New Car/Review

1998 OLDSMOBILE AURORA

by Matt/Bob Hagin

oldsmobile
SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 35,960
Price As Tested                                    $ 38,310
Engine Type                DOHC 4-valve 4.0 Liter V8 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 244 cid/3995 cc
Horsepower                                   250 @ 5600 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               260 @ 4400 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  113.8"/74.4"/205.4"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3984 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    20 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P235/60R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            17/26/21
0-60 MPH                                        9.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17.5 seconds @ 85 mph
Top speed                                           135 mph
     * Sequential fuel injection

(Bob Hagin remembers when Oldsmobile was a big name in racing. His son Matt reminds him that the company still is and that Olds Aurora V8 engines are powering all of today's successful Indianapolis racers.)

MATT - Dad, the V8 engine that powers the new Olds Aurora is a work of art. It's only 4.0 liters in displacement, but uses twin overhead camshafts with four valves per cylinder, is made entirely of lightweight alloys and, unlike almost all of its contemporaries, it uses a metal link chain that runs through an oil bath to drive the cams. With all this high-tech stuff, it could easily pump 300 or so horses, but for now, it puts out 250 horsepower. While the American mind-set says that high horsepower is best, it seems the Olds engineers decided that over-engineering the engine would considerably extend its service life.

BOB - That's true Matt, and the cars that run in the Indy Car series for single-seaters proves that point. With one exception, all the cars on that circuit are powered by specially-prepared, Aurora-based engine components and they average around 700 horsepower. It was a learning curve for the Olds racing folks to figure out how to get those Aurora engines to push that much power and still stay together. It took them a couple of years, and they had to start from ground zero in '95.

MATT - Most Aurora buyers aren't really interested in the racing side of the car, Dad. What most of them are looking for is a fairly quick, near-luxury car that has a throaty American V8 "rap" to the exhaust note. They also like big-car luxury and European sports sedan styling. Aurora has only been out for a couple of years now and in the beginning, Oldsmobile chose to give the car more of a traditional American "marshmallow" ride at the expense of tight handling. But for '98, a lot of the suspension has been modified to bring it more in line with its Japanese and European competition. The brakes are bigger, the standard tires are "stickier" and the front suspension has been tightened with the installation of a pair of internal rebound springs in the front suspension struts. These do a better job of controlling the "leaping" sensation that last year's version exhibited when a wheel would drop into a pot hole and then bounce out. Along with other suspension modifications, these new struts give it more of the sports-sedan feel that Oldsmobile had originally intended for the car.

MATT - That's just an added bonus, Dad. In reality, Aurora is an American car built for American tastes - it's a relaxed cruiser that wasn't intended to be tossed through back roads at breakneck speeds. It seats four adults comfortably on leather-covered seats and carries a sound system that is easy on the ears, partly due to the fact that the car is virtually silent and devoid of road noise at highway speeds. It comes with cruise control, of course, with an anti-lock braking system and traction control so drivers can stay out of trouble on wet or icy roads. In fact, any luxury car without this system won't sell well here.

BOB - The car we had also contained what the factory calls its "Autobahn Package" which alludes to its perceived European high-speed touring character. It includes tighter suspension settings, tires that are speed rated to 149 MPH and a lower axle ratio of 3.7-to-one for peppier acceleration. The kit adds a lot to the nimbleness of the car, but I think that it makes it ride a bit more harshly - the average Aurora buyer would probably be more content with the standard stuff.

MATT - The Aurora engine isn't shared with others in the G.M. lineup, but its limp-home system is. This system allows the car to continue to run without coolant for a short distance. And the basic platform shares some parameters with a couple of Buicks, but for the most part, Aurora's front-drive system with the four-speed automatic is an Oldsmobile exclusive.

BOB - I've always been something of an Oldsmobile fan, Matt. I had a '50 Olds 88 four-door some years ago and its 135 horse short-stroke V8 engine set American design standards that lasted almost four decades. I wish I had one to cruise around in today.

MATT - Don't wish too hard Dad. I don't think Mom would go for even one more old broken-down car in the driveway.

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