By on June 14, 2012

With a 250-horse 4-liter version of Cadillac’s Northstar V8 and lines that owed nothing to the nonagenarian-aimed designs of a decade earlier, the Aurora seemed poised to revive the nose-diving fortunes of the oldest of GM’s divisions. That didn’t quite happen, and Oldsmobile— no doubt doomed by the first three letters of the marque’s name— was sent before The General’s Death Panel before another decade had passed. Where have all the Auroras gone? Here’s one that I found at a Denver wrecking yard earlier this week.
With no Oldsmobile emblems anywhere on the car’s exterior, you had to look at the small print on the engine cover to find any mention of Ransom E. Olds’ 19th-century creation.
Like its Quad 4 stablemate, the Aurora V8 made better than one horsepower per cubic inch. The car was respectably quick. In fact, an Aurora seemed so suspiciously cheaty that it earned the People’s Curse at the very first 24 Hours of LeMons race in 2006.
The ’96 Aurora listed at $34,360, just over 50 grand in today’s dollars. The BMW 525i cost about $1000 more and had 35 fewer horsepower, but buyer demographics were very much not on Oldsmobile’s side in that matchup.

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87 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1996 Oldsmobile Aurora...”


  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    Sad to see this beaut in the junkyard, but I’m not surprised. Since the Olds wind-down, Auroras of both generations have become shockingly thin on the ground. My mom’s 2001 hasn’t been a very reliable car, but it seems to me a throwback to when cars were far more fragile than today, but rewarded the owner with some excitement, exclusivity, and attention to detail, even if it was really just Marketing saying the car was special. Nobody will ever convince me the ’95 Aurora isn’t one of the five most gorgeous cars ever produced by GM. I’d say the less-bulbous, fastback-like ’01 was more contemporary when it debuted, but these really are something special.

    Shame about the G-Body platform (despite its notoriously breaking the GM torsional rigidity testing machine, requiring the HD Truck tester to take it to its full capacity), as well as the fantastic-sounding Aurora V8 being so damn fragile in day to day use. The stylists and product planners really got this one right, along with the Intrigue and Bravada. GM’s beancounters really sh*t the bed, though.

    I’d also like to say that, for such an expensive vehicle from a supposedly already-dead (in 1994!) brand, the Aurora sold really quite well, at least initially.

    Finally, I notice another, metallic red Aurora at the end of the other row, along with the nice white slantback second-gen Seville. I like this section of the junkyard!

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      Murilee,

      You didn’t happen to photo the odometer, did you? Auroras usually fit the old axiom about GM vehicles running poorly longer than other vehicles run at all. I’ve personally driven several over 200,000 miles that were surprisingly roadworthy, and known of more than a few to reach past 300,000. I see the splits and wear on that driver seat, which would seem to suggest a fair number of miles. ’90s GM pleather is damn tough stuff. I’ve always suspected it was initally developed to protect Gulf War tanks from armor-piercing bullets, but could never prove as much.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        I loved these cars when they debuted. At that time, I was a member of the Oldsmobile Club of America. A few club members bought brand-new Auroras and initially loved them, but they also had serious (serious as in, the repairs cost four figures) problems right after the warranty ended. These things were not reliable, and, unlike many GM cars, they weren’t cheap to fix when something did go wrong.

        Interestingly, in the workplace parking garage this morning, I saw a very clean first-generation Aurora in dark maroon. This is still a handsome design – one of the best domestic cars of the 1990s.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        The axiom about gm vehicles running poorly “longer” than other vehicles running at all is an urban legend that I never heard before except by a few posters on this website. GM made alot of fragile engines and drievlines over the years, the northstar being a perfect example.

      • 0 avatar
        carbiz

        Well, my ’91 Caprice wagon went 240k km (145k miles) on the clock in 6 years with only replacing brakes, tires, the condensor on the a/c and 2 starters. Everything else was original. (Oh, the power antenna died after 2 years.)
        I had a client with a ’01 Regal that had gone 600k km in 7 years. The myths do exist.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        “The axiom about gm vehicles running poorly “longer” than other vehicles running at all is an urban legend that I never heard before except by a few posters on this website.”

        I’ve heard of the axiom long before I found TTAC, but I do agree the Northstar and platforms like it are fragile and do not fit such a mold. It probably comes from the old days of durable big and small block GM V8s which would outlast the rest of the car, which were common in GM iron until the mid 80s and somewhat continued in their SUVs in the 90s.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Love those dark greens GM used to offer.

    The 1st generation Aurora is the first NEW car I can remember my father lusting after, but then he was an Oldsmobile man.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      I seem to remember a study done many years ago about car break-downs you see on the highway, and an inordinate percentage of them were of the color green!

    • 0 avatar
      dtremit

      By my watch, green is about due for a comeback — it seems to show up about every twenty years or so. It was popular in the mid-late ’70s, but died out around 1980, and then surged in popularity in the mid ’90s. My grandfather bought a Taurus in a similar green in ’95 (which I later owned).

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      Carbiz, 145k isn’t really that high, especially if it was mostly highway miles, which it probably was if the car racked up that many in 6 years. And the small block chevy was a decent motor after they switched over to a roller cam in 88, which solved the cam wear issue with those engines. And after the switch to fuel injection in 87 the soft block material of the small block wasn’t as much of an issue, due to reduced fuel wash the cylinders didn’t wear as much.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      GM’s V8’s weren’t that durable before they made improvements to the small block chevy in the mid 80’s. As I’ve mentioned before the old small block chevies had the lowest nickel content in the block of any american V8. They used narrow cam lobes, small .842 inch lifters, neither of which gave alot of load bearing surface. Topped off with poor metallurgy those engines were well known for wearing out cams.
      The big block chevies also had low nickel content in the block, the same lousy cam and lifter design, and wore out cams even quicker due to the stiffer valve springs used with the heavier valvetrain. They were also known for broken valve springs.
      The buick 350, 400, 455 engines, as well as the 231 V6 had a horrible oiling system, with very restrictive passages in the block leading to oil starvation, The worst part was the oil pump design, it was mounted in the aluminum timing cover. The steel gears would ride against the timing cover, wearing it down. The oil pumps would fail without warning, which usually resulted in catastrophic engine failure. No one builds a buick engine nowadays without using the redesigned aftermarket timing cover/oil pumps made by Poston or T/A performance.
      Lower end failures were not uncommon on pontiac engines, mainly on those that were flogged, because they used cast iron connecting rods.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Sad. I once test-drove a first-gen Aurora in this very same shade of green. I remember liking the car but, at the time, it was out of my price range. The salesman took a Polaroid of me standing next to the car. Sic transit gloria mundi.

  • avatar
    mjz

    What a beautiful design, like rolling metal sculpture. GM’s poor decision to “hide” the fact that both it and the Intrigue (another nice design, along with the Alero for that matter) were Oldsmobiles ultimately led to this divisions demise. If GM was too “embarrassed” by the fact that it was an Oldsmobile, why would you want to buy one? You can’t change a brand image if people don’t know what brand it is in the first place. A real shame that.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      A bigger problem, in my opinion, was that there was a three-year gap between the debut of the Aurora and the car that Oldsmobile really needed – the Intrigue.

      Oldsmobile’s bread-and-butter had always been family sedans for people who wanted something a step above a Chevrolet or Ford, not relatively expensive near-luxury sedans. The Cutlass Supreme always outsold the Ninety-Eight from the late 1960s through the mid-1980s.

      Many people “intrigued” by the Aurora went to the Oldsmobile dealer to look at it, and found that Oldsmobile only offered the clunky, rental-grade Ciera or outdated, bland Cutlass Supreme in their price ranges. So they bought a Camry or an Accord instead.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        Most likely an Accord. I remember hearing that the most-often traded nameplate at Honda dealers during their big growth spurt of about ’86-96 was Oldsmobile. Something up around 1/4 or 1/5 of all trades.

      • 0 avatar
        salhany

        And the real shame is that the Intrigue, when it finally came out, was a really nice car. I had one as my daily driver for 5 years, it was great.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        I test drove an Aurora to get free movie tickets, but I bought an Accord. Back then GM cars achieved cost savings through the efforts of the Cheesy Plastic Dash Division which assaulted the potential buyer with a view full of dollar store disposable toy grade plastic. The higher trim levels of the Accord just looked more expensive than the Aurora for a given price. New Chevrolets have better interiors today than “upscale” Oldsmobiles had 15 years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Apparently, the customer clinics of the time rated prototypes much better when they had no Oldsmobile badging. Ron Zarella is responsible for changing all the Olds model names at the same time Zero money was allocated for divisional advertising, disconnecting the new product from the message,where to buy it. John Rock, Olds’ last great General Manager, and his boss, Zarella, did not get along. After one meeting in Rock’s 5th floor office in the Oldsmobile Administration building, Zarella shouted back at Rock, “I will have your job and your Division, too.” Internal politics took Oldsmobile down just as they were releasing their “Centennal Plan” products, Aurora, Alero, Intrique and finally, the 2002 Bravada. It was a good lineup, but it was too late, especially in no advertising to tell customers where to buy those Intriques and Aleros. At an Oldmobile Dealer!

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Murilee, according to your junkyard posts, you hate every car ever made except communist-bloc vehicles that ran only half as good as your average 50-year-old lawnmower, or Nicolas Cugnot’s steam powered car that he promptly ran into a wall in 1771. Ride a horse and pack a shovel instead…

    These Auroras were beatiful cars, ditto for the second generation. If there’s any reason for “hate”, it’s because people who buy domestic cars don’t take good care of them, except for me it seems, and those who buy “foreign” think they have something special, and to make sure they don’t have any problems, take exquisite care and maintain them well.

    Rant over…for now.

    • 0 avatar
      WRohrl

      I’m not seeing where he is hating on this car or most of the others in the series.

      In fact, I think Murilee actually can find something intriguing/interesting/redeeming about most any car ever built. Yes, he harbors a well-publicized negativity over the “malaise-era” domestics, but then so do many other people really. It really was a low point in design/performance/quality from today’s perspective.

      Many of those who bought foreign, especially Toyota/Honda/Datsun in non-salt states, really did find that they did not need to do much if any maintenance while still running up mind-boggling total mileage numbers. I think overall people may have maintained as per the manual in the BEST case and overwhelmingly still found that there was not much else that needed doing, certainly not many if any additional dealer visits to replace worn-out components that failed earlier than what would have seemed reasonable at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      Contrarian

      Agreed. Not seing any hate here, in fact Murilee seems to admire the thing. But I digress. This was also the sister G-car of the two-door Riviera and later the 2000? Bonny of which my friend in FL has a very durable example.

    • 0 avatar
      Lemmy-powered

      “you hate every car ever made except communist-bloc vehicles that ran only half as good as your average 50-year-old lawnmower, or Nicolas Cugnot’s steam powered car that he promptly ran into a wall in 1771.”

      I, for one, am quite interested in the musings of a writer who has those particular leanings.

    • 0 avatar
      NewLookFan

      “it’s because people who buy domestic cars don’t take good care of them”

      Zackman, you’re joking, right?

      I’ve had multiple cars at the same time, and what a contrast. They all got the same care from me (they were mine!), but I had so much more upkeep of my Camaro z/28 and Grand Am than my Nissan Pulsar.

      I’m glad you enjoy your Impala, and look forward to seeing you in a 2013 model. My only ride now is a GM vehicle I bought new years ago, but you won’t be seeing me at the GM dealer looking at new cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Now, now, now…by now many of you know I get somewhat facetious in my posts at times.

      Yes, it is true that for many years the Japanese brands were more reliable, but didn’t have, in my opinion, the style of the domestic models, and for many, that was the difference.

      As for Murilee and what I said – no, I don’t see any real “hate” in his writings – I wanted to edit what I wrote, but ran out of time before I could. Busy at work and all.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        “it is true that for many years the Japanese brands were more reliable, but didn’t have, in my opinion, the style of the domestic models”

        Those Japanese cars didn’t need style. Bland looks and reliability were good enough to catapult them up the sales charts, and the conservative styling of the 90’s Accord and Camry has worn far better with time than most of their domestic contemporaries.

  • avatar

    Plenty of these still in fine shape in the Detroit area.

    • 0 avatar
      craigotron

      I lived in Lansing, MI for 8 years or so from 1998 to 2006, actually worked right up the street from the Olds building. If you would have asked me before I moved if the Aurora, Aztek or SSR were popular I would have informed you that “the streets are packed with them”. Family discount FTW. I still see plenty when I’m back home for the holidays.

    • 0 avatar
      Volts On Fire

      To be fair, even the junkyard Aurora would look like a million bucks when surrounded by Detroit.

  • avatar
    Ron

    A great-looking car. However, I then took a test drive. The rear window glass had so much distortion that I was unable to back out of my driveway. (This was fixed a few years later.)

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      This is a well-known problem, and was fixed as a running update during the (extended) 1995 model year. All ’96 and newer had the revised window design.

      Yet another reason not to buy a first-year GM…

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I keep hearing how bad the Northstar was in terms of reliability: Does anyone have any interesting numbers to back up or refute the claim? What went wrong with this engine, and why?

    • 0 avatar
      Crosley

      Head gaskets were a major issue on many of the Cadillac Northstar models, and it was compounded by the fact that you actually had to pull the CAR up off the engine to address it. It was a headbolt issue that took GM a while to change.

      Not sure if it was also an issue with the Northstar-derived Olds engines.

      Had GM simply put in a small block Chevy LT1/LS1 V8 engine instead of trying to pretend to be a European car company, they would have been a hell of a lot better off and far fewer Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles would be in the junkyard right now.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        Head gaskets, the “Northstar drip” (aka 80-100,000 mi degradation of the pan gasket), major electrical issues, infamous GM window regulators of this period, door handles made of dime store plastic, liquid cooled alternators that went south and cost $2 grand to repair, whole batches of faulty camshaft position sensors that caused unexpected stalling during decel, lightbulbs that burn out in batches of ten (see Lang’s post yesterday about the ’00 Regal auction queen), uninsulated engine control computers that were positioned under coolant hoses that wore out quickly and leaked, the 4T60-E transmission that wasn’t up to the task of 250 ft-lbs of torque (corrected later with the 4T65-E-HD, specifically on ’01+ Auroras), leaking sunroof assemblies, batteries placed under the rear seat (what for?? It’s a FWD luxo-barge with 65/35 weight distribution!) which could leak and cause major frame corrosion, wheel bearings that crapped out in fours every 30k miles, cheap Chinese “Delco” water pumps that might last 50k miles…

        I have been an Aurora enthusiast (that’s a thing!) since I first laid eyes on the ’95 when I was 9, and my mother has owned a 2001 since new. However, I am intimately familiar with the numerous quality problems, cost-cut parts, and major design missteps taken with it, the other G-Body derivatives, and the contemporary K-Body Cadillacs, as well as the Northstar powertrain.

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        I’m having a hard time understanding the concept of a liquid cooled alternator. Alternators have like, electricity and stuff in them.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        “Had GM simply put in a small block Chevy LT1/LS1 V8 engine instead of trying to pretend to be a European car company, they would have been a hell of a lot better off and far fewer Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles would be in the junkyard right now.”

        Very much agreed, the irony is when they finally did in the 2005+ W-bodies, the transmissions on those too were a source of trouble.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        “Had GM simply put in a small block Chevy LT1/LS1 V8 engine instead of trying to pretend to be a European car company”

        Ford has had overhead cam V8s for 20 plus years, and they’ve proven to be very reliable in the Panthers and trucks. Not “European”, just current technology.

    • 0 avatar
      Fat Man Of La Mancha

      The V8 Aurora never used the 4T65E, only the V6 that came in 2001 used those, the V8 used the 4T80E, same as the Caddy. The liquid cooled alternator was discontinued in 2001 when they reverted back to air cooled.

      The Northstar was based on the LT5 which in turn was a aluminum block DOHC LT designed by Lotus. Unfortunately they did not increase the number of or redesign the headbolts to accommodate the weaker aluminum material, this combined with the open deck design (less surface area to clamp to), the use of Dex-cool which under the right (wrong?) circumstances could become slightly acidic eating into the gaskets, and the weak head gaskets meant a lot of early Northstars were ticking time bombs.

      Early casting also had porosity problems that allowed coolant to leak through the walls into the cylinders and engine bolt holes.

      I always though it strange that I never heard these complaints about the LT5 but I guess the lower production numbers and the exclusivity of only being available in the high end Corvette meant they were taken better care of.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    I remember all the Auroras I saw were driven by old men, but also driven very quickly. I followed one up to Chicago on I-55 around 2001 in a rental Malibu (with the trademark warped brake rotors). When the old geezer realized I was using him as a rabbit he took off and the Malibu hit the rental company’s speed limiter before I could catch him up.

  • avatar
    bkrell

    Oil leaks and damage from trying to fix oil leaks.

    At my urging, my future in-laws test drove an Aurora back in 96, along with a Lexus ES300, Infiniti I30, and a Lincoln Towncar. They really liked the Aurora but couldn’t see the price (they were quoted $36k and change) as they could get a Town Car for less. I don’t think it was the price as much as it was the fact that the Old dealer refued to haggle at all. They ended up w a very nice Town Car $32k. But I still lust after those first Auroras.

    • 0 avatar
      jayzwhiterabbit

      Yeah, and by ’96 that generation of the Town Car was really looking good…Ford had the trim looking great and gave it clear-reflector headlights, etc. Too bad the next year they made it into a turd.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    One of GMs nicest looking cars of the last 20 years.

  • avatar
    vwbora25

    really liked the lines of these cars, they were one of the few GM products of that era to have a presence. Still looks really sharp today

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    Weren’t Oldsmobiles considered cars for those who tinted their hair blue? Pretty much like Buicks are today. It’s sad, there are some decent looking Buicks, but I don’t think I could ever drive one. Wasn’t there a South Park episode where old people were crashing their Buicks into a County Buffet and killing people?

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      Speedspaniel, yes oldsmobiles were cars that the elderly people drove. During the 80’s they tried unsuccessfully to overcome the image with commercials in which people sang “this is not your father’s oldsmobile.” That turned out to do more harm than good. Young people still weren’t interested in them, and the old people that bought them before were angered by the commercials and crossed over to buick.

  • avatar
    replica

    Maybe I don’t understand, but this car is the height of early 90’s jelly bean styling. It’s beyond bland. It’s like liquid metal poop fell out of a Terminator, and this is how it landed.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    I think this is easily one of the best looking sedans built in the 90’s.

    It’s a shame the car couldn’t deliver. It was simply too expensive, I remember going with my Dad (who liked Oldsmobiles) to the dealership and the sticker price being over $40,000 out the door with all the extra options. That was a LOT of money for an Oldsmobile in the mid nineties, and my dad immediately soured on it. I honestly can’t blame single person for wanting a Mercedes or Lexus instead.

    I’ve also heard Auroras were an absolute nightmare when it came to repairs. At the end of the day, it was an overpriced, crappy car wrapped in beautiful sheet metal.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Even in that state it’s still a thing of beauty.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    96 is too young to die, what is wrong with these cars? I see tons of 93-97 Corollas being driven around by their happy owners, just today I saw 3 at one intersection, I was the kid on the block with my 98

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      Sadly, that ’93 Corolla is probably worth more than a ’96 Aurora. And almost certainly has less wrong with it.

      These were very complex cars for their time, and are still so complex and expensive to repair that a relatively minor problem can and will total it.

      Also, these were eligible for Cash for Clunkers, and all but the lowest-mile ’99 would have already sunk below $4500 Blue Book by the time that horrid program was enacted.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      The DOHC 4.0 liter V8 was based on the Northstar family, which weren’t the most reliable engines. The Corolla’s 1.8 liter four is just about unkillable; you have to really abuse one to kill it. I see Corollas that clearly haven’t had regular maintenance in years still providing good service.

  • avatar
    1st_one

    For this vehicle to be 17 years old, it has aged extremely well. I’ve always said that the Aurora, Intrigue and Alero to the lessor extent was designs ahead of their times. I agree with everyone else that Oldsmobile should have rolled out the Intrigue immediately after the Aurora release followed by the Alero. If Oldsmobile wasn’t ready for that, they should have held the Aurora back another year until it was able to do so.

    Although the Aurora was pretty pricey for its day, General Motors failed to give Oldsmobile better advertisement dollars once their new lineup rollout was complete. I assume this was because the writing was on the wall for them by the time the Alero debut in the spring of 98.

    I will always remember the last Oldsmobile’s as General Motors best designs to date.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I know I’m going to take a lot of heat for this: I hated the original Aurora.

    You have to understand, I loved Oldsmobiles. Between my wife and I, we’d had a 442, a 455 Toronado and a 403 Delta 88 Holiday Coupe. I still want to find one of those V6/5 speed Aleros that were made near the end of production. I’m glad my J-body has a Quad 4 in it, as it was the last Oldsmobile-designed engine from GM. Verstehe?

    When I first saw pix of the Aurora, I thought it was great. Then I saw it in person. To me, it was this huge lumpy, humpy killer whale of a car. I call them Shamus, because that’s what they remind me of. At the time it just reinforced how out of touch Oldsmobile management was with mainline customers like us. It was pricy for the times. And those were pretty good times for us.

    When the new, smaller 2001 Aurora was released, I was very happy, as I thought that’s what the original should have been. Too late. So sad.

    I knew several people with these cars, they seemed to hold up well, but I generally don’t ask people about their car’s service history in casual conversation. The last one I was in was a sales rep’s car, it was 10 years old at the time and still rode nicely. But, I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about the cars, and even as a GM fan, this is one I would avoid.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      There never was a V6/5-speed Alero. It was only available on the 2.4L base engine, and only on the two-door. Even a loaded up GLS could have theoretically had this engine, but 4cyl GLS models are rare, the two door even rarer, and the 5-speed almost nonexistent. Good luck… LOL.

      That was the final evolution of the Quad4, however.

      I believe many Olds faithful shared your opinion of the first Aurora, which was part of its mission. Of course, it didn’t complete the main portion nearly as well, wherein it was supposed to attract younger, more affluent buyers that had never considered an Olds before.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        The 2002-2004 editions of the Alero and Grand Am adopted GM’s 2.2 liter Ecotec 4 cylinder engine which was a different and newer design than the old Quad 4 derived 2.4 liter Twin Cam engine which was dropped from these cars after 2001. The LD9 2.4 liter Twin Cam’s last year was 2002 in the Cavalier Z-24.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        A V6 5 speed Alero was announced for 2002 as the GL2 package. IIRC, I saw a review of it in Car & Driver back then, and they seemed pretty impressed with it.

        Whether large numbers of them ever made it into the wild or the GL2 that C&D had was offered then cancelled, I don’t know.

        If this chimera exists, I’d like to have one.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        Sorry, but it was a 2000 model-year-only on the two-door 4-cylinder. I remember the C/D article, too. I may still have that issue somewhere.

        You can research on Google. Consumer Guide and a number of other sources back this up. I hate to bring bad news, but there never was a V6/5-speed Alero.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        Aleros were never offered with V6 & manual transmission. There were 5 speed manual 4 cylinder Alero Coupes, just about every year, though, first with the 2.4L Twin Cam, and then the 2.2L ECOTEC. The manual trans was only available on the base model Alero.

        The Twin Cam cars had 4 wheel disc brakes, but the later 4 cylinder cars had rear drums.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I rented an Alero for a long road trip back 10 yrs ago or so and I was surprised on how good it was, good mpg’s and a nice, quiet, comfortable ride

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I owned both a newer style 2001 Aurora and then a 2002 last year Intrigue, both with the 3.5 liter DOHC Shortstar V6. Both were excellent cars with lots of personality and virtually untouched drivetrains when I sold them with 150K plus miles. The Intrigue needed one rear wheel bearing at 125K and the transmission started shifting a little hard at 130K(remedied by a transmission service) but was otherwise flawless with ice cold AC, fully operational windows/locks/mirrors/radio etc and it still even had the original water pump, starter, alternator and spark plugs the day I traded it at 151k miles. The 2001 Aurora was the same engine/transmission wise but needed both front wheel bearings replaced at 100k and one rear window regulator replaced slightly after which I easily did myself for the meager cost of $68.00 courtesy of Ebay. That was it. I performed regular maintenance with 4-5k oil changes and tire rotations and changed the anti-freeze every 50k instead of the recommended 100K. Simple things like this seemed to make these engines live a lot longer than some state.

    • 0 avatar
      jayzwhiterabbit

      Our 1998 Intrigue (with the 3800 motor, unfortunately) was absolutely reliable. We had it until 2006, and with over 175,000 miles it never gave one bit of trouble. God, that was a great looking car when it came and out still is, IMO. It’s certainly aged better than the super-stodgy Camry’s that came out the same year. IMO the interior was also the nicest ever put into a W body.

  • avatar
    DaveDFW

    I loved these cars when they were new. Very pretty and well-finished inside. I crossed it off my shopping list when the headliner touched my hair once I sat inside–not enough headroom for a 6’1″ driver.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    With it’s good looks, Olds and GM could have clawed back some lost credibility with this car with a lower price and better reliability. Alas they chose not to.

    The distorted rear window is simply indicative of the GM mindset. During the development of the car, why wasn’t this noticed? I guarantee it was brought up, and the bean counters would only allow a running improvement.

    Herein lies GMs true legacy – using their customers as the beta testers. Akerson is crapping his pants because he can’t turn it around. Newsflash – that ship sailed long ago. The last true believers in GM are my parents generation, and they’re slowly ebbing away.

    Chevy and Cadillac will always have a market, but one that will continue to constrict. I know no one who aspires to a GM, with the exception of the tried and true Suburban.

    • 0 avatar
      jayzwhiterabbit

      Not according to their sales. GM is doing really well….and I know a hell of a lot of people my age (30) who don’t have the bias against GM because they weren’t driving in the ’80s when their cars were so bad. Once the W platform dies this year, basically every GM car is competitive or superior to the competition, with models like the excellent Chevy Cruze, Sonic, and Caddy CTS and ATS. Cadillacs and to a lesser extent, Buicks, are certainly desirable cars now. I know a lot of people who would be thrilled to get a Cruze, CTS, Regal, and let’s not even get into GM’s trucks which have always been very popular.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I had a 2nd gen as a rental once and absolutely loved it. Probably overall the nicest rental car I have ever had. I also rather liked Intrigues and Aleros compared to the other GM cars on those platforms. Seems like the got the Oldsmobile product pretty right just before they killed them off. Back then I rented from Avis, and Avis was still owned by GM so it was ALL GM cars, ALL the time. Times are so much more interesting now in the rental game.

    • 0 avatar
      windnsea00

      GM was a minor shareholder in Avis not an owner FYI.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I would not call 29% (per Wikipedia) a “minor shareholder”. That level of ownership by a single entity generally equals a controlling interest. Certainly in the entire time I rented from Avis in the ’90s, I never got ANYTHING but a GM vehicle. Nothing like having a built-in fleet dump, just like Ford with Hertz and Chysler with National back then.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      My most recent Avis rental – from a downtown location in Chicago – was a 2011 328xi sedan. It was the “upgrade” over a full-sized car, which was a Chevy Impala.

  • avatar
    Boxofrain

    My father had both the first generation and second generation Auroras, both leased new back to back. I thought they were one of the nicest looking cars of the era. Very unique looking. The 250 horsepower was good at the time also. It was a quick car and fun to drive. The second generation was nice also, but had a different feel, even though they both had the 4 litre engine. The first generation was only available with the 4 litre V8, while the second generation had a 3.5 V6 as the base with the 4 litre optional. Both cars always turned heads. He never had any trouble with either of them. I believe his next car after that was a Saab 95, which spent most of the time in the shop, with the dealer never being able to figure out what was wrong with it. It was towed a number of times. One of the worst cars he ever owned, and he had a late 70’s Lebaron.

  • avatar
    jgcaulder

    I was a GM tech in training and I worked at an Olds dealer as the work part of the program. I remember thinking these were beautiful, especially when every other car I worked on was a boring Ciera that smelled like mothballs or any of the other bland vehicles they produced. My buddy worked at the Chevy dealer in the same program and got to work on the Camaros, Z71 pick ups, Vettes, and all of the other cool cars. I remember the Aurora being the only saving grace for a car to look forward to, even if the main repair they were being brought in for was to swap the entire transmission due to it’s lack of balls.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    @KaplanaBlack: ‘I remember hearing that the most-often traded nameplate at Honda dealers during their big growth spurt of about ’86-96 was Oldsmobile. Something up around 1/4 or 1/5 of all trades.’

    Correct. The Acura dealer I work as used to get Auroras/Intrigues/Aleros in on trade every couple of months (among many other Olds) beginning when I started there in 2003. The past couple of years, not so much. Still get a few last-gen Bravadas traded in though.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    Classic GM for several reasons. Proof that their stylists could still do their job better than just about anyone in the industry when upper management took their handcuffs off for a whole and actually let them do it. But, also proof that the beancounters at headquarters still had a “just make it good enough” mentality that crippled otherwise fine designs.

    This also fits the mold of killing off divisions just when they start building genuinely good products for the first time in decades, first tested on Oldsmobile, then perfected on Pontiac, Saturn, and Saab – though you could argue LaSalle was the beta.

  • avatar
    jimdice

    I owned a 1995 Aurora in black. I vividly remember it being a superb car, and I treated it with much care and regular service. I recall snobby Acura fans making fun of the name (Aurora was hard to spell for some Acura drivers)but it handled well in all driving conditions including great Toronto Blizzard of 1999 – the first storm in Canada where the military had to be called in to clear the streets. Late at night, with a half a foot of snow on the 401 highway, the car drove like a snowplow down the laneway. But when it hit the seven year mark, and the warranty expired, like the comments above, it was all downhill. I remember they even charged me $50 at the dealership for a radio knob. In 2004, the dealership told me the car needed ‘major work’ relating to an engine problem. They charged me $2,300 for service and when I started the car I realized the problem hadn’t been fixed. The service manager insisted, “you just need to break it in.” I went to Dick’s Transmission in Waterdown and the tech figured out only a $150 computer board needed to be replaced – he told me that he was seeing this problem more and more with GM cars. I went back to the dealer and asked for all my receipts to be printed out for the car since purchase. I told the Service Manager that I was going to take all my receipts and the most recent horror story to GM Canada and show them what their dealers are doing to GM customers. After 1/2 hour with the owner of the dealership, they gave me a credit of $2,300 for oil changes and other service. Once I used it up on my original 1990 GMC CK1500 (still have it), I never went back. And big surprise, this dealership losts its license during the US Meltdown and now sells used cars (no surprise). Despite the car having a few good years, it’s going to be a long time before I ever recommend a GM car to my family or friends.

  • avatar
    amca

    I always thought of the Aurora and the same year Riviera as the last of the great, extravagant GM styling exercises. They’re the end of a lineage that goes back to the insanity of the 1950s, big cars that eschewed practicality for raging, unfettered style.

    The world will never see their likes again, sadly.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      “big cars that eschewed practicality for raging, unfettered style.

      The world will never see their likes again, sadly.”

      I don’t know, the CTS Coupe fits that description pretty well.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Yes but the CTS Coupe is (1) ugly and (2) poorly named… Catera Touring Sedan Coupe. Not even in the same league as the last Riv and Aurora in terms of styling.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      Bingo. As a kid when the Riv and Aurora came out, I was blown away by their styling.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    “…killing off divisions just when they start building genuinely good products”

    The “genuinely good” Oldses were just rebadge jobs of old platforms shared with Chevy. And Olds was not “building them”, they were all madea t same plants. What was so much better about an Alero over a Grand Am/Malibu? Same cheap car underneath. The Intrigue was just a 1988 W body with new sheet metal and the casual car fans and GM lifers go ape-sh!t. As if it was 1949 again.

    Also, what good is a ‘beautiful design’ if the darn thing falls apart after warranty? GM kept desiging cars to fall apart after 36,000 miles, assuming they’d get traded in for new GM cars. DUH!

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Having logged a zillion rented miles in Malibus, Grand Ams, and Aleros, the Devil, as always, was in the details. The Alero had that little bit nicer interior, and cleaner exterior, and better suspension tuning, and slightly less Fisher-Price grade plastics that added together to make it a MUCH nicer car to do time in than it’s platform mates. Same with the Intrigue. No idea how they held up over time, back in the day I doubt I ever drove one with more than 10K miles on it, and I usually got brand-new ones as a top tier Avis Corporate account renter. Malibus in particular were just vile, vile, vile devices. Grand Ams were just tacky.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    why are there no oil caps on these junkyard finds?

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      When they prep the car for the yard, all fluids are drained. The employee usually removes the cap to speed draining, and carelessly tosses it somewhere in the engine bay. If they don’t do that, vultures will sometimes pull the cap to check if the car was well-cared for (sludge, dark oil) before pulling parts.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    When the Aurora first came out I felt they had succeeded in building an attractive car when my wife , in her thirties at the time who had always bought foreign economy cars , thought it was the prettiest new car of the era and wanted to buy a used one in a couple of years . Unfortunately she died shortly after that . Agree with comments above that certainly Olds and Saturn came out with their best styling in a long while right before they folded . After years of Cutlass Ciera this and bland Cutlass something -or-other they finally got it together but too late . And Saturn , after the Ion , possibly one of the ugliest GM cars of all time actually came up with a full range of rather attractive cars-albeit rebadged Opels – just in time to close up shop forever .

  • avatar
    Towncar

    I’ve got the Aurora’s half-sibling, the last-gen Riviera. I liked its looks better than the Aurora’s, and figured the Buick V-6 was a way better bet than the mini-Northstar. (I was right.)

    Loved what amca has to say about the “raging style” of these cars! But I have to say they were not really short on practicality. There’s ample room in the trunk and very decent legroom front & back.

    KalapanaBlack, I doubt the underseat battery was really a bid for better weight distribution–there’s just simply not room for one single more thing under those low hoods. But the upside is that being isolated from all the heat and vibration makes the batteries last forever in these cars. I had 10 years out of one, and I don’t think I’ve ever got a full 5 out of one in the conventional position.


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