SAN FRANCISCO: Rumors around the auto industry said GM might drop the Oldsmobile
brand. Looking at the Alero you might think it has already happened. I could not find an
"Oldsmobile" badge anywhere and the new logo is definitely non-descript.
However, the all-new for-1999 Alero is worthy of carrying the Oldsmobile name into the
division's second 100 years. Olds celebrated its 100th birthday in 1998 and is America's
oldest automobile manufacturer.
As Oldsmobile's lowest priced
model, it is much better than the Achieva it replaces. The Achieva wasn't that bad a car,
if you like rental cars. Indeed, in its last year of production, they were sold only to
rental car companies. The Alero comes as 4-door sedans and 2-door coupes each with three
trim levels: entry level GX, mid-range GL and top-line GLS.
Like most of its competition,
styling is quite handsome, but not distinctive. This is another car that you have to look
at the emblems to tell the marque, but even then you won't see "Oldsmobile." The
Alero shares its platform with the Pontiac Grand Am, but the styling is more conservative.
The Grand Am is aimed more at the sports sedan crowd.
Two engines, a four-cylinder
and a V-6 are available, though not on all models. The 2.4-liter, four-cylinder,
double-overhead camshaft (DOHC) engine produces 150-horsepower at 5600 and 155 lb-ft of
torque at 4400 rpm. The 3.4-liter, overhead valve (OHV) V-6 is rated at 170 horsepower at
4800 rpm and 200 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. Only a four-speed electronically controlled
automatic transmission is offered.
Technical features are up to
par with the competition and in some cases even surpass them. All Aleros come with
front-wheel-drive, four-wheel disc brakes, ABS, a four-wheel independent suspension system
and traction control. The Tire Inflation Monitoring System that warns when there is a
12-psi difference in tire pressure is standard on the GL and GLS. For RV fans, the Alero
is designed to be towed with all wheels on the ground.
Even the entry GX models come
with air conditioning, power steering, tilt steering wheel, AM/FM stereo, electric trunk
release, intermittent windshield wiper, rear window defogger, theft deterrent system,
programmable door locks and battery rundown protection. Move up to the GL and you also get
variable effort power steering, power windows and mirrors,cruise control and cassette
player. The top-of-the-line GLS features a leather interior, 6-way power seat, V-6 engine,
remote keyless entry, high-performance 16-inch tires on alloy wheels and front fog lights.
Prices are very competitive. The entry level GX models both are priced at $16,325, while
the mid-range GL costs from $18,220 to $18,655 and the top-line GLS coupe and sedan both
The Alero GLS four-door sedan
I drove had excellent handling without any compromise in ride quality and was definitely
fun to drive. Aleros have a very rigid structure and a "big car" 107-inch
wheelbase. The power steering was precise and the brake pedal felt confidently firm.The
V-6 engine seemed to loaf along almost silently, not surprising since the engine is also
used in the GM minivans.
While front seat occupants
ride in comfort, because of the styling those in the rear might feel closed in. The center
of the rear seat is rock-hard, making this really a four-passenger car. The sedan's rear
windows do not go all the way down, and the coupe's rear windows do not roll down at all.
The large trunk, 14.6 cubic ft, does have a somewhat high lift over. The split folding
rear seat adds to the cargo carrying flexibility. The analog instrumentation and controls
are excellent. The user-friendly radio and climate control has substantial feeling
knobs.The parking brake lever is located between the seats and the ignition switch is on
the dashboard, the proper location for both!
This is definitely, "Not
Your Father's Oldsmobile." Olds plans to build 130,000 Aleros annually from its plant
in Lansing, MI. Even with stiff competition, they should not have any trouble selling them
because they represent an excellent value for the money. By Bill Siuru © AutoWire.Net
- San Francisco
Oldsmobile Home Page
Column Name: "Not
Your Father's Oldsmobile"
Topic: '99 Oldsmobile Alero
Writer: Bill Siuru
Byline: AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Word Count: 676
Photo Caption: '99 Oldsmobile Alero Coupe
Photo Credit: Oldsmobile Media
Series #: 1999 - 4