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Expert Reviews 1 of 3
By Bob Golfen
January 10, 1998
OK, so maybe I'm just shallow. Maybe I'm like the guy who dates a fashion model with the brains of a fireplug because she's great to be seen with. But I hope it doesn't mean I lack depth when I say: I really like the Oldsmobile Aurora because
it's so darned good-looking. By any standard, this is a beautiful automobile, a modern take on a classic form. The Aurora is elegant in its dimensions and complex in its multiple curves and facets. And it's a purely American shape, owing nothing
to the Europeans or Japanese. Along with its platform sibling, the Buick Riviera coupe, Aurora carries General Motors' styling from auto-show concept to the showroom. Oh yeah, and the interior's nice, too. But handsome is as handsome does, and
unlike the vapid fashion model, Aurora has the guts and finesse to back up its physical charms. The sedan goes as well as it shows, powered by GM's smooth, responsive Northstar V-8. For a big car, it's plenty quick, sprinting to 60 miles per hour in
just a smidgen over eight seconds. The electronic transmission adjusts with a push button from normal shifting performance, holding each gear higher in the rev range and downshifting easier. Aurora's all-independent suspension has been worked over
for '98 to improve ride and cornering, making it a better handler without compromising its luxury ride. Handling is balanced and predictable, with minimal body sway and without harshness or jounce. The Aurora/Riviera platform was something of a tour
de force for GM engineers, making these cars especially quiet and tractable and permitting the springs and shocks to be tuned more toward performance. The platform is so good that Cadillac has begun using it as the underpinnings of its Seville performance
sedan. The Aurora's steering could use a little finesse, though, feeling too numb relative to the handling capabilities of the suspension. The steering does not have to feel like something from a sports car, but even for a big luxury car, it needs to
be sharper, with more feedback. Speaking of luxury, the interior really is nice, well-designed and straightforward, with clear gauges, good proportions and a super stereo. (I am especially fond of GM's Delco-Bose systems.) The leather seats are soft
and cushy, like easy chairs in a family room, while still being supportive on curves. The back seat is commodious; the trunk is huge. Inside the Aurora is where you find evidence of Oldsmobile's goal of attracting mid-40s drivers from their
Volvos and BMWs. It has a European aura, right down to the Mercedes-like switches on the doors to adjust the seats. An electronic glitch in our test car rendered the passenger's seat adjuster useless. In fact, the lumbar adjustment on the passenger
door changed the driver's seat instead. Too weird. The seat belts need to be height adjustable, a fairly common feature, for safety and comfort. Although the Seville shares Aurora's platform, the Olds borrows
something just as good from the Caddy: the four-cam, 32-valve North-star engine, a refined performer that pulls like a drag racer without the rough edges of a muscle car. The Aurora, which first appeared in 1994, began a string of hits for
once-beleaguered Oldsmobile, including its new midsize car, Intrigue. As luxury sedans go, the Aurora has it all. Except the price tag. Certainly not cheap, but here's a well-appointed, good-driving and, lest we forget, great-looking automobile that
starts fully loaded at $36,000. Although Oldsmobile might not have the prestigious cachet of, say, Cadillac, Lincoln, Lexus, Jaguar or Mercedes-Benz, it has just about everything else. 1998 Oldsmobile Aurora Vehicle type: Five-passenger,
four-door sedan, front-wheel drive. Base price: $36,625. Price as tested: $38,000. (approx.) Engine: 4.0-liter V-8, 250 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, 260 pounds-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. Tr ansmission: Four-
speed automatic. Curb weight: 3,967 pounds. Length: 205.4 inches. EPA fuel economy: 17 mpg city, 26 mpg highway. Highs: Sharp styling. Sparkling performance. Excellent value. Lows: Numb steering. No seat-belt adjustment. Electronic