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By Jim Flammang
August 27, 2003
The Oldsmobile Bravada occupies the luxury end of GMs trio of midsize sport utility vehicles. The Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy are the other two family members, and all three SUVs debuted in the spring of 2001 as early 2002 models. Even though the Oldsmobile brand is fading out of the GM fold, the Bravada will run the usual production cycle and last into 2004. An XM Satellite Radio is newly available.
All three midsize SUVs resulted from a ground-up build, says Tom Wallace, vehicle line executive for GMs Midsize Truck Group. Instead of a V-6 or V-8 engine like the ones in competitive SUVs, the GM models use a 4.2-liter inline-six-cylinder that cranks out 275 horsepower.
Unlike Chevrolets TrailBlazer, which has conventional coil springs, most Bravadas are equipped with an electronically controlled air suspension that aims toward a softer ride. Coil springs are offered on all-wheel-drive models. Rack-and-pinion steering yields a turning circle thats claimed to be the tightest in the midsize SUV league. Chevrolet and GMC added extended-length models that are equipped with an available V-8 engine, but Oldsmobile stuck with the five-passenger body style and six-cylinder engine.
The Bravada borrows its basic styling theme from the companys discontinued Aurora sedan. The SUV has a characteristic flute shape that spans its bodyside. Riding a 113-inch wheelbase, the Bravada measures 191.8 inches long overall and 74.5 inches tall; it has an 8-inch ground clearance. Cast-aluminum wheels hold 17-inch tires. A power sunroof is optional.
Seating for five people is standard. Luxury appointments include leather upholstery and GMs OnStar communication system. Cargo capacity is 80.1 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down.
Standard equipment includes a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, automatic programmable power locks, CD and cassette players, remote keyless entry and a theft-deterrent system. A DVD-based backseat entertainment system is optional. Heated front seats, a six-CD changer, a TravelNote recorder and rain-sensing wipers are optional.
Under the Hood
A four-speed automatic is the sole transmission, and it teams with the 275-hp, 4.2-liter inline-six-cylinder engine. The Bravada may be equipped with rear-wheel drive or SmartTrak automatic all-wheel drive. An IntelliStart feature prevents the starter from engaging unless the engine is stopped.
All-disc antilock brakes, seat-mounted side-impact airbags and dual-stage front airbags are standard. The bumpers sit 2 inches lower than usual, which makes it more level with passenger cars.
Whether youre looking at passing power, cushioned ride comfort or competent handling prowess, the Bravada looks like a strong challenger against upscale midsize SUVs. Thanks to its air suspension, the ride is noticeably softer in the Bravada than in the coil-sprung TrailBlazer, with little sacrifice in handling quality. Despite short bottoms, the seats are quite comfortable and offer ample legroom.
When tromping on the gas, few drivers are likely to realize that the source of power is an inline-six rather than a V-8. Even when motoring up mountain grades, little strain is evident. Road noise and engine sounds are barely discernible, except when the SUV is pushed really hard. Because many of the Bravadas mechanical components are shared with the TrailBlazer and Envoy, most replacement parts will remain available after production on the Bravada ends.