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PASADENA, California — Cruising down the boulevard in a big American luxury sedan imparts a unique feeling of comfort for riders due to the smooth ride quality, but this particular car — a sporty rendition of the traditional full-size Oldsmobile Eighty Eight sedan — also packs a surprise beneath the hood. Tap its throttle and you'll feel a supercharged kick.
The sport-tuned LSS edition, with optional mechanical supercharger mounted on the 3.8-liter V-6, kicks output up to 240 hp and sets up a swift charger that's also rather thrifty on fuel.
The torque generated from this powerplant climbs dramatically through the supercharging process, but there's also more strength available earlier through the bottom gears, which translates to quicker action.
What's the point? Attaching a supercharger to a relatively small engine becomes an easy and economical way to supply more power to a car without messing up the fuel economy figures.
It's a simple mechanical idea. A blower driven by the engine forces more air into each of the engine's cylinders to enrich the mix of fuel and oxygen needed for combustion. This boost of air in turn generates more power with each cycle of ignition without requiring more fuel to do so.
Ultimately, it all relates to economy, for both price of entry and operation, and that's a prime asset of this traditional big Oldsmobile sedan. Yet current editions of Eighty Eight and LSS represent the end of an Oldsmobile line that traces back for 50 years.
The series commenced in 1949, when the fabled Rocket engine — the first high-compression V-8 for America — was paired with a midsize 80-series sedan. The 88 nameplate signified an 80 sedan coupled to the eight-cylinder Rocket engine. Following an intense advertising campaign that encouraged America to "make a date with the Rocket 88," the car quickly became Oldsmobile's best seller.
By the 1980s, Eighty Eight, like other platforms at General Motors, switched from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel-drive mode and received a more efficient V-6 powertrain. In 1992, the name changed to Eighty Eight Royale. The current designs actually trace to a 1992 remake, which stretched the length by 4 inches and also added width and height to carve out more cabin space and a larger trunk.