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'99 Oldsmobile Alero Coupe

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Olds Alero

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 cost $20,875.

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

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