What's New for 2001
In the last model year before the long-awaited redesign, Oldsmobile adds a few goodies to distract us. Once a dealer-installed option, the OnStar communications system is now a factory-installed option. The Bravada's already comfortable seating is enhanced by new standard equipment such as an eight-way power passenger seat and memory control for the driver seat. A new option group includes the towing package, OnStar and white-letter tires. Previously available only with a package, the Platinum Edition (two-tone paint treatment) is now a stand-alone option. Those longing for a more understated green can now select Sage Green as an exterior color.
The Bravada is still making do with old Blazer bones -- you see, the Blazer was redesigned for the 1995 model year using the S10 pickup platform, and its siblings, the Bravada and the Jimmy, have borrowed from it ever since. Of course, the entire SUV trio received an extensive freshening inside and out in 1998, and the Bravada has always been allotted its own grille, headlamps and bumper trim -- and it has some original body cladding. But many of us automotive journalists have gotten a sneak preview of the new 2002 Bravada with its high-output inline six, and indeed, it will be a difficult wait until its release.
For now, we have the 2001 Bravada, which is laden with additional features to ride out its final year in its current form. As the luxury SUV of the family, the Bravada has always offered a large array of features -- so large, in fact, that you needn't tack on very many options to drive away in a very livable SUV. The option list includes such niceties as GM's OnStar communications system, a Bose sound system, a six-disc CD changer, satellite radio and climate controls for the steering wheel, heated seats and a power sunroof, just to name a few. The downside is that this may not be your best choice to go bounding down a rocky trail. In fact, Oldsmobile has always marketed the Bravada as a luxurious on-road SUV. Want an off-road package and two doors? Get a Blazer.
GM has continued to make improvements to the 4.3-liter Vortec V6 under the hood. New for 2001 is an on-road vapor recovery system that prevents gasoline vapor from escaping into the atmosphere. Cam bearings are manufactured from a new alloy to increase durability and, thus, the life expectancy of the engine. A more efficient starter motor and coolant sensor have been added, as well. Horsepower remains at 190, and despite sending a stout 250 foot-pounds of torque through the Bravada's four wheels at a low 2,800 rpm, we find the V6 not up to par with V8-equipped Jeeps and Fords. The Explorer-based Mercury Mountaineer also has all-wheel drive, like the Bravada, but can be had with V8 power.
The Oldsmobile's four-wheel disc brakes provide very good stopping ability, though we could do without the mushy feel to the brake pedal. Like its siblings, the Bravada loses points in handling because of its slow, numb steering.
The Bravada's leather-lined interior provides some of the most comfortable seats in an SUV, provided you're in the front chairs. Backseat occupants will find a short bench that is light on luxury cushioning; foot room is tight due to the low-mounted front seats. Fortunately, the rear seats fold down easily (thanks to ingenious folding headrests) to allow owners to get the most out of the cargo space. Late in the 2000 model year, Oldsmobile added an optional cargo management system, a tray with useful compartments that fits neatly in the cargo bay. The optional Bose sound system is outstanding. Controls are easy to see and use, though they still look and feel flimsy. Bravada's standard SmartTrak all-wheel-drive system and locking rear differential make it easy to get a grip in a variety of road conditions.
Improved seating and the addition of GM's AutoTrac electronic transfer case in the Chevy and GMC variants have diminished the appeal of the Olds' exclusive front seats and SmartTrak all-wheel-drive system. In fact, most of the standard equipment in the Bravada is also available in the Chevy or the GMC, with a result that may be less expensive than the Oldsmobile since you can select the options you want, instead of taking the entire package. Still, if you're considering the upscale TrailBlazer or Jimmy Diamond Edition, you will find the Bravada's pricing comparable. More importantly, you may find that other midsize luxury SUVs with more powerful engines and newer designs are more to your liking -- Nissan Pathfinder LE, Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited and Mercury Mountaineer come to mind. Or consider waiting for the larger, more refined 2002 Bravada with a 270-horsepower inline six.