When the Oldsmobile Aurora was unveiled in May of '94, it faced a formidable mission: To revive the moribund image and slumping sales performance of the Olds division--General Motors' weakest-performing division. The knock on Olds at the time was that it was slow to react to changing tastes in luxury-line styling and sporty performance--the kind of sporty performance and styling offered by Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Infiniti. But the Aurora proved to be equal to its mission. Equipped with a modified version of the front-drive Northstar powertrain that gave more oomph to GM's new generation of Cadillacs--with maneuverability and responsiveness to match--the Aurora came out of the blocks with a full head of steam. When the 1995 model year tally was completed, Olds had sold 26,544 Auroras, and buyers were lining up for more. Adhering to the old axiom that warns against fixing something that ain't broke--er, isn't broken--Olds designers have made only minor changes for the '96 model--tweaking the climate control and safety alarm, and expanding the list of optional equipment. Not that you need options to make this car liveable. As the data panel shows, the Aurora's standard equipment list is long and sumptuous, and the basic car is seductive in virtually every respect. The Aurora comes with a base sticker price of $34,360. Our test model was equipped with two add-on options--a $995 sunroof and $395 Autobahn package, which includes P235/60R16 Michelin V-rated Michelin tires and a 3.71:1 axle ratio--an improvement over the standard Goodyear Eagle GA P235/60R-16 tires and the standard axle ratio of 3.48:1.