Oldsmobiles most popular model has been the compact front-wheel-drive Alero coupe and sedan. Both are offered with a four-cylinder or 3.4-liter V-6 engine and either a manual or four-speed-automatic transmission. The Aleros engines and basic design are shared with the Pontiac Grand Am, but each model has considerably different styling.
Three new body colors and the addition of an XM Satellite Radio are the only significant changes for the 2003 model year. The Alero was introduced for the 1999 model year. According to GM, the Alero is expected to remain in production until sometime in 2004, even though the Oldsmobile brand is being phased out.
Four Alero models are available: GX, GL1, GL2 and GLS. Its rivals include the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry and the two-door Toyota Camry Solara.
The Aleros styling has been one of the main points used by Oldsmobile to differentiate it from Japanese-brand automobiles. Both the coupe and sedan share some design themes with Oldsmobiles full-size Aurora. The Alero has more rounded fenders and quarter panels, as well as a low-nose/high rear-deck profile.
Both body styles ride a 107-inch wheelbase, measure 186.7 inches long overall, stretch 70.1 inches wide and stand 54.5 inches tall. They are available with 15- or 16-inch tires. The coupe models sport a rear spoiler.
Each body style has a five-passenger capacity and features 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. The GL1 and GL2 add fog lamps, remote keyless entry and power windows. 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 140-horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine is standard in GX and GL1 models and optional in the GL2, which is the performance-oriented Alero. 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 power plant, which is standard in the GL2 and GLS and optional in the GL1.
Traction control and daytime running lights are standard. Antilock brakes are standard only on GL2 and GLS models.
The Alero is light on its feet and very easy to steer, but handling talents are closer to average. Calling the Alero average is a good way to describe this car its a cut above in some areas but nothing special in others.
The four-cylinder engine delivers rather snappy performance, especially with the manual transmission. The Aleros ride quality actually beats that of many cars on the road. Even the performance suspension in the GL2 model absorbs its fair share of bumps.
Space is ample in the coupe, and the slide-forward passenger seat helps pave the way to the rear, which has more room than many two-door models on the market. The four-cylinder engine growls a little, but not enough to be annoying.