof, fog lights, leather-wrapped wheel and cruise control.