The Car Connection Oldsmobile Cutlass Overview
Whether you're referring to the Cutlass Supreme, the Cutlass Ciera, the Cutlass Calais, or just the Cutlass, they're all part of a formerly very popular lineup of sedans, coupes, wagons, and even in one era, convertibles. For some of the 1970s and 1980s, the Cutlass line was the best-selling car in the U.S.; and the Cutlass Ciera was the best-selling Oldsmobile model from 1982 through 1996.
While the older rear-wheel-drive Cutlass, Cutlass Supreme, and Cutlass Calais models of the 1960s through 1980s were staples for American families (and the rear-wheel-drive models were sold until 1988), with six-cylinder and V-8 engines and rear-wheel drive, it's the front-wheel drive Cutlass Ciera that you're more likely to find on used-car lots—for the sheer volume originally sold.
The original '82 Ciera was built on what was at the time called a new platform, but it was essentially a stretched version of GM's maligned X-body platform (the Chevy Citation and Olds Omega among them), and packed a range of four-cylinder and V-6 engines—and even a diesel V-6 for a short time.
The Ciera's lethargic 'Iron Duke' (badged Tech IV) four-cylinder engines and three-speed automatic transmission, together, are a penalty box like few others, and while ride comfort was good for these models, handling was not at all confidence-inspiring. One other positive is that their upright profile and front-wheel-drive layout afforded a very roomy interior. These models were marginally improved through the years, but they weren't completely refreshed or significantly redesigned until 1997.
For a short time from 1988 through 1991, Oldsmobile also renamed the smaller Calais coupe and sedan the Cutlass Calais.
Separately, GM introduced a new front-wheel-drive version of the Cutlass Supreme in 1988, built on the same platform as the Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick Regal, and Chevrolet Impala. These models were offered as sedans, coupes, and convertibles, and were very well equipped. Most Cutlass Supremes of this era were powered by 3.1- or 3.4-liter V-6 engines, with power up to 215 hp.
Oldsmobile sold a successor to both the Supreme and the Ciera, this time called merely Cutlass, from 1997 through 1999. This car was built on a revised platform shared with the Chevrolet Malibu of the time. It was offered as a simple, comfort-oriented model, only in base and GLS versions, and the 155-horsepower, 3.1-liter V-6 provided confident acceleration and a smooth, comfortable driving experience.
The Cutlass was discontinued after 1999, when the Alero and Intrigue together replaced it.