Used 1996 Oldsmobile Aurora Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1996

Daytime running lights are added, and looking through the backlight won't make your eyes water from distortions anymore. We knew it was only a matter of time before some goofball decided chrome wheels and a gold package would look great on the otherwise classy Aurora. The new Oldsmobile? What's that? When do we get the fake convertible roof, guys?

Vehicle overview

We really 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 well under $40,000 fully loaded. Sounds tasty, doesn't it?

While slick overall, it looks like a 1995 Saturn SL that underwent minor reconstructive surgery. It weighs two tons. The wheels look like Aunt Polly's holiday condiment dishes. It barely avoids the dreaded gas-guzzler tax.

We can't argue that the Aurora hasn't proven to be a hit for Oldsmobile. We also can't argue that the Aurora hasn't been instrumental in jump starting the transformation of Oldsmobile's brand identity from fancy Chevy to sophisticated, upscale import-fighter. Witness the styling changes to the 1996 LSS. It gains an Aurora-like character this year, and Oldsmobile has introduced a modern new logo for all models.

For 1996, chrome alloy wheels are available, and for those who feel that a car actually looks better with fake gold badging plastered all over it, a gold graphics package has been placed on the options list. Daytime running lamps have been added, and the rear window loses the distortion that plagued the 1995 model. A new panic button has been added to Aurora's keyless entry system, and the seat and mirrors move to one of two preset positions when the doors are unlocked. Programmable door locks are new, and perimeter lighting is activated when the doors are unlocked in the dark. Battery rundown protection keeps the car from going dead unexpectedly, and a recirculation mode has been added to the climate control system.

So, what is the competition for the Aurora? The Buick Park Avenue Ultra and Pontiac Bonneville SSE are worthy alternatives, but aren't as sophisticated. Acura's new TL hovers around the Aurora price tag, as do the Infiniti I30 and Lexus ES300. These Japanese near luxury sedans aren't nearly as stylish as the Aurora. Chrysler's LHS is nice, but lacking in oomph under the hood. The Mercedes C-Class and BMW 325i are substantially smaller than the Aurora. So is the new Audi A4. However, the bigger Audi A6 could be worth consideration. So could Oldsmobile's own LSS, which is slightly less expensive and larger inside than the Aurora. It also comes equipped with a powerful supercharged V6 engine that motivates the LSS' lighter curb weight with alacrity. We have trouble liking the Aurora, mainly because the LSS is equal in every way, except for the distinctive sheetmetal.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.