Capsule Review: 1995 Oldsmobile Aurora
In theory, the Oldsmobile Aurora started something great for the GM’s Rocket division. In reality, the car that re-invigorated this brand died by the system that created it. Though Oldsmobile saw the writing on the wall, they didn’t go down without a fight. As the first TV spot proclaimed, “See what happens when you demand better?”
I can’t explain the kinetic energy emitted from the Aurora’s purposeful creases, trimmed flanks, and sculpted posterior. Think Mercedes CLS, but with a proportionally correct greenhouse, sleek beltline and sexier fascias. The front is a thing of beauty: a beaked hood and almond-shaped eyes that swung low to the ground. The rear’s minimalist demeanor positively radiates passion with its muscular haunches and tapered quarters. The only letdown is the roofline: sleekness is not an option with the rear window’s thick black frame on an artificially thin C-pillar. But the package is so engrossing that the (commonly chosen) champagne metallic paint looks like solid gold.
Chop top claustrophobia is gone: there’s ample room with tall-shouldered bucket seats that seemingly shrug at you and say, “meh.” Maybe that’s because the GM parts bin rules the roost: black plastic overkill, sub-Lexian door panels and switchgear action that rivals the feel of biting into dry biscotti. But, in true early 90s fashion, the cabin is so driver-centric that the passenger’s vent register rests on the side of the center stack.
Putting the Aurora in motion is a feast for the senses, since it shimmers in the reflections of buildings, tanker trucks and chrome wheels. Which is facilitated by a smooth, taut ride and quiet cabin, even with frameless window glass. It’s no surprise the Aurora’s chassis benchmarked Stuttgart’s finest: the W124 Mercedes E-class. Proving the point, my high mileage (over 300k) tester is creak, groan and rattle free. Which explains how the Aurora’s large fenders and demure lids/portals put long-term driving pleasure ahead of practicality. Too bad the flexi-flyer metal on its nephew, the Buick Lucerne, missed that memo.
BMW 3-series fanatics need not apply: the Aurora’s nose-heavy driveline and near 4000lb weight mean that 10/10ths driving creates understeer. But the mighty Olds corners without excessive body roll and sports a magnet-infused steering box that never forgets the driver is on a need-to-know basis. The optional Autobahn Package with a perky final-drive certainly helps, too.
Rarely does a lower-echelon GM product get a Cadillac mill, but the downsized Northstar V8 has plenty of grunt from its four liters (250 horses) while the four-speed automatic performed admirably. So it’s no surprise this team still powers GM’s lineup of FWD luxobarges. But, like most GM success stories, it all went wrong.
The Aurora’s po-faced Y2K makeover was less appealing than its new mission: provide a value model to eliminate the Delta 88 and keep the top spot ceded by the Regency 98. With uninspired design and a standard “shortstar” V6, the Aurora got old in a hurry.
And when the Aurora sneezed, the entire division caught a cold. Then pneumonia: the unflinching progress of its foreign rivals was unstoppable. Then a fatal case of sepsis: Cadillac’s relentless downmarket downplays (from German blueprints) and GM’s final indictment in 2000 nailed this coffin shut.
Perhaps the spiritual successor to Jay Leno’s automotive interests will exalt this forgotten Olds in the (un-foreseeable) future. But if the Aurora never had a chance, at least the last grasp for Oldsmobile’s former glory is the real deal.
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- Charles I had one and loved it . Seated 7 people . Easy to park , great van
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- ToolGuy Question: F-150 FP700 ( Bronze or Black) supercharger kit is legal in 50 states, while the Mustang supercharger kit is banned in California -- why??
- ToolGuy Last picture: Labeling the accelerator as "play" and the brake pedal as "pause" might be cute, but it feels wrong. It feels wrong because it is wrong, and it is wrong because Calculus.Sidebar: I have some in-laws who engage the accelerator and brake on a binary on/off all-in basis. So annoying as a passenger.Drive smoothly out there. 🙂
wmba: "No European would have mistaken a braying pushrod V6 taxi for a Sport." Poetry.