New & Used Oldsmobile Aurora: In Depth
1999 Oldsmobile AuroraEnlarge Photo
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The Oldsmobile Aurora was a large, front-wheel-drive luxury sedan, conceived with a rather daring, different design for its time, so as to create a new flagship model for GM's Oldsmobile line. It was positioned against models ranging from the Chrysler 300M and LHS to the Ford Taurus SHO—and extending outward to a number of import sport-sedan models.
Built on underpinnings derived from Cadillac's front-wheel-drive plattform of the 1980s and '90s, the Aurora was unlike anything that had been offered in the Oldsmobile stable at that time. With sales for the longtime best-selling Cutlass line on a downward trajectory, the brand looked to a radical revamp signaled by an all-new top-of-the-line sedan.
The original 1995 Aurora was a break from the Oldsmobile norm in that it had sleek new styling that didn't bear much of a likeness to other products from the brand. In keeping with that, it didn't have any actual Oldsmobile lettering on the outside.
All Aurora models for this first generation (1995-1999) were powered by a super-smooth 4.0-liter DOHC V-8 (a version of Cadillac's Northstar), making 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, with a four-speed automatic transmission. The Aurora road and handled better than virtually any other domestic-brand sedan of the era, with an absorbent but not wallowy ride and surprisingly responsive handling, and it could get to 60 mph in just under eight seconds.
The feature set was very strong, too, with dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, real burl walnut trim, memory seats, and a trip computer all included. Within these first-generation models, there were only a few brake and suspension upgrades that separated model years.
Without question, these first-gen models are the cars we'd select if you're looking to enjoy a 'vintage' Aurora—and perhaps the last great Oldsmobile.
The second-generation Aurora wasn't nearly as well-received as the first-generation car, for a number of reasons. One of those was that this era Aurora now shared a lot of parts (and switchgear) with other GM models of the time, so it no longer felt like the exclusive, almost Saturn-like effort of the first car. With other Olds models now gaining most of the Aurora's design cues, the Aurora simply didn't stand out as much, either.
These 2001-2003 Aurora models offered a choice between a new 210-horsepower 'Shortstar' V-6, or the same V-8 on which it was based. The transmission was carried over, and while GM boasted that the car had lost some weight, this new Aurora didn't drive as well either. In fact, we thought the much more affordable Oldsmobile Intrigue of the time drove just as well.
In the Aurora's final model year, 2003, the V-6 was dropped, leaving it back to the V-8 only. Sales for the final two model years were just a fraction of what they'd previously been, and the model was dropped with the brand.