2001 Oldsmobile Aurora
2001 Oldsmobile Aurora. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an aurora as a “luminous phenomenon that consists of light appearing in the upper atmosphere.” General Motors’ Oldsmobile division chose to define it in their own way in 1995 with an all-new flagship model slotting in above the 98 Regency Elite and bringing V8 power back to the Olds line-up for the first time since the full-size Custom Cruiser station wagon of 1990. Of course, the Aurora took a much different approach to the formula, offering that V8 in a sleek front-wheel-drive sedan instead of a boxy rear-wheel-drive wagon.

The Aurora was Oldsmobile’s near-luxury import fighter, and on paper it looked good: the 4.0-litre V8 put out 250 horsepower through a standard four-speed automatic transmission. For 1995, the optional powerplant was a supercharged version of GM’s venerable 3.8-litre V6. Not surprisingly, that option disappeared in 1996. Braking was handled by four-wheel-discs with standard ABS; traction control was also standard.

Little changed for the rest of the first-generation’s production run, which lasted until 1999. There was no 2000 model, but 2001 brought a redesigned Aurora with two trim levels and two engines: a 215-horsepower, 3.5-litre V6 and the same 4.0-litre V8 that powered the first-generation car. The engines and the prices of the cars they were installed in were the main differences between the two trims. Both got the same safety equipment:

1995 Oldsmobile Aurora
1995 Oldsmobile Aurora. Click image to enlarge

ABS and traction control were again standard, and side airbags became a standard feature too. Where all first-generation cars had 16-inch alloy wheels, only V6 versions of the second-generation car used 16-inchers, while V8 cars got 17-inchers. For 2003, the V6 engine was dropped from the line-up.

Natural Resources Canada gave first-generation Auroras fuel consumption ratings of about 14 L/100 km in the city and about 8.5 L/100 km on the highway. Those ratings didn’t change much for second-generation cars, as V6 models used a little more than 13 L/100 km in the city and just over 8 L/100 km on the highway. A V8 Aurora used little more fuel, with ratings of about 13.5 L/100 km in the city and 8.5 L/100 km on the highway.

2001 Oldsmobile Aurora
2001 Oldsmobile Aurora. Click image to enlarge

In U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, first generation Auroras earned three stars each for driver and front passenger protection in front impacts, but side impact tests weren’t done. Second-generation cars earned double four stars in front impacts and three stars and four stars respectively for front and rear-seat occupant protection in side impacts.

Ask Consumer Reports and the magazine will tell you to avoid first-generation Auroras and the litany of problems that come with them. CR cites engines, electrical components and air conditioning as the main problems areas. Newer Auroras fare better, but the suspension and electrical systems still sound alarm bells.

2001 Oldsmobile Aurora
2001 Oldsmobile Aurora. Click image to enlarge

Real-world opinions seem to bear that out, with many owners and members of car-related web forums reporting a love-hate relationship: they love how the cars drive, but hate having to make expensive repairs to these well-equipped but complicated cars. The Aurora’s not alone in this, though – it’s not uncommon for more complicated cars to suffer from reliability troubles as they age.

Prices reflect typical domestic car resale values: a 2003 Aurora 4.0 is worth just under $24,000 according to Canadian Red Book. That’s barely half of its M.S.R.P. of $46,590. A 1999 model is worth $10,100.

Like any domestic car, those low prices can make it easy for anyone to get behind the wheel of a near-luxury car like the Aurora, but along with those low prices come a buyer-beware situation. Don’t cross these cars off your list, but be sure to get any prospective purchase checked out by a trusted mechanic and be prepared to foot the bill for expensive, out-of-warranty repairs to the Aurora’s many electronic components. That said, the Aurora makes a good, low-priced used alternative to many comparable imports whose higher resale values mean they will cost much more to buy but can be just as expensive to maintain.

Online resources

www.oldsmobileforums.com – As its web address suggests, this site is a good place to start for any Oldsmobile owners looking for information on their car. The site is still in Beta format, but has just over 2,000 members. The forums are divided into sections for different Oldsmobile models, including a section dedicated to the Intrigue. Membership is free.


Transport Canada Recall Number: 2000054; Units affected: 3,922

1995: Certain vehicles may exhibit a condition in which the rear shoulder belt(s) do not retract due to the retractor return spring becoming disengaged from the spool shaft. In a crash, there may be slack in the shoulder belt and the occupant may receive more severe injuries. Correction: Dealers are to inspect both rear shoulder belt retractors for correct function and install a spring cover retaining strap to each retractor. If a retractor does not function correctly, it will be replaced.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1995195; Units affected: 615

1996: These vehicles do not comply with C.M.V.S.S. 114 – locking system and 208 – seat belt installations. The malfunction alarm, lighting and locking (mall) module may contain a damaged capacitor. If the capacitor is damaged, the “key in the ignition” warning chime and the driver seat belt unbuckled warning chime and indicator lamp may be inoperable. In addition, other chime reminder functions, interior lighting controls, and power door locking functions are also affected. Correction: dealers will inspect and, if required, replace the mall module.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1999161; Units affected: 775

1999: Certain vehicles do not comply with the requirements of CMVSS 208 – Seat Belt Installations. The air bag warning labels may be in English only, rather than in English and French as required by the standard. Correction: Dealers will install correct bilingual air bag labels in affected vehicles.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2000104; Units affected: 588

2001: Certain vehicles may have internal fluid leaks in the brake hydraulic control unit. When the rear brake proportioning, antilock brake, traction control, or stability control feature is activated in some driving situations, the feature may not perform as designed and the driver could lose vehicle control. Correction: ABS hydraulic modulator unit will be inspected and replaced if necessary.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003165; Units affected: 3,184

2002-2003: On certain vehicles, the fuel tank pressure sensor is unusually susceptible to malfunctions causing excessive vacuum to be applied during self-diagnostic testing. Fuel system components can be damaged and fuel can leak from the vehicle when it is refueled. Possible symptoms of this condition are illumination of the Service Engine Soon light, poor driveability, increase noise from the fuel tank area, and inaccurate fuel gauge readings. If there is an ignition source present, a fire could result. Correction: Dealer will replace the fuel tank pressure sensor.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2002151; Units affected: 14,654

2002-2003: Certain vehicles may have a driver’s side airbag inflator that could fracture at a weld during a deployment. Pieces of the inflator could strike and injure vehicle occupants and the airbag cushion would not inflate fully, reducing the capacity of the bag to protect the driver. Correction: Dealers are to inspect and if necessary replace the driver side airbag module assembly.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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