New & Used Oldsmobile Alero: In Depth
1999 Oldsmobile AleroEnlarge Photo
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The Oldsmobile Alero is a family of compact sedans and coupes, sold from the 1999 through 2004 model years. The front-wheel-drive Alero was offered in four-cylinder and V-6 models, and while some might peg its styling as sporty in expression, it was quite comfort-oriented in execution. The Alero is closely related to the Pontiac Grand Am (and also the Chevrolet Malibu), and at the time it headed up against the Chrysler Sebring, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Volkswagen Passat, among others.
There's no doubt that the flagship Oldsmobile Aurora had some strong influences on the Alero's design—and it ended up looking more fluid and cohesive than its GM platform-mates. Starting with the curvier styling and low, smooth front-end design, the Alero had a sophisticated profile, with a more elongated roofline than many cars of its time in either coupe or sedan form.
Inside, while the Alero took after its Oldsmobile Intrigue and Oldsmobile Aurora siblings in design, it was somewhat deficient in the quality of cabin appointments—but general fit and finish was good. For the most part, these are agreeable cars, with good ride quality and a relatively quiet interior. Suspension tuning was a bit firmer than in Oldsmobiles of a decade earlier, striking a good compromise that would have made both the comfort set and those trading in import models happy. Safety features were about on par among vehicles of this time, although tne noteworthy blemish for the Alero, however, was the coupe's one-star federal side-impact rating for the driver—at a time when the grading was easier.
The base engine for the Alero (it was offered in GX, GL, and GLS models, with GLS models adding things like cruise control, cruise control, and six-speaker sound) was a 150-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder from 1999-2001, while a 140-hp, 2.2-liter Ecotec four was substituted in for 2002-2004. Despite its slightly lower power output, the Ecotec is a bit smoother and has proven more reliable—and in either case, the Alero works just fine with the base engine. A base five-speed Getrag manual gearbox was installed in just a few cars.
A 3.4-liter V-6 was the step-up engine, making 170 hp and 200 pound-feet of torque; while it moved the Alero quicker from stoplights, it was coarse in character for a V-6 and considerably thirstier.
Although the Alero was arguably the most successful Oldsmobile small car in decades—or perhaps, of all time—it was discontinued in 2004 with the phasing-out of the entire Oldsmobile brand.