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It's the status quo again in Auroraville, except this year Olds has added two more hydraulic engine mounts (for a total of three) to better isolate engine vibrations. Other than that, a few new colors have been added (Galaxy Silver, Copper Nightmist and Dark Bronzemist).
We want to like the Aurora. On paper, it seems to have everything in place to whip the competition. Strong performance, a Northstar-derived V8 engine, standard antilock brakes and traction control, svelte sheetmetal and prices that top out just over $40,000 fully loaded. Sounds great, doesn't it?
While it is a slick overall package, the Aurora could be confused with an overgrown 1995 Saturn SL that underwent minor reconstructive surgery. It weighs two tons. Its wheels still look like Aunt Polly's holiday condiment dishes. And it barely avoids the dreaded gas-guzzler tax.
Yes, the Aurora has done its job setting a new image for Oldsmobile as the division's flagship model. And yes, the Aurora has been selling to expectations. (Thanks to minor improvements with each model year, it is actually on a rising sales curve.) But neither the luxury sedan market nor the enthusiast world has embraced the Aurora the way Oldsmobile had hoped. Oh, from a design and engineering standpoint, the Aurora certainly moved the needle at Olds. In fact, steering, braking and suspension tweaks over the last few years have made the car better. But from a sales standpoint, it is becoming obvious that luxury car buyers are not looking to Oldsmobile in great numbers to meet their needs.
The Aurora has lots of little luxury goodies. The right exterior mirror dips down while reversing to help the driver see the curb or other obstructions to the rear of the car. The rearview mirror has an integrated compass. A three-channel garage door opener is standard, and the Bose sound system provides an in-dash CD player. Every one that comes off the assembly line is fully loaded; there are few options.
So, what is the Aurora's competition? Olds sees the Mercedes-Benz E320, Lexus ES300 and the Lincoln Continental at its primary targets. General Motors itself positions the Buick Park Avenue Ultra and Pontiac Bonneville SSE in this segment, but those cars don't carry Aurora's cool sophistication and, hence, aren't worthy alternatives. Chrysler's LHS is nice, but lacks the oomph of a V8. The Audi A6 could be worth consideration, given its new range of powerful engines. Cars like the BMW 528i are substantially more expensive than the Aurora when comparably equipped.
Yes, while the Aurora blends enough luxury and performance into a stylish, competitively priced near-luxury sedan that can go toe-to-toe with the likes of Lincoln, we just can't shake the feeling that this package doesn't have the kind of absolutely stellar credentials needed to battle the higher-priced imports.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.