Machine Design

Oldsmobile Aurora - The last of its kind

When I was growing up, my parents always owned beaters, saying "New cars are a bad investment." My father believed a car's purpose was to get you from point A to point B. But often we would borrow my aunt's Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. I loved that big, luxurious car and the way it handled the slightest bumps, or uneven railroad tracks.

The 2001 Oldsmobile Aurora that I tested took me back to riding in my aunt's car. It glides over bumps in the road. Every part of the Aurora is designed for comfort. Our test car was equipped with a comfort package which includes an eight-way power passenger seat with lumbar adjust and a rear storage armrest. Also a dual-zone HVAC system -- which was great because while I'm a freeze baby, my passengers usually aren't.

The 3.5-liter V6 engine cruised along nicely and easily passed the slow pokes with just a touch of the accelerator. The engine puts out 215 hp at 5,600 rpm and 230 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. The driver's seat resembled a cockpit, surrounded by instruments for easy and quick adjustments.

A digital indicator near the steering wheel called the "Driver Information Center" keeps drivers informed regarding the state of the car. For instance, a bell sounds and the indicator reads "headlights suggested," when needed. It also tells the amount of gas used, tire pressure, oil level, and so forth. It's as if my mother was in the car. At any time I expected to hear: "Did you wear clean underwear," or "Did you go to the bathroom before you left the house?"

Moving outside, the completely redesigned 2001 edition is 6 in. shorter than last year's model. According to Oldsmobile, they were going with a "less is more" philosophy.

But don't let that fool you, the test car was well equipped. An optional all-weather package, which includes all-speed traction control and a Precision Control System (PCS), handled wintery conditions with ease. Traction control cuts torque and applies front brakes to avoid wheel spinning and slippage in adverse conditions.

Comprised of four major components, the PCS includes two sensors that monitor wheel speed and direction, a steering-angle sensor, integrated yaw sensor, and a hydraulic control unit that compares the car's turning angle to the steering wheel's. If the system detects a difference, the hydraulic-control unit applies and adjusts either of the front brakes to bring the vehicle into alignment with the needs of the driver. This helps drivers maintain control in the event of an emergency, including heavy braking or avoiding an obstacle.

So, here's where I get nitpicky. I didn't like the key fob. It may have been just me, but I couldn't get the hang of it. People were being continuously locked inside or outside of the car. Also, the cupholders were located at elbow level which made grabbing my drink awkward. But these were really very minor in relation to all the good things this car had to offer.

It's a shame that Oldsmobile will soon be history. It's one of the last bastions of the American luxury car. I will look upon it with nostalgia.

The vehicle's base price is $30,130, but add the all-weather package and passenger comfort package and the total cost comes to $31,815. A four-liter V8 is also available.

I have to say I enjoyed driving this car. Would I buy it? Well, I don't make that kind of money. If I did? No. It's a pleasure to drive, but these days I prefer practicality to luxury -- like my dad.

Heather Milgate

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