Oldsmobile threw many car fans a curve when it introduced the Aurora in 1994. Its bold sedan styling and sporty yet luxurious personality showed us how serious everyone at Olds was about revitalizing their brand’s fading appeal. Since then, new models like the Alero and the Intrigue have further redefined this century-old nameplate as one domestic brand with its eye firmly fixed on younger import car buyers. And now for the new century, comes an all-new Aurora. Is it another giant step forward for Olds?
Clearly the all-new, 2001 Oldsmobile Aurora is another positive step forward in Oldsmobile’s evolutionary drive to transform itself from a century-old car company to one producing a modern line of products with youthful, import buyer appeal.
That new mode of thinking is behind the latest Aurora’s styling. The somewhat controversial, love-it-or-leave-it styling that graced the original has been both toned down, and beefed up. And while the Intrigue and Alero were influenced by the original Aurora, they are now the basis for the face of the new car.
A reduction in length by 6-inches to 199.3 is in response to import buyers who felt Aurora was just too boaty for their needs. The new re-design at the rear made some of our staff remark on its now cleaner, Chrysler-ish appearance. And although the shorter length has reduced trunk capacity ever so slightly, its 14.9 cubic feet is now more accessible thanks to a wider opening and a lower liftover.
But the Aurora’s tauter length has not diminished its passenger capacity in any way. In fact, front and rear seat volume have been increased, with more head, hip, and shoulder room all around.
We found little wanting, too, about the level of luxury in our 4.0 liter V-8 Aurora test car. Both front occupants get 6-way power seats, with power recliner and lumbar support for the driver. Seat heat is optional but leather upholstery is standard. So are the new side impact airbags integrated into the front seat backs.
Facing the driver is a tiltable steering wheel mounted with satellite controls for the climate system as well stereo. It fronts a basic but elegant looking cluster of gauges trimmed with chrome bezels. To the right, at the top of the center stack, is a driver information center that monitors 27 different functions including an engine oil and transmission fluid life index, and tire pressure.
One step down are the dual zone climate controls equipped with an auto setting and a 100 square inch replaceable air filter. While just below, our tester came with the optional Bose sound system. It features both in dash cassette, and a single disc CD player, along with 8 clear speakers. It’s all nicely surrounded with handsome burl walnut trim and low gloss plastics.
In the rear, you’ll find ample room for three average size adults with lots of leg and head room. And when you’re toting just two you can take advantage of the cupholders and storage compartment in the armrest, or use the small pass through located behind it. But regardless of who or what you’re hauling, you’ll find plenty of power under the hood at your disposal. And for the 2001 model year, there are two powertrain choices available.
New to Aurora is this 3.5 liter, double-overhead cam, 24-valve, V-6, rated at 215 horsepower and 234 pound-feet of torque. It’s connected to a Hydra-matic front-wheel drive 4-speed automatic transmission. It’s based on the engine found in our test car, this reworked, Northstar derived 4.0 liter, twin-cam, 32-valve, V-8 producing 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.
It also hooks up to a Hydra-matic trans, this one specially designed to handle the V-8’s higher level of torque. Both all-aluminum engines include coil-on-plug ignition, and a “limp-home” mode in the event of a coolant failure.
Now, we never made it to the track with our Aurora 4.0 due to some unusually heavy snow storms that left our test facility buried for several weeks. But we can tell you that with the V-8 you can expect a 0 to 60 time of 7.5 seconds. Acceleration and gear changes are smooth, and at speed, there’s plenty of power on tap for rapid passing.
And even though the Aurora’s wheelbase of 112.2 inches has been shortened by 1.6 inches, and overall weight is down 165 pounds, structural enhancements and a refined suspension have kept the ride and handling at the top of their class.
In fact, with its shorter overall length and vastly improved on-center feel to the speed-sensitive Magnasteer rack-and-pinion steering, the Aurora is more agile than ever. And the standard traction control has also been supplemented by Oldsmobile’s Precision Control System electronic stability program. It’s also standard on the V-8 Aurora 4.0.
Along with the traction control, it reduces torque and uses the ABS-equipped, 4-wheel disc brakes to keep the car under control in the event of radical under- or over-steer.
As for availability, the V-6 Aurora 3.5 is on sale first, with prices starting at $30,800 including freight. The V-8 Aurora 4.0 follows with a base price of $34,975. With options, our tester rang up to $37,080. Prices are in line with other entry and mid-level luxury cars like the Lexus ES300 and the Lincoln LS.
The 2001 Aurora is more than a step forward for Olds. In style, features, and performance, it’s among the finest domestic brand efforts yet to lure buyers away from luxury name imports. The word Aurora is defined as the dawn. It’s a new beginning definition that Oldsmobile hopes applies not only to the 2001 Aurora, but to the second century of Oldsmobile as well.
Engine: 4.0 Liter Dohc 32-valve V-8
Torque: 260 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 7.5 Seconds