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Four model years ago, the Aurora signaled great new things for Oldsmobile. It was touted as the wave of the future, a peek at the beginning stages of a revolution that would reshape the brand name. Since then, the Aurora's exterior styling has been incorporated into other models in the Oldsmobile line.
Oldsmobile has refined the Aurora's suspension. A race-prepared version of the Aurora V8 engine is used in the Indy Racing League cars that compete in the Indianapolis 500.
The Aurora remains as appealing as ever, even though competition has gotten much more intense. Aurora shoppers can look to the E-Class Mercedes-Benz, Lexus ES300 and Lincoln Continental for comparison.
One of Aurora's class-leading elements is its sophisticated V8 engine. This four-camshaft 32-valve light-alloy powerplant is refined and efficient, capable of traveling more than 20 miles for every gallon of premium-grade fuel it consumed during our drive.
Performance is what sets the Aurora apart from its competitors. The 250-horsepower engine delivers plenty of scoot on demand. It produces an authoritative musical exhaust note under hard acceleration that will please performance-car buyers.
Its four-speed automatic transmission shifts as smoothly as the best of them. Electronic traction control comes standard and enhances control of this powerful front-wheel-drive car in slippery conditions.
Aurora's balance between a smooth ride and precise handling is exemplary, allowing the driver to enjoy some enthusiastic behind-the-wheel activity without upsetting the passengers. It is more agile than its two-ton curb weight and extreme front weight bias might suggest. The Magnasteer electronic power steering system is responsive yet reasonably light, and the large four-wheel disc brakes did their job well throughout some hard test usage.
The Autobahn Package installed on the test car is as valuable on twisty roads as it is on long highway cruises. A taller final-drive ratio improves fuel economy at cruising speeds and increases the top speed. Academic, perhaps, in terms of performance we can't really use, but lower engine rpm on the freeway makes for more relaxed travel. The real benefit is a set of high-performance tires that accompany the package. These V-speed-rated tires complement the Aurora's suspension when driving quickly through corners with almost imperceptible increases in tread noise and ride harshness. Frankly, we wouldn't order the Aurora without this bargain-priced ($398) option.
Overall, the Aurora scores high marks for its civilized road manners. A stiff body structure and plenty of well-placed sound insulation make it very quiet and the suspension absorbs small bumps and ripples in the road effortlessly. The Aurora behaves exactly the way its designers intended. It should please anyone who buys this car.
Though we were fortunate enough not to need it, a patented limp-home mode keeps the Aurora rolling even after total loss of all engine coolant. Four of the engine's eight cylinders continue working while the other four rest to keep internal temperatures below the point that would result in engine damage.
We've always liked the Aurora, and the passage of time hasn't changed our minds. It was a daring step for Oldsmobile when new and is still a class leader. Assembled and finished with uncommon care, well equipped and stylish, it is, as always, one of the better buys among sub-$40,000 performance sedans.
While the Lincoln Continental offers more horsepower and is slightly quicker in a straight line, the Aurora provides superior driving pleasure and clean, contemporary looks.
An ever-increasing number of customers have found Aurora ownership a satisfying experience. When all factors are weighed, the Aurora's enduring appeal could easily add you to that number.