Used 1996 Oldsmobile Bravada Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1996

Nice truck, but how many luxury SUVs do we really need? Only a few things about the Bravada differentiate it from the Chevy Blazer and GMC Jimmy: the seats, front styling, trim -- and the price tag.

Vehicle overview

After a one-year hiatus, the Oldsmobile Bravada returns for the 1996 model year, based on the same platform that serves as the basis for the Chevrolet Blazer and the GMC Jimmy. The Bravada comes loaded with every conceivable luxury option; appropriate since this is Oldsmobile's entry into the quickly expanding luxury sport-ute arena. This market niche is quickly filling to capacity, with luxury SUV's due from Acura, Lexus, Mercury, Lincoln and even corporate sibling GMC during the next two years.

Is the Bravada worth the price of admission over the Blazer and the Jimmy? Well, the front seats are exclusive to Oldsmobile, and the Smart-Trak all-wheel drive system is standard on the Olds ( it's optional on the Chevy and GMC). 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.

Just five options are available on the new 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, and a gold-trim package. 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. Inside, the same unhappy ergonomics found in its Chevy and GMC brethren greet Bravada passengers. A 4.3-liter Vortec V6 engine that makes 190 horsepower propels the Bravada's four wheels. A strange choice when the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited and the Ford Explorer XLT can be equipped with a V8 engine. The Explorer-based 1997 Mercury Mountaineer will also have all-wheel drive, like the Bravada, along with standard V8 power.

Oldsmobile says they plan to produce 20,000 Bravadas annually, beginning in November of 1995. We think this is an optimistic figure. The old Bravada, which competed in a market with few luxury-oriented SUV's, never sold very well. We doubt this new one, introduced at a time when luxury sport utilities are all the rage, will find many takers. It's not that the 1996 Bravada is a bad truck. Oldsmobile has come up with quite an enticing package here. It's just that 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 in like baseball cards for the more rugged, outdoorsy, SUV image.

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.