Category Archives: Oldsmobile

2001 Oldsmobile Silhouette Premiere Edition (328)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the Oldsmobile Silhouette and it’s sad that it also comes at a time when Olds, the granddaddy of automobile manufacturers, is being phased out of existence. I grew up with the make and I’ll miss it.

I suspect dad leaned toward Olds because it was one of the early players he grew up with. He was from the same old school and when he wasn’t driving in those grand old machines, he was flying around in those other new inventions – airplanes of the early 1900’s. They were the pioneers who spent cold nights working on all those new gadgets coming out of the industrial revolution. Those must have been exciting and exhilarating times. I can visualize them driving around sharing dirt roads with horses and buggies. They must have impressed the ladies with their antics and surely would have been admired by every little boy they passed.

Today, the technological age keeps those pioneer spirited people indoors with their fancy new mega gigahertz, gigabite; rip roaring computers with five-foot flat screens hanging on the wall to impress other computer nerds who also rarely see the light of day. I’ve been one of those computer guys for 25 years and I love it, but the mystique of the past is somehow more romantic and fun to consider.

Some of us still hang onto remnants of the past and I guess it’s time to saddle up and go for a ride in the backcountry, cut a few cords of wood and feel like a man again. I’ll do that right after I finish mending those coral fences.

Continuing down memory lane, I think I’ll also miss Olds when I think back to those days when I’d stop to body surf at Laguna on my way back to the San Diego Naval Base in my black 1949 Olds 88 hard top coupe. For the life of me I can’t see why GM decided to dump this history-making car. Oh well.

Handling & Performance:

This Olds, like other Minivans, is soft riding and comfortable. It has all the power you’ll need in this class of utility family car, unless you’ll be pulling a boat or have a need to go off road. I can’t think of a better car for families and all those mom’s who have to shuttle the kids to and fro.

Styling:

I really felt at home driving this Silhouette – like an old friend. But it helps when you feel good about what you spend your hard earned money for. This is a very pretty and classy car you can drive to any occasion.

Fit and Finish:

As good as they get.

Conveniences:

This thing is loaded and of course the price reflects it. The entertainment center is wonderful to keep the kids and grandkids occupied while you listen to the radio or simply talk about things they don’t care about anyway. The power sliding door on the passenger side is indispensable. There is no question I’d find a way to justify the extra money to have this convenience, especially for the children. Another, not so necessary item is the sensor that audibly lets you know when you’re getting close to objects while backing up.

Cost:

Too much but, relative to the more popular SUV’s, you’ll get much better gas mileage, and it’s all around a better family car.

Recommendation:

Before you spend all the money, think about whether you really need all the gadgets. If money is no object, buy this super loaded family van. I’ve driven all but the Ford Windstar, and Pontiac Montana, which I have scheduled. I was very impressed with the Honda Odyssey, the Toyota Sienna, and as much as I like Toyota products, I still have a love affair with Olds. My niece opted to buy the Odyssey for her young family but didn’t get the remote sliding passenger door. I think she already regrets not including that feature.

The Competition:

Chevrolet Venture $20, 975-30,315, Chrysler Town & Country $24,430-37,510,Dodge Caravan $19,160-32,235, Ford Windstar $19,910-33,455, Honda Odyssey $23,900-26,400, Mazda MPV $20,675-26,280, Pontiac Montana $24,180-31,875, Toyota Sienna $23,905-28,436.

Good News:

It’s the last of the product line so these will be classics; great look and ride, the best family car on the market, tons of conveniences.

Bad News:

It’s the last of the product line and you have to wonder about maintenance, it’s a little pricey, even though competitive with the rest of the field.

Standard Equipment:

3.4 liter V6 185 horsepower engine, 4-speed auto trans, front and side airbags, anti-locking brakes, traction control, power programmable door locks, child security power sliding side door, Onstar communication system, rear parking aid, entertainment package with LCD monitor, video cassette player and headphones, stereo with cassette and CD, air conditioning front and rear, keyless remote entry and theft system, alarm, lock and lighting system, battery rundown protection, tint glass, fog lamps, leather seating, auto leveling, touch control audio on tilt steering wheel, power seats, windows and mirrors, computer system.

Gas Stats:

19 City and 26 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP  $26,290-33,225 / the Premier Edition totaled out at $34,375

2001 Oldsmobile Aurora (322)

Overview:

Long ago and far away I was impressed with Olds because dad owned several and it was one of the first cars I test drove. I don’t think dad knew that but it was my duty and part of my education to evaluate the cars of the day.

Dad’s reason for wanting to own Oldsmobile cars was broad, including the fact that he watched them grow from the early days and after more than 100 years of tradition and racing history, they’re still around. Speaking of racing, today the Aurora engine is what powers most of the IRL (Indianapolis Racing League) cars. Price Cobb, my racing friend and co-writer of Point CounterPoint at www.atthewheel.com is one of three or four teams that employ the Nissan Infiniti engine in competition with the Aurora. The majority is not always right and only time will tell if Olds will win out in the test of endurance demanded by engines that routinely run at or over 9,000 rpm.  

Well, I grew up with dad’s many Oldsmobile cars and I suspect that’s why I finally bought one of my own. It was a 1949 Olds 88 hardtop that I bought back in the late 1950’s. It was one of the loves of my life. Dad was right on most things and I agree that Olds makes a quality car. This Aurora is no exception and I truly enjoyed driving this 2001 model.

The exterior, although it has nice lines, it is plain Jane and rather commonplace in design. The interior is a different story and it provides a nice comfy / cozy feeling to settle back for a long and comfortable ride for those of us who simply enjoy driving.

Handling & Performance:

A solid quality ride for luxury performance while not being a road racer. This will appeal more to the sense of comfort and convenience. I’d want to add traction control if I purchased the V6. It’s an option on the V6 but standard on the V8 that I drove.

Styling:

Clean lines but uninspiring.

Fit and Finish:

As good as most of the competition, but in general, the Japanese cars tend to be better.

Conveniences:

Competitive.

Cost:

Well priced for a luxury car, but then price is always very relative. For those who purchased a home prior to the 1980’s few would have paid more than the price of this Aurora in the year 2000. What a difference 20 years makes, eh?

Recommendation:

The most impressive alternatives from the list below are the Mercedes and the Acura TL. The other American competitors are “also ran’s” and your preference in styling or make will determine the winner in a close race. The other foreign options are more expensive, so if the “Badge” is important that may be reason enough to justify your paying the extra dough. You may want to consider the V6 that does about 3 mpg better than this V8 without much loss in performance.

The Competition:

Acura TL $28,550-30,550, Audi A6 $34,400-49,400, BMW 5 Series $35,400-53,900, Buick Park Avenue $32,980- 37,490, Chrysler 300M $29,640, Infiniti I30 $39,465-31,540, Lexus GS 300/400 $37,805-46,305, Lincoln LS $31,665-35,695, Mercedes Benz C-Class $29,950-36,950, Saab 9-5 $33,995-40,175, Volvo S80 $36,000-40,500.

Good News:

Good gas mileage, luxury car feel, roomy interior and trunk, solid ride.

Bad News:

Rear windows roll down only about a third.

Standard Equipment:

4.0 liter V8 engine mated to a 4-speed automatic trans, front and side air bags, 4-wheel anti lock disc brakes, cruise control, remote keyless entry, speed sensitive steering, traction control, leather, power driver seat, burl walnut wood trim, power mirrors, stereo with cassette and CD, climate control, lighted vanity mirrors, moisture sensitive wipers, memory seat and mirror adjustment.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP  $34,644.

2001 Oldsmobile Intrigue GL Sedan (316)

Overview:

This week I revisited Oldsmobile. The Intrigue is a mid-size sedan that is one of those mysteries of history that produced an inanimate object that the world would have a 100-year love affair with. Now in the 21st century the computer may be a close second as a machine that will occupy as much of our time.

Oldsmobile was one of the first cars made and it has stood the test of time. Dad was an Oldsmobile devotee and so I’m biased. If dad put out his hard earned money how bad could they be? Right! Well, the fact is, dad was right, and they continue the tradition of quality cars affordably priced. Dad used to tell me that Olds was the testing ground for Cadillac and so you tended to get a lot of features for the money.

Handling & Performance:

Traction control is one of those miracles of technology that keeps the car going where you steer it. It corrects for over or under steering, which means it keeps the rear end from swinging out and helps the car turn the way you steer, even when it wants to go straight. It is highly recommended. The twin cam V6 engine produces 215 horsepower, which is plenty of power for lead foot drivers like me. I like to feel the road a bit more than this car allows. Steering is a little lose at highway speeds.

Styling:

Sleek clean lines almost distinct in this world of stamped out clones.

Fit and Finish:

Good, but I was a little disappointed with the door panel power window controls. It shook lose from slamming the door so I expect that to be a problem waiting to be an irritation later.

Conveniences:

As dad said, you tend to get a lot of features for the dough.

Cost:

Well priced for a luxury car.

Recommendation:

You have lots to choose from in the lineup below and I have tested all and would be hard pressed to say there was one that stands out way above the others.

The Competition:

Chevrolet Impala $19,149-23,225, Chrysler Concorde $22,510-26,755, Dodge Intrepid $20,645-24,435, Ford Taurus 18,260-21,535, Honda Accord $15,350-24,550, Mitsubishi Galant $17, 557-24,007, Nissan Maxima $21,249-27,149, Subaru Legacy $19,195-24,295, Toyota Camry $17,518-26, 198, Volkswagen Passat $21,200-27,655.

Good News:

Good gas mileage, luxury car feel, roomy interior and trunk and traction control.

Bad News:

Plastic controls on door will be a problem, lose steering at highway speeds,

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter V6 engine mated to a 4-speed automatic trans, speed sensitive steering, front and rear stabilizer bars, dual air bags, 4-wheel anti lock disc brakes, theft deterrent system, rear door child security locks, child seat anchors, front reclining bucket seats, stereo dimensional sound system with cassette and CD, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, tilt wheel, cruise control, power mirrors, air filtration system, fog lights, split folding rear seat, lighted vanity mirrors, steering wheel radio controls, remote keyless entry, 6-way power driver seat, and traction control.

Gas Stats:

19 City and 28 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $24,150.

1999 Olds Silhouette Premiere Edition (257)

Overview:

I decided this year’s trip to Sequoia National Park would be in Oldsmobile’s 8 Passenger minivan. I had the Premiere video edition, which features a foldaway color monitor, video cassette player, CD player, individually-adjustable headphones and universal connector for a camcorder or video game system.

It debuted midway through the 1998 model year. In the past I opted for an SUV like Jeep or Olds Bravada with their off road capability. But with the growing popularity of the minivan it was a good opportunity to experience a minivan out of the city where it shines. It truly is the perfect around town car for mom and the kids, even though dads would rather have an SUV. Those macho men grunt their approval of 4-wheel drive, mega horsepower, limited slip differential, off road, hill climbing, gas guzzling machines – oh yeah.

In reality, however, only 25% of those SUV’s will ever get off road. And in California the road conditions are never that bad to need the 4-wheel drive anyway, but it sounds good. Now mom knows about practical and after she explains why they will buy the minivan I think he’ll agree.

Some of the features mom considers important include the fact that they are low to the ground so little ones can get in and out without a struggle. It’s easy for her to put the car seat in. The double sliding doors, with the passenger side power operated, have inestimable value, especially with the remote feature. She’ll fall in love all over again.

Mineral King is in the southern part of Sequoia National Park and there’s lots of hiking and beautiful scenery. You expect Julie Andrews to show up singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music”. She didn’t so we sang it for her as we shuttled our group of 7 from camp to trailhead. Everyone would toss their backpacks in the back and find a seat. If we were tired of singing I turned on an educational video and we’d be off to see the Wizard, in a land replete with lions (no tigers) and bears.

I kidded with Mark, who served in Vietnam, about how much minivans resembled the army choppers used during that unfortunate war. We thought you could mount a gun turret outside one of the sliding doors and the picture would be complete. But now that I think of it, it would be great for road rage problems. It would have a calming affect on stressed out drivers who contemplate killing you for unintentionally cutting them off.

I was a little concerned about the middle two captain’s chairs because they don’t fold out of the way for people to get in the very back seats. However, passengers had no complaints since they simply entered and exited between them. It worked out just fine.

The video can easily be considered a necessity rather than a luxury. For the longer jaunts it doesn’t take much imagination to see how helpful it can be to keep the kids occupied. In addition to the educational value you can be sure you won’t hear as many “are we there yet’s”.

In the old days Oldsmobile sported a big V8 but these days they come with a 3.4L V6 185-hp coupled to more efficient automatic transmissions you get all the power you’ll need. Pontiac Montana is the only one of the competition I haven’t driven but I can say that none of the rest is more solidly built or quieter than this Olds. Overall I came away with a good feeling and would put this in serious contention when deciding which minivan mom should drive.

Oldsmobile Silhouette is available in four trims: Silhouette GL Extended, GS, GLS Extended, and the Premiere.

The Competition:

Chevrolet Venture $20,795 – $23,195, Chrysler Town & Country $27,385 – $36,340, Dodge Caravan $18,205 – $31,710, Ford Windstar $18,425 – $30,415, Honda Odyssey $23,000 – $25,800, Mercury Villager $22,415 – $25,015, Nissan Quest $22,159 – $26,299, Pontiac Montana $21,325 – $24,040, Toyota Sienna $21,508 – $26,574.

Good News:

Good gas mileage, great family car, and awesome features.

Bad News:

Limited storage area (requires luggage rack for trips).

Standard Equipment:

There is an awesome array of stuff in this Premiere edition. 3.4-liter 185-horsepower V6 engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning with auxiliary rear system, cruise control, power windows and door locks and windows, tilt steering wheel, deep tinted glass, fog lights, leather seats, AM/FM stereo cassette & CD, power front seats, power sliding passenger door, manual driver side sliding door, factory-installed video entertainment system, which includes a center-console-mounted VCR and an overhead foldout video screen for viewing from the rear seats, dual front and side airbags, daytime running lights, traction control, anti-lock brake system (ABS), keyless entry, power o/s mirrors, power rear quarter vents, rooftop luggage carrier.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $ Retail Price Range: $24,610 – $31,200

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

1999 Oldsmobile Alero GL Coupe (256)

Overview:

This weeks Oldsmobile Alero reminds me of youth when dad wouldn’t drive anything but Olds. Some folks are just that way and no matter what YOU think, they simply see beauty where others don’t. Does that sound familiar to you? Viva la diff-er-ence.

Dad felt Olds was the testing ground for Cadillac cars and thus he thought you got some pretty neat stuff for less dough. Made sense to me and thus I always looked at it as the Cadillac of cheaper cars.

There has been some talk recently that GM may have been considering dropping Oldsmobile from its fleet of great cars. Sorry dad, I think it’s a bad idea too, but it’s still with us, and I expect this 100-year-old car will be with us for a long time to come. The Alero went on sale last summer and it simply replaces the Achieva. It shares a platform with the new Pontiac Grand Am and continues the Oldsmobile styling trend with a look similar to the Intrigue and flagship Aurora.

Inside styling is simple and nice and the quality is not unlike more expensive cars. However, I was a little miffed at the way the air conditioning ducts direct the flow of air. They couldn’t be adjusted upward which I think is a design flaw. It bugged me so I had to mention it. But all the rest was pretty nice. The inline 4 cylinder engine provides decent power and I never felt I needed more. It is a bit shorter than Achieva was but wider and taller so interior space is better and the trunk is good sized for a coupe. It has independent suspension with MacPherson struts up front and control arms on the rear, and handling is really good and thus fun to drive.

Alero is available in six trims: GX, GL, and GLS, in either coupe or sedan. Relative to the competition, it is a good value for the money and I liked it a lot.

The Competition:

Chevrolet Malibu $16,000 – $18,960, Dodge Avenger $15,585 – $17,860, Ford Contour $14,560 – $22,665, Honda Civic $10,650 – $17,445, Mazda 626 $17,815 – $22,245, Mercury Cougar $16,390 – $16,890, Nissan Altima $14,990 – $19,990, Plymouth Breeze $15,290, Pontiac Grand Am $16,130 – $21,090, Subaru Impreza $15,895 – $19,195, Toyota Corolla $12,258 – $14,908, Volkswagen Jetta $16,700 – $23,500.

Good News:

Simple, affordable, nice styling and handling, powerful and efficient engine, NHTSA crash tests are tops, assembled in the United States.

Bad News:

Poor air conditioning duct design.

Standard Equipment:

2.4-liter 150-horsepower inline 4 cylinder engine, 4-speed automatic trans, dual airbags, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brake system (ABS), traction control, daytime running lights, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, power door locks, intermittent wipers, cloth interior, AM/FM stereo with cassette, power windows, cruise control, fog lights, tire inflation monitoring system, power driver seat and theft deterrent system.

Gas Stats:

21 City and 29 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

Base Retail Price Range is $16,355 – $20,975 and the GL model I tested was $18,655.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is movello@earthlink.net.

1998 Oldsmobile Intrigue (188)

Overview:

Intrigue. Among other definitions it means a clandestine love affair. Exactly what I had with this Oldsmobile Intrigue while testing it in the beautiful state of Colorado. Living in California we miss the spontaneous weather changes so common to Colorado so I thoroughly love my brief sojourns in Denver. The days can change from dry to fluffy

flakes of snow to create a veil of white. For testing cars, it gives a whole new meaning to the need for “Traction Control”. But I have to tell you; I love to drive under adverse conditions because it is just plain fun. I won’t soon forget the exhilarating feeling of spinning out in a BMW 318i on the snow-covered roads on the way to Winter Park, CO. To me that’s a natural high in addition to being at 8,000 feet on the edge. Crazy… perhaps.

I suspect I didn’t push the envelope as much with this Olds because it doesn’t have the mystique of BMW and the perception that they handle better. And the trouble with cars that are noted for having great handling characteristics is that you tend to push the limits to see if it’s true. Partner and friend Price Cobb is an international race driver. We often talk about the cars we drive and write about in our similar columns. Price admits that outside of racing he sees very little need for the suspension you pay for on more expensive cars like Mercedes and BMW. He says, “Sure, it is noticeable in racing where there is a need for the best that engineering can deliver. There is no speed limit other than what the car can handle, but for average highway driving conditions the tires are much more important”.

As for this Intrigue, it’s an Oldsmobile and I’m always impressed by the great value Olds has delivered over the years. Dad always owned an Olds and because he thought they were great cars, I thought they were great cars. Another affinity he had for Olds was they were born about the same time. Right at the turn of the century guys like Ransom Olds were having a somewhat clandestine love affair with the automotive revolution. Sounds a bit like Bill Gates, et al, and the computer revolution today. Anyway, while Henry Ford was perfecting his Model T, William C. Durant combined the Buick, Oldsmobile, and Oakland companies and, later, Cadillac, to form GM. The firm started by Louis Chevrolet was added ten years later in 1918. Olds is rooted in a rich history of racing, and they still are. Today, all cars on the IRL circuit (Indy racing) run either Nissan or Aurora (Olds) engines. Of course they aren’t quite the same as what you get in your production Oldsmobile. The racing version puts out roughly 700 horsepower.

Good News:

The Intrigue is priced very competitively. (Olds did the same thing when they introduced the Aurora and the price went up each model year after. I believe that will happen with this new Intrigue because it is a great deal right now).

Bad News:

Like the Aurora, if you don’t buy now you can count on price increases the next time you look at it.

The Competition:

I believe the Intrigue is at the top of the competitive heap which includes Buick Regal $21 – $23K, Chevrolet Lumina $17- 20K, Dodge Intrepid $20- 22 K, Ford Taurus $18 – 29 K, Nissan Maxima $21 – $27 K, Pontiac Grand Prix $19- 21K, Toyota Camry $17 – $25K and Volkswagen Passat $21 – 26K.

Standard Equipment:

3.8 liter V6 engine, 4 speed automatic trans, dual air bags, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, traction control, rear window defogger, cornering lamps, power windows and door locks, anti theft system, child security, reclining buckets with driver 6-way power settings, AM/FM stereo with Cassette, climate control, cruise control, power outside mirrors and Leather wrapped tilt steering wheel.

Gas Stats:

EPA numbers are 19 City and 30 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP is $ 22,100 and with leather, (Autobahn Package) including H rated tires and heavy duty brakes, upgraded stereo with CD etc., steering wheel touch controls for radio and cruise control the total is an unbelievable $24,200.