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By Jim Flammang
November 5, 2003
Vehicle Overview Oldsmobile’s 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 Alero shares its engines and basic design with the Pontiac Grand Am, but each model has considerably different styling.
There are no changes for the 2004 Alero, but it can now be equipped with XM Satellite Radio. Oldsmobile launched the Alero for the 1999 model year. Despite the ongoing phase-out of the Oldsmobile brand, the Alero will remain on sale through the 2004 model year.
Four Alero models are available: GX, GL1, GL2 and GLS. Alero rivals include the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry and the two-door Toyota Camry Solara.
Exterior 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 Oldsmobile’s full-size Aurora, which has been discontinued. 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.
Interior ach body style has a five-passenger capacity and features front bucket seats. Because the coupe’s rear seat is narrower than the sedan’s, 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, air conditioning, a tilt steering wheel and power locks are standard in the base GX. The GL1 and GL2 add fog lamps, remote keyless entry, and power windows and. Topping the line is the GLS, which gets a six-way power driver’s seat and leather seating surfaces. XM Satellite Radio is available in all Alero models.
Under the Hood A 140-horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine is standard in the GX and GL1. This engine teams with either a four-speed-automatic or optional five-speed-manual transmission. Only the automatic transmission is available with the 170-hp, 3.4-liter V-6, which is standard in the GL2 and GLS and optional in the GL1.
Safety Traction control and daytime running lights are standard. Antilock brakes are standard only on GL2 and GLS.
Driving Impressions 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 — it’s a cut above in some areas but nothing special in others.
The four-cylinder engine delivers rather snappy performance, especially when teamed with the manual transmission. The Alero’s 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.