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Expert Reviews 1 of 4
By George Moore
May 25, 1997
There are show cars and showboats on today's automotive scene, but not a lot of cars that show as well as go.One that does is Oldsmobile's 1997 Aurora Pace Car, the official car for today's Indianapolis 500.The eye-catching sedan with its gleaming
diamond metallic finish, gold-and-black accents and Indy 500 logo looks like it is going fast just standing still.Somewhat like what you see is what you get, the Aurora at the Speedway is the same as the Aurora Official Pace Car support vehicles on
the streets of Indianapolis. These are the same as the 1997 Aurora sedans found in Oldsmobile dealers' showrooms.The only difference is the installation of strobe lighting and other safety equipment needed to conduct the pacing operations of the
race.It wasn't necessary to modify the 4.0-liter (244-cubic-inch), race-oriented V-8 engine from its stock configuration. The aluminum V-8 has four overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, the same design configuration as the Aurora's in this
year's starting field.That makes the '97 Aurora sort of a smoking gun sedan, with a rated top speed conservative stated by Oldsmobile as 135 miles per hour.While driving the Aurora, I had the distinct impression that there were a few more miles
per hour available on the top end than those claimed by the Oldsmobile Division.Mash on the throttle and the four-cam V-8 answers the call right now. The acceleration sits you right back in the luxury driver's seat, with 0-60 mph coming up in the
mid-7-second range, thanks to the 250-horsepower stirring under the hood.The Aurora is luxury all the way, with top-level interior trim, a full complement of comfort and convenience accessories and a smooth, quiet mode of operation.Thanks to upper
and lower body sections that are a series of flowing curves, the sedan slips through the air with a low co-efficient of drag and the absence of wind noise when going fast.At interstate speeds, normal conversation was possible, unencumbered by air
rushing over the body at considerable velocity.This minimum drag also contributes to decent fuel mileage from a moderately large, powerful engine. Fuel consumption ratings are 17 miles per gallon city cycle and 26 mpg on the highway.As you might
expect, all these good things come with a price.The Aurora I drove had a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $35,735. Add to options consisting of an electric sliding glass roof with sunshade ($995), 6-inch chrome wheels ($900), driver/passenger
heated seats ($295) and $665 for the destination charge and you're looking at a bottom line that reads $38,590.That's not cheap, but you are getting a lot of automobile for the money.The interior finish is in graphite gray leather set off with
burl walnut wood trim. It's a rich-looking combination. From there, the standard accessories just take off.As a five-passenger sedan, the two front bucket seats are divided by a center console. Driver and passenger sit in sort of a
cockpit environment, with all operating controls conveniently grouped around the driver.The full-gauge instrumentation is right in front of the driver for a quick read. About the only thing I would like to change is the design of the ignition
switch.If it would stand out a bit more from the steering post and have a night light, it would be easier to insert the key.Everything about the Aurora is meant to be user-friendly. There is an overhead door handle to help the front-seat passenger
exit. For the driver there is a tilt-down right rear view mirror for backing assistance. And an interesting touch is an electric compass in the rear-view mirror.The suspension engineers did their homework with this front-drive sedan, as they have
achieved a sports-oriented luxury sedan without sacrificing the ride. The car is steady as a rock in high speed turns. Yet when you go over uneven pavement, all you experience is a rumble from the tires.Oldsmobile has come up with a p remier autom
obile to pace America's premier auto race. About the only thing I'm wondering is whether pace car driver Johnny Rutherford is going to want to just keep going with his Aurora when they drop the green flag.