1996 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight

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1996 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight

Available in 4 styles:  Eighty Eight 4dr Sedan LS shown
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Est. MPG

19 city / 30 hwy


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Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 3

By 

Orlando Sentinel

The $35,000 Aurora is not the only star shining brightly these days at Oldsmobile.

This week's test car, the LSS, offers more power, better performance and more standard safety features than you'll find in a mid-size ''near-luxury'' import such as a Lexus ES 300 or Infiniti I30.

And it costs less than most imports.

The LSS is a separate model for 1996. Previously, it had been an options package on the Eighty Eight. But LSS sales have been strong, and Olds decided the car deserved its own identity. Classy silver ''LSS'' letters adorn the sides and rear of the car.

As with many of Oldsmobile's newer products, the LSS is aimed at import-oriented buyers. It comes with a European-influenced interior that features bucket seats, a floor shifter and a full set of analog gauges.

PERFORMANCE, HANDLING

Olds builds the LSS with GM's powerful-but-thrifty 205-horsepower 3800 V-6 engine; an optional ($1,022) supercharger increases horsepower to 240. Our beige LSS came with the supercharger, a power-boosting device that pumps more fuel and air into the engine.

The supercharged V-6 in the LSS makes most V-8s seem obsolete. Abundant power is available the instant you touch the accelerator. One publication clocked a supercharged LSS as taking about 8 seconds to get from zero to 60 mph - excellent for a 3,500-pound car.

Not only does the supercharged V-6 give youV-8 performance, but it uses fuel in a very miserly fashion. On a long road trip, our test car got 29 miles per gallon; in the city, fuel mileage averaged 23 mpg.

The LSS is not bothered by any of the maladies common to high-powered front-wheel-drive vehicles. Some cars pull to the left or right under heavy acceleration, but no matter how quickly you accelerate the LSS, the steering wheel stays straight. And the wheels won't lose traction, either. The LSS comes with traction control.

Olds engineers endowed the LSS with a bit of character by making sure the driver can hear the engine when it is revved to about 4,000 rpm. At that speed the supercharger makes a slight turbine-like whining sound.

If the LSS has an area that needs improvement, it's the steering. The steering wheel turns too easily - there's not enough feedback. The car would feel more substantial if the wheel required just a bit more effort to turn.

In any case, the four-wheel independent suspension system provides a soft and smooth ride. But the LSS does not wallow around corners - the ride is very sporty without being punishing.

I have no complaints about the strength or performance of the LSS's four-wheel anti-lock brakes. But I was slightly disappointed to see drum brakes on the rear instead of discs. Few $27,000 cars have drum brakes, which are less expensive than disc brakes for an automaker to use.

FIT AND FINISH

I have said before that I feel General Motors' cars are the most improved on the market in terms of design, qualit y and assembly.

The LSS demonstrates the massive leap GM has made over the last five years. The Olds Aurora and Buick Riviera are two of the highest quality cars GM builds. The LSS is built in the same factory, and it is obvious that the workers at GM's Orion, Mich., factory take extra-special pride in their work.

Our test car was flawless. The paint had a smooth-as-glass and rich appearance. All the body panels and trim pieces fit perfectly. But more than that, the LSS felt very tight over the road; it had a Lexus-like feel to it.

Sometimes it's hard to accurately describe how quality feels, but you sure know when it's not there. However, when a car is engineered and assembled correctly, you can feel it in many ways. Quality is not just an absence of squeaks or rattles. It's the way the car feels after repeated hard use.

The style and design of the LSS's classy interior make for easy, stress-free driving. Olds installed a dual-zone air-conditioning system that allows the driver and passenger to set different temperatures. The automatic control system is in the center of the dash. But there are also buttons on the steering wheel for the air conditioner and the radio.

The leather seats and faux wood treatment give the interior a warm ambience.

Our test car featured Oldsmobile's innovative Guidestar Navigation System, a small computer mounted just ahead of the dash that can show and tell the driver how to find his or her destination without getting lost.

The car shows up as a blip on a map on the computer screen. A mechanical voice tells the driver where and when to turn. The driver programs a destination into the system by scrolling through a list of cities and streets using a keypad, then enters the street number.

Guidestar, a $2,000 option available only in the Eighty Eight and LSS, uses the government's string of global positioning satellites and other technology to navigate.

The LSS borrows several items from the Aurora: The seat switches in the door panels, the wheels and the seats are all similar to those of the Aurora. There is excellent room front and rear, a big trunk and just about every power accessory you could want.

If you are in the market for a loaded, well-built, large sedan with conservative styling and some unique high-tech items, I bet you would have a hard time finding a car that could deliver the performance and features of the LSS for the same money.

By any standard of measurement, the LSS is an outstanding automobile.

Specifications: Base price: $26,010. Safety: Dual air bags, traction control, anti-lock brakes and side-impact protection. Price as tested: $27,622. Incentives: None. EPA rating: 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway.

Truett's tip: The LSS may be the most underrated car in the entire General Motors lineup. It's a classy, sophisticated high-tech rocket ship that is built as tightly as a Lexus.


    Expert Reviews 2 of 3

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