Introduced last year, the 1999 Oldsmobile Intrigue is offered with a new 3.5 liter overhead cam V6 engine with more horsepower and improved efficiency. Intrigues come with standard air conditioning, 4-speed automatic transmission, four wheel disc brakes, and a roomy 5 passenger interior.
New engine adds more zip
When the Oldsmobile Intrigue was introduced in 1998, it was all-new, except for the engine. The Intrigue’s standard 3.8 liter OHV cast-iron block V6 engine is a hand-me-down from previous Oldsmobiles, and though it has been updated and refined over the years, it’s considered to be a senior citizen in terms of engine technology.
For 1999, Oldsmobile is offering a new aluminum 3.5 liter V6 engine with twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder – an engine that offers more horsepower, improved emissions, faster warmup, easier serviceability, and a ‘limp-home’ mode that allows the engine to run after a sudden loss of coolant.
The new 3.5 litre V6 engine is now standard on the top-of-the-line GLS Intrigue and optional on the base GX and mid-level GL models, but it will become standard on all Intrigue models later this year. Oldsmobile will have exclusive rights to this engine for the first two years, after which it may be used by other GM divisions.
The design and performance of the new engine is in keeping with Oldsmobile’s revamped image as a domestic carmaker for ‘import intenders’. Though the Intrigue is based on the same platform as the Buick Regal and Pontiac Grand Prix, the Intrigue has a sportier fully independent suspension, quicker steering, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and European-influenced exterior and interior styling. The new 3.5 litre twincam, 24 valve V6 engine completes the Intrigue’s import-like profile.
Well, almost. Full-function traction control and Magnasteer variable-effort power steering also come part-and-parcel with the new engine. The full-function traction control operates at any speed to reduce wheel spin when accelerating on slippery surfaces, and it can be de-activated via a button on the console. GM’s Magnasteer power steering provides varying levels of power assist depending on vehicle speed.
The Intrigue’s new 3.5 litre V6 develops 215 horsepower @ 5500 rpm compared to 195 horsepower @ 5200 rpm for the 3.8 liter V6. Torque is up to 234 lbs-ft @ 4400 from 220 lbs-ft @ 4000 rpm, although as you can see, it’s not available quite as early.
My week-long road test of an Intrigue GLS demonstrated that the 3.5 litre V6 provides plenty of horsepower over a broad rpm range for passing, merging, or pulling away from the stoplight. The engine’s responsiveness, flexibility, and smooth power progression inspires confidence and a feeling of safety, my only complaint being mild torque steer under full acceleration. The engine has a gutteral, race-car-like sound when pressed, but most of the time, engine noise is barely audible. At a steady 100 km/h on a level surface, the engine turns over a relaxed 1900 rpm in top gear.
Though the new engine is smaller in size than the previous one, fuel consumption has increased slightly to 12.7 l/100 kms (22 mpg) in the city and 8.0 l/100 km (35 mpg) on the highway.
The Intrigue’s standard 4-speed automatic transmission (a manual transmission is not offered) has been refined for 1999, and like most General Motors transmissions, it is so smooth you hardly notice it.
Compared to other GM mid-sized cars, the Intrigue has a tauter suspension, more predictable handling and quicker steering. During high-speed cruising, the cabin is very quiet with minimal wind noise, tire noise or engine noise. Those who want added performance can add an optional Autobahn package which includes heavy-duty brakes and ‘H’ rated all-season 225/60R-16 inch performance tires.
A clear indicator of the import-like nature of the Intrigue is the interior design. Like popular import sedans, it has rounded contours, very little chrome, and controls that are simple in design and easy to use. The CD/cassette/stereo player mounted in the center dash area, for example, has large, square buttons with easy-to-read white-on-black lettering, and the ignition keyhole is now on the dashboard instead of the steering column and is illuminated at night.
The five-passenger interior is roomy, with two front bucket seats, a center console with floor shifter, a center armrest with storage bin for CD’s and cassettes, and a rear split folding bench seat with a fold-down center armrest (optional on base GX models) The rear folding rear seats are not lockable. All Intrigues have two front cupholders, two fold-out rear cupholders, and a flip-down storage tray on left side of dash for coins.
Top-of-the-line GLS models have leather bucket seats, an attractive two-tone colour scheme with darker colours on the dashtop to prevent glare, and tasteful woodgrain accents on the doors. GLS models also have a handy compass in the rearview mirror, and dual temperature controls – the driver can adjust his temperature by degrees while the passenger has a rotary warm/cold adjustment.
Like most modern sedans, visibility to the front and sides is good, but rear visibility is hampered by a high rear window and an invisible trunklid.
Standard safety features on the Intrigue include adjustable front head restraints and fixed rear head restraints, child safety rear door locks, next-generation dual airbags, PASSlock security system, and anti-lock brakes. GL and GLS models add standard remote keyless entry with panic button and front fog lights.
A pleasant surprise is a price drop for 1999. The base Intrigue, now called GX, has dropped from $27,998 to $27,199. The mid-level GL model has been reduced from $29,968 to $28,779. And the new GLS model is priced at $31,839. These prices may change when the new 3.5 liter engine is added to the GX and GL models.