EXPERT REVIEW

The Detroit News's view

We found ourselves having a creepy conversation with General Motors Corp. spokesman Jeff Roegner in preparation for our review of the 1999 Oldsmobile Intrigue GLS sedan.

“Ninety-eight percent of all alien abductions occur in an automobile,” said Roegner, who went on to discuss why Intrigue has been linked in marketing efforts to the X-Files.

Unfortunately, we had no alien contact while driving the import-fighting test car with a sticker price of $26,455. But we were impressed anyway.

He: This is the review I wish we could have written over a year ago, when we first drove the Intrigue. We had an early production car then, and we gave it only one star because it had serious quality problems off the assembly line. This 1999 model is dramatically different – dramatically better, I should say. It’s head and shoulders above the first one we tested.

She: You’re not the only one who’s becoming a convert to Oldsmobile. GM is crowing about Intrigue’s conquest ability. It says 38 percent of Intrigue business is coming from people who shunned GM in the past in favor of imports and other non-GM domestic models.

He: Here’s why I like the Intrigue. Styling-wise, it’s a cut above that cookie-cutter blandness you get with some of the big-hitter imports. And with the new 3.5-liter twin-cam V-6 – the so-called “Shortstar” engine – you get better response and overall performance than with the old pushrod 3.8-liter V-6.

She: We drove the top-of-the-line GLS, which has some pretty impressive amenities. If you decide to pop for this upscale Intrigue, you’ll get leather seating, six-way power-adjustable seats for the driver and front passenger, an automatic dimming rear-view mirror with compass, and a stereo system with a CD. But I want to emphasize, the best thing you’ll get with Intrigue is an Olds that doesn’t say old.

He: This conversation is more frightening than an alien abduction to me.

She: Me too. But there’s not much to fear if you’re in the family sedan market and the Intrigue is on your shopping list. You’ll get standard antilock brakes on all models and you’ll notice that our insurance quote on the car is quite reasonable. I’m slightly miffed that the traction control feature – which is good for slippery roads – is not offered on the base Intrigue GX and is optional on the mid-level GL. And you can’t get side air bags, either, like you can as an option on Camry.

He: In addition to great performance and aesthetics, the Intrigue handles beautifully. The steering, which has a firm feel, takes a bit of getting used to. But overall this car is top drawer.

She: I like looking at the GM stats on the Intrigue’s demographics. The average age of Intrigue owners is dropping, income is rising and the number of professionals drawn to the car has jumped from 30 percent when the car debuted in June 1997 to 39 percent now.

He: I don’t pay much attention to statistics. But I can tell you the GLS we tested seemed put together like the quality product it was always meant to be. All the trim pieces fit together snugly. This Intrigue conveyed the same sense of attention to detail that you expect when you buy any upscale product- whether it’s a cigar, a fly rod or a vehicle. In that respect, the sticker price seems like a bargain. It’s good to see that the right family sedan formula is no longer a mystery to Oldsmobile.

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