Used 1997 Oldsmobile Aurora Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

Larger front brakes, an in-dash CD player for the Bose sound system, a tilt-down right-hand exterior mirror for backing assistance, an integrated rearview mirror compass and a three-channel garage door opener are added this year.

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 just over $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 an image-maker for Oldsmobile. We also can't argue that the Aurora hasn't been selling to expectations, despite continuous improvement with each model year. From a design and engineering standpoint, the Aurora is lighting the way toward a new kind of Oldsmobile. From a sales standpoint, it is becoming obvious that luxury car buyers do not look to Oldsmobile to meet their needs

For 1997, Aurora gains few changes. The right exterior mirror now dips down while reversing to help the driver see the curb or other obstructions to the rear of the car. The rearview mirror gains an integrated compass, while larger front brakes help bring the car to a stop more assuredly. A 3-channel garage door opener is added, and outside door handles have improved operation this year. Seatbelts feature end release buckles for easier detachment, and the Bose sound system gains an in-dash CD player. Newly optional is a 12-disc changer, but only if you avoid the Bose stereo.

So, what is the competition for the Aurora? The Buick Park Avenue Ultra and Pontiac Bonneville SSE are worthy alternatives, but aren't as coolly sophisticated. Acura's 3.2TL hovers around the Aurora price tag, as do the Infiniti J30 and Lexus ES300, but these Japanese near luxury sedans aren't nearly as stylish as the Aurora. Chrysler's LHS is nice, but lacking oomph under the hood. Lincoln's Continental offers a wonderful V8 powertrain, but dull styling and too many electronic gizmos. The Audi A6 could be worth consideration, but is severely underpowered. The Mercedes E320 and BMW 528i are substantially more expensive than the Aurora when comparably equipped, and lack V8 power.

Yes, it would seem that the Aurora blends the perfect mix of luxury and performance into a highly styled, competitively priced near-luxury sedan. We just can't shake the feeling that this good package could have been much better, particularly in comparison to the slightly more expensive and absolutely stellar BMW 528i.

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.