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Front styling is revised, and new body-side cladding alters the Bravada's profile. Inside, dual second-generation airbags are housed in a new dashboard. A heated driver-side exterior mirror is newly standard, while heated front seats have been added to the options roster. Battery rundown protection and a theft-deterrent system are new standard features.
After a one-year hiatus, the Oldsmobile Bravada returned for the 1996 model year, based on the same platform that serves as the basis for the Chevrolet Blazer and the GMC Jimmy. We said we doubted Oldsmobile would find buyers for the Bravada, partly because of myriad choices in the luxo-SUV market, and partly because we didn't think the Bravada was worth the price of admission over similarly equipped Chevy Blazers and GMC Jimmys. Sales didn't meet expectations that first year, but climbed slightly during 1997. Still, Oldsmobile would like to be moving twice as many Bravadas.
They ought to be able to, because the Bravada is a great truck. No tacky fender flares and no dopey two-tone paint schemes here. The interior is swathed in leather, and offers one of the most comfortable driver's seats we've encountered in an SUV. The sound system is outstanding. Controls are easy to see and use, though they look and feel somewhat cheap. Bravada's Smart-Trak all-wheel drive system makes off-roading carefree. Last year, the split rear tailgate was replaced by a liftgate with separately opening rear glass. Best of all, this is one speedy, fun-to-drive truck that can easily swallow a full-size dryer. Truly, the Bravada is what a luxury sport-utility is all about.
The Bravada comes loaded with nearly every conceivable luxury option; appropriate, since this is Oldsmobile's entry into the expanding luxury sport-ute arena. This market niche is quickly filling to capacity, with new luxury SUV's from Lincoln and Lexus reaching showrooms recently.
Is the Bravada worth the price of admission over the Blazer and the Jimmy? Well, the front seats and the Smart-Trak all-wheel drive system are exclusive to the Olds, but otherwise, not much differentiates the Bravada from its corporate twins. In fact, most of the standard equipment on the Bravada is available on the Chevy or the GMC, with an end result that is less expensive than the Oldsmobile.
Few options are available on the Bravada. Buyers can order a heavy-duty 5000-pound towing package, an engine block heater, a CD player that replaces the cassette deck, white-letter tires, a gold-trim package and a power tilt and slide sunroof. New this year are heated seats, but only with leather upholstery. Cloth seats are a no-charge replacement for the standard leather hides. Olds says the Bravada has a "two-fold mission: keep the driver moving in the face of adverse weather or road conditions and deliver all occupants in comfort and style to the destination of their choice."
Styling is pretty much identical to the Chevy Blazer and GMC Jimmy. The Bravada gets a unique grille and headlamp treatment, bumper trim and body cladding. The overall effect distances the Olds far enough away from its corporate siblings to make it look and feel unique in a world populated by look-alike Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ford Explorers. A 4.3-liter Vortec V6 engine that makes 190 horsepower propels the Bravada's four wheels. Though strong, we find the V6 a strange choice when the Jeep and the Ford can be equipped with a V8 engine. The Explorer-based Mercury Mountaineer also can be equipped with all-wheel drive, like the Bravada, along with available V8 power. Four-wheel disc brakes provide very good stopping ability, though we could do without the mushy brake pedal.
The original Bravada, which competed in a market populated by few luxury-oriented SUV's, never sold very well. It was based on ancient technology and buyers saw through the first-generation Bravada quicker than they did the ill-fated Cadillac Cimarron. Oldsmobile has come up with quite an enticing package with the second-generation Bravada. However, the luxury market is becoming saturated with very good trucks, which will inevitably push demand for any particular model down. We also think that aging, affluent Boomers are going to tire of climbing in and out of these things in time, depositing their aching legs and backs into the seats of the Cadillacs, BMWs and Acuras that they're currently trading like baseball cards for the more rugged, outdoorsy SUV image.
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.