Completely redesigned for the 2001 model year, the Oldsmobile Aurora is shorter in overall length but roomier inside. It now offers a standard 3.5 litre V6 engine as well as an optional 4.0 litre V8 engine. New for 2001 are side airbags and an automatic anti-skid system. Aurora V6 models start at $39,035 and V8 Auroras go for $45,575, a little less than the previous Aurora which was discontinued in 1999.
Smaller, lighter Aurora now offers both V6 and V8 engines
When it was introduced in 1994, the Oldsmobile Aurora was intended to change Oldsmobile’s staid, conservative image to a dynamic, import-oriented car company with more exciting, stylish automobiles. The 1994 Aurora, a sporty, V8-powered front-wheel-drive luxury sedan, was the first of this ‘new generation’, and it was targeted at luxury import buyers who might otherwise be driving a BMW 540i, Mercedes-Benz E430, Lexus LS400, or perhaps a Cadillac STS.
Since then, next-generation Oldsmobiles like the Alero and Intrigue have reinforced that modern image, but the Aurora flagship was quietly discontinued in 1999. After a year’s absence, it has re-emerged as a smaller luxury sedan aimed at a broader spectrum of the luxury car market. The new Aurora now offers a choice of V6 and V8 engines, and a new lower price.
Trimmer but roomier
Now in the ‘entry-luxury’ class ($35,000 to $50,000) rather than the ‘prestige luxury’ class (over $50,000), the 2001 Aurora is designed to appeal to younger, more affluent buyers and more women buyers. According to Norm Sawalla, Aurora program manager, the entry-level luxury segment is the fastest growing luxury car class in Canada and grew by 30% in 1999.
The 2001 Aurora is smaller and more agile than the previous model – overall length has been reduced by 155 mm (6.1 in.), and the wheelbase is 41 mm (1.6 in.) shorter. It’s also lighter: the V8 model is about 75 kg (165 lb.) lighter than the first Aurora and the new V6 model is 129 kg (285 lb.) lighter. Despite all this, the 2001 Aurora is actually roomier inside, with more headroom and legroom than the previous model.
The trunk is smaller by 1.5 cu. ft., however the trunklid opening is wider, and the liftover is lower to make loading and unloading larger items, such as golf clubs, easier.
The 1994 Aurora’s distinctive styling traits – the muscular fenders and ‘pinched’ sides, and wide narrow headlamps – have been carried over to the new model. The new Aurora adds unique lower air intakes in the front bumpers, larger, wrapover taillamps, and standard front and rear fog lamps.
3.5 litre V6 now standard
Oldsmobile’s 3.5 litre V6 engine, already available in the Intrigue, is now offered in the Aurora in addition to the 4.0 litre V8 engine. The 3.5 litre DOHC 24 valve V6 engine is based on the 4.0 litre V8 and offers 215 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 234 ft-lb. of torque at 4400 rpm. The revised 4.0 litre DOHC 32 valve V8 is offered with the same horsepower and torque ratings as the previous engine: 250 @ 5600 rpm and 260 ft-lb. at 4400 rpm.
Both engines have undergone improvements in efficiency to improve fuel consumption, reduced noise, and lower exhaust emissions. On the V8, this includes a new low-friction valvetrain, new pistons, and a reaction heated catalyst system, as well as a greater use of aluminum, magnesium and plastic. However, neither engine offers variable valve timing, a feature available in some of its competitors.
Both engines have a ‘limp-home’ mode, which allows the engine to run without coolant to get you to the safety of a service station.
A four-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment with both engines, but unlike some of its competitors, the Aurora doesn’t offers a manual shifting mode or a conventional manual transmission.
The Aurora’s attractive five-passenger interior is a very pleasant environment for comfortable, stress-free travelling. Luxury features like leather upholstery, heated seats, real burl walnut wood trim, automatic climate control, and a good AM/FM/cassette/single disc CD sound system are all standard, although a CD changer is optional. The fit and finish in this car is very good for a domestic luxury car.
The front bucket seats are very comfortable and include 8-way power adjustment, two-level heaters, and new standard side airbags built into the seats. The front three-point seatbelts are also integrated into the seats – they move with the seats when adjusted, and are more comfortable to wear.
The centre console has a glare-free matte grey finish and is oriented towards the driver – it has large knobs and buttons which are very easy to operate. A trip computer offers useful information such as the day, date, and time, instant fuel economy and average fuel economy. The standard automatic climate control has easy-to-operate round dials, and there’s a temperature reading for inside and outside of the car. V8 models offer separate temperature controls for driver and passenger.
A leather-covered floor shift lever falls easily to hand, and looks very attractive with its oval, chrome-ringed border set against burl walnut.
The round instruments, including a tachometer, have subtle chrome rings too, and are easy to read. Like many European luxury cars, the Aurora’s headlight switch is on the left stalk (rather than on the dash) and the wipers are on the right stalk. V8 models offer standard moisture-sensitive automatic wipers which increase speed depending on how hard it is raining! I found this feature rather irritating, because of its unpredictability.
The Aurora’s ignition key is on the dashboard to the right of the steering wheel where it is easier to see than conventional column-mounted ignitions. Remote keyless entry is standard, and a personalization feature allows functions such as the radio and heater to be programmed for each individual driver.
The steering wheel spokes includes redundant buttons for fan speed, temperature setting, radio volume, Seek, and program functions. Cruise control is operated by a separate small stalk on the right of the steering wheel. All the door-mounted power window and power mirror buttons are backlit so you can find them at night.
Between the driver and passenger seats is a dual-level armrest/storage bin, and a couple of flip-out cupholders.
The Aurora’s roomy rear bench seat will seat three people, and there is a centre fold-down armrest with a covered storage bin and two pull-out cupholders. However, when folded up, the centre armrest protrudes enough to make it uncomfortable for the centre rear passenger. A pass-through behind the centre rear armrest is great for skis and ski poles, but like most luxury cars, the Aurora doesn’t offer fold-down rear seatbacks.
The Aurora has four outboard three-point seatbelts, but the centre rear passenger has a lapbelt only.
I found the 2001 Aurora to be a very quiet, comfortable, classy automobile. My test car, a V6 model, was slightly noisier than a V8 model I tested earlier, but neither of them could be considered noisy. Acceleration with the V6 engine seemed almost as good as the V8 engine from a standing start, but the V8 has the edge in power and smoothness at higher revs. Both engines are great highway cruisers: at a steady 100 km/h, the docile V6 engine does only 1900 rpm in 4th gear. Note: V6 engines use Regular fuel, but V8 engines use Premium gas. I found the standard 4-speed automatic transmission in my test car to be a very smooth shifter, well matched to the V6 engine.
The Aurora is built on the same front-wheel-drive platform as the Cadillac Seville, Pontiac Bonneville and Buick LeSabre, and offers a considerably stiffer body than the previous Aurora. With a fully independent suspension (front MacPherson struts and rear semi-trailing arms), a self-levelling rear suspension, and standard P225/60 HR-16 inch tires (P235/55 HR-17 inch on V8 models), the Aurora soaks up road undulations and bumps with ease, and glides along the highway with very little wind noise or engine noise to spoil the ride.
Handling is surprisingly good: body roll is minimal, and dive and pitch when braking and accelerating are not excessive. Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are standard equipment. But as a mid-sized, front-wheel-drive car weighing 1670 kg, it feels somewhat heavy when pushed to its limits. I found the steering feel to be heavier than I liked at certain speeds. Aurora’s have GM’s Magnasteer speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion power steering which uses a magnetic field to increase and decrease steering effort.
Outward visibility is generally quite good, but the rear deck is a bit high when backing up. I didn’t like the driver’s sun visor: when flipped down, it’s too low and cannot be easily adjusted.
Auroras are available with traction control – when the front wheels slip, engine power is reduced and the front brakes are applied momentarily to regain traction. In addition, new for 2001 is Precision Control System, an anti-skid system that works automatically if the driver loses control of the car on a slippery surface. By selective braking at individual wheels, PCS helps the car regain stability and traction without driver intervention. Traction control and PCS are standard on the V8 Aurora and optional on the V6 model.
Base price now $39,035
Aurora V6 models now start at $39,035 while V8 Auroras are priced at $45,575. Previous Aurora models started at about $46,000.
Standard equipment on the V6 model includes a four-speed automatic transmission, front and side airbags, automatic climate control with built-in air filters, AM/FM/auto-reverse cassette/single disc CD player with six speakers, leather upholstery, walnut interior trim, front and rear foglamps, 16 inch tires mounted on alloy wheels, power windows and door locks with remote keyless entry, low tire-pressure monitor, trip computer, and cruise control.
Aurora V8 models add the following features: the 250 horsepower 4.0 litre V8 engine, a heavy-duty 4-speed automatic transmission, 17 inch tires and polished aluminum wheels, 8-way power passenger seat, steering wheel controls, rear armrest with cupholders, compass, electrochromic rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, personalization features, low tire pressure monitor, traction control and Precision Control System.
Auroras come with a 3 year/60,000 km standard warranty, not quite as good as the 4 years/80,000 km warranty on the previous Aurora.
Competitors for the Aurora include the Lincoln LS, Acura TL, Chrysler 300M, Lexus ES300, BMW 3-Series, Infiniti I30 and Nissan Maxima.
|2001 Oldsmobile Aurora V6|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger mid-sized sedan|
|Layout||transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive|
|Engine||3.5 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves|
|Horsepower||215 hp @ 5500 rpm|
|Torque||230 ft-lb. @ 4400 rpm|
|Tires||P225/60HR16 Goodyear Eagle RSA all-season|
|Curb weight||1670 kg (3682 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2850 mm (112.2 in.)|
|Length||5062 mm (199.3. in.)|
|Width||1852 mm ( 72.9 in.)|
|Height||1440 mm ( 56.7 in.)|
|Trunk space||422 litres (14.9 cu. ft.)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|