The cars we loved.
The Aurora actually replaced the modern Toronado coupe in Old’s lineup as the company’s flagship car. The Aurora shared the Cadillac derived G platform with Buick’s Rivera. So much was riding on the Aurora, that Oldsmobile even created a new logo for the car and featured it in lue of Oldsmobile’s traditional rocket symbol. The design was innovative and unlike anything else Oldsmobile or GM had offered, save for a few Saturns. It actually looked like a big Saturn SL2, but far more elegant and sporty (many Oldsmobile designers defected to Saturn in the late 80’s). Other new Oldsmobiles like the Intrigue and Alero were influenced by the Aurora’s design. There was even talk that the division would change its name to Aurora in a effort to re-launch the brand.
That never happened, but the Aurora did wonders initially for Oldsmobile’s image and first year sales were good, despite the high price of admission. Part of the cars charm was its NorthStar derived 4.0 L V8. The DOHC engine produced 250 hp, making the Aurora a very competitive sports sedan. Safety was another high mark for the Aurora. Its crash standard rating was double the requirement for passenger cars. It was even said that during the cars development its unibody frame broke GM frame-crusher machine! All of this did not go unnoticed by the press, who repeatedly stated that the Aurora was one of the most refined and fun to drive Oldsmobiles in recent memory.
The second and final generation of the Aurora went on sale in 2000. Oldsmobile’s intent was to take the Aurora further upmarket by offering continuing to offer only the V8, but had decided to add a lower priced version with a V6 in an attempt to boost sales. The new car had a streamlined and more refined look (if not more conventional). There had been plans to create a successor to the Eighty-Eight called the Antares, but a few factors like Buicks decision to drop the Riviera and Oldsmobile’s pending financial difficulties forced the company to adopt the Antares design as the next Aurora.
The new 3.5 L V6 called the LX5 was derived from the V8 and produced 215 hp. The V8’s output was still at 250 hp. The new car, benefiting from a sleeker profile, reduced its drag coefficient from cd.32 to .31. No longer featuring wraparound tail lights, the new design had separated units that gave the car a more luxurious feel. The Aurora’s reputation for having a smooth ride with precise handling continued as enhancements to the fully independent suspension and brakes were made. Normally, a car as good as the Aurora should have sold well, because it certainly was very competitive. Unfortunately, when GM announced in 2000 that it would drop Oldsmobile due to declining sales and financial woes, it cast a gloom over the Oldsmobile brand for the remaining years of its existence. As production of all Oldsmobiles scaled down, the last Aurora came off the assembly line in June 2002. The last 500 cars were all a special color called Dark Cherry Metallic and featured special wheels and badging denoting that the car was one of the final 500.
The end of this sad story could be summed up as too little too late. Oldsmobile had made earlier attempts to re-brand itself, but the end results never produced quality so high or distinctive. Had this revival happened in the early 90’s, Oldsmobile might still be with us today.