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The Oldsmobile Aurora: When Oldsmobile Tried to Stand Out

In the early 1990s, Oldsmobile had become a complete afterthought in the minds of luxury car buyers — the kind of high-end vehicle your parents drove, perhaps, or a car you’d buy only if you knew someone who worked at General Motors and therefore got a substantial discount. For everyone else, just about any luxury car brand was better.

Well aware of this reputation and acutely aware of Oldsmobile’s rapidly diminishing sales, General Motors decided to do something about it. And so, they dreamed up the Aurora, the luxury sedan that would save Oldsmobile. See the Oldsmobile Aurora models for sale near you

Work on the Aurora got started in the late 1980s, and Oldsmobile previewed the design with what has to be the worst-named concept car in history: the 1989 Oldsmobile Tube Car. I mention the Tube Car not only because of its stupid name, but also because its design really did foreshadow what was coming to the Aurora.

The Aurora went into production 6 years later, using many design features borrowed from the Tube Car — save for, of course, the usual concept-car items that don’t usually reach a dealership lot, like suicide doors and pillarless windows. There was a wraparound rear window, an aerodynamic profile and an overall design that really didn’t have anything in common with anything else General Motors was making at the time. Under the hood was an impressive 250-horsepower 4.0-liter V8, and perhaps the Aurora’s most distinctive quality is that it didn’t carry Oldsmobile badges anywhere on its exterior. This wasn’t a normal Oldsmobile — this was something different.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out like Oldsmobile had hoped. Although sales were initially promising, they dropped off rapidly once the first buyers got their cars. More importantly, the Aurora was just a little too late: The rest of the Oldsmobile lineup was still relatively mediocre, and General Motors wasn’t about to spend big money revamping it.

While the original Aurora was supposed to be redesigned in 2000 using a platform shared with Buick, Buick bailed on the project — leaving Oldsmobile to go it alone in 2001 with a new Aurora that used an indistinct, uninspiring design. Two years later, the Oldsmobile brand was dead.

Indeed, the Aurora was Oldsmobile’s last attempt at something special, and its limited success may well have been Oldsmobile’s final death knell. Today, we remember the Aurora as an odd-looking 1990s car — and as the last decent attempt to save one of GM’s many historic brands. Find an Oldsmobile Aurora for sale

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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15 COMMENTS

  1. My g-ma purchased a 2001 Aurora back in ‘04 around 32K miles. 12 years later that beauty would be my first car. I was in love. It had several mechanical issues, but overall the car was comfortable, quiet, and FAST as hell for a luxury sedan that weighed the same as a full sized SUV. The interior was impeccable, and driver oriented. I mean for a car that was revamped and introduced 18 years ago compared to every automobile marquee domestic and foreign, this car stood out from all the other mass produced bland vehicles that GM has spit out repeatedly.

  2. Aurora made me fall in love with Oldsmobile.  I was a 13 year old kid, and that came out, and it became my goal to get my Dad (who had an Olds 98) to trade up.  He never did, and I’m still bitter about it.  
    I tried to buy one later myself, but I either couldn’t afford one, or by the time I could, it’s because they’d gotten too old, and all I could find were abused.  With a unique engine, I wasn’t about to try that out.  
    But I will always like that car.  

  3. My mom had a ’97 Aurora. I have very fond memories of that car. I was a teenager of driving age. The car was quick! It had all the bells and whistles and was the most luxurious car my parents ever owned. I use to take it out, on dates, out cruising with my friends, and street racing other kids in their parents cars with some success. In short, I loved that car. 

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