Alero, introduced as a 1999 model, has zoomed past the Intrigue and Aurora to become Oldsmobile's best-selling model. Oldsmobile reports the Alero is succeeding on two other fronts: attracting younger buyers and luring them away from import brands.
Key rivals listed by Olds include the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry Solara.
A five-speed manual transmission, available with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, is the main addition for 2000. Last year, a four-speed automatic was the only transmission offered.
When Oldsmobile targeted Japanese-brand cars with the Alero, it decided that styling was one way it could gain converts. Both the coupe and sedan share some of the styling themes found on the Olds Aurora and Intrigue, but the Alero has more rounded fenders and quarter panels, and a low nose/high rear deck profile.
The front-wheel-drive Alero is built from the same design as the Pontiac Grand Am and uses the same engines but has different styling. Both body styles ride a 107-inch wheelbase and are 187 inches long, a little shorter than the Accord and Camry.
Standard equipment on the base GX model includes air conditioning, power locks, a tilt steering wheel and a split rear seatback that folds for extra cargo room. GL and GLS models add power mirrors, a power sunroof and a cassette player (plus a CD player on the GLS).
All models come with front bucket seats, and Olds no longer offers a front bench in any of its cars, a departure from its traditional approach. The dashboard is attractively designed and has large controls that are easy to operate while driving. The front seats have ample room for six footers. The coupe's rear seat is narrower than the sedan's, so two adults is the practical limit.
Under the Hood
A 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 150 horsepower is standard on GX and GL models and comes with either the new five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. A 170-horsepower 3.4-liter V-6, which comes only with automatic, is standard on the GLS and optional on the GL.
All models have standard anti-lock brakes and traction control.
Alero may not blow away the imports in performance, features or price, but it is an attractively styled, well-equipped midsize car that is worth a look.