Oldsmobiles most popular model has been the compact front-drive Alero two-door coupe and four-door sedan. Both are offered with a four-cylinder or 3.4-liter V-6 engine and either a manual or four-speed-automatic transmission. In size and price, the Alero fits below the midsize Intrigue sedan. The Aleros engines and basic design are shared with the Pontiac Grand Am, but each model has considerably different styling.
A new 140-horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine goes into the 2002 Alero. This new power plant is designed by General Motors and Lotus and promises improved fuel economy. Aleros wear 15-inch restyled alloy wheels. A revised console with greater storage capacity includes a new cupholder.
The Alero was introduced for the 1999 model year and will be around for a while longer, according to GM. In December 2000, the automotive giant announced that the Oldsmobile make would be phased out. But the Alero is expected to remain in production until sometime in 2004. Four models are available: the GX, GL1, GL2 and GLS. Rivals include the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry and two-door Toyota Camry Solara.
Styling has been one of the main points used by Oldsmobile to differentiate the Alero from Japanese-brand automobiles. Both the coupe and sedan share some design themes with Oldsmobiles Aurora and Intrigue. Riding a 107-inch wheelbase, the Alero has more rounded fenders and quarter panels, as well as a low-nose/high rear-deck profile. Both body styles are 186.7 inches long, which is a little shorter than the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Available with 15- or 16-inch tires, the Alero is 70.1 inches wide and 54.5 inches high. The coupe wears a rear spoiler.
Both body styles have five-passenger capacity and feature front bucket seats. Because the coupes rear seat is narrower than the sedans, three people in the backseat is a tight squeeze. Trunk volume is 14.6 cubic feet, but the rear seatback folds to expand cargo capacity.
A CD player, tilt steering wheel, air conditioning and power door locks are standard in the base GX. Its split rear seatback folds down for additional cargo space. The GL1 adds fog lamps, remote keyless entry and power windows, while the GL2 is the performance-oriented Alero. Topping the line is the GLS, which gets GMs OnStar communication system, CD and cassette players, power mirrors and leather seating surfaces.
Under the Hood
A new 140-hp, 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine is standard on GX and GL1 models and optional on the GL2. This engine teams with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. Only the automatic transmission is available with the 170-hp, 3.4-liter V-6, which is standard on the GL2 and GLS and optional on the GL1. Antilock brakes, traction control and daytime running lights are standard.
The Aleros four-cylinder engine delivers rather snappy performance, especially with the manual transmission. This cars ride quality is better than that of many cars on the road. Even the performance suspension in the GL2 model absorbs its fair share of bumps. The Alero is light on its feet and very easy to steer, but handling talents are closer to average. Actually, average is a good way to describe the Alero: a cut above in some areas, but nothing special in others.
Flaunting more adventurous styling than most Japanese rivals, the Alero has been the most youth-oriented Oldsmobile model. Space is ample in the coupe, and the slide-forward passenger seat helps pave the way to the rear which has more room than a lot of two-door models. The four-cylinder engine growls a little, but not enough to be annoying.