1998 Oldsmobile Intrigue Reviews and Ratings

Sedan 4D

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1998 Oldsmobile Intrigue
Tony Swan

Like all car makers these days, General Motors is working to create chassis

that can support a wide variety of products, and thus reduce the number

of platforms in its manufacturing programs.

From the manufacturer's point of view, the obvious payoff is reduced

cost. But what about you?

Judging by the new Olds Intrigue, we think you'll do just fine. This

1998 replacement for the Cutlass Supreme does have a lot in common with

a number of other GM mid-size entries--the Buick Century and Regal, Pontiac

Grand Prix and Chevy Lumina, for example--but it has its own character

and, in fact, may be one of the best interpretations of GM's new W-car


It's a little more smooth and compliant than the Grand Prix on rough

surfaces, it's more agile than the Century and it has enough punch to keep

pace with the Japanese V6 sedans Olds hopes to challenge--notably, the

Nissan Maxima and Toyota Camry. And, as you'd expect with its higher purchase

price, it's far more luxurious than the Lumina. Walkaround
This is a handsome interpretation of the W-Car theme. There's a lot

of Aurora in the Intrigue's quietly muscular exterior, and the twin openings

below the reflector headlamps lend extra character to the front end.

The exterior is devoid of brightwork and badging, the 16-inch wheels

fill the wheelwells and the car's proportions disguise its substantial

size: 7.1 inches longer and 3.5 inches wider than the new Camry.

Although the front-drive chassis is an evolutionary development of the

Cutlass Supreme GM-10 platform, it's been reworked from end to end to improve

rigidity, a new--and significant--engineering priority at GM. The Intrigue

also seems to indicate that GM is learning how to increase rigidity without

a corresponding increase in bulk. Its chassis registers 22.4 Hz on the

bending scale, and nearly as high in torsional rigidity.

According to Olds, that's stiffer than either the Nissan Maxima--the

basic development target--or the new Toyota Camry, and on a par with the

Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. At 3455 pounds, the Intrigue is no wraith,

and it's substantially heavier than its Japanese rivals, but, significantly,

doesn't feel as heavy as it is.

Beyond durability and noise isolation issues, chassis rigidity is the

cornerstone of good vehicle dynamics. Since the suspension components don't

have to compensate for chassis flex, it's easier to achieve the desired

blend of ride and handling traits.

In the Intrigue, that blend seems to be right on the money, and distinctly

European in character--firm, but devoid of harshness. The Intrigue's all-strut

suspension is typically American in design, and it yields a handling trait

(progressive understeer) that's universal among U.S. mainstream front-drive

sedans. Understeer describes a vehicle's resistance to turning into a corner,

and it invariably increases as a function of speed. It's favored by handling

engineers because it's wholly predictable, and easy for a driver to correct:

you simply slow down.

But Olds has added some subtle tweaks that lend an extra measure of

precision and pleasure to the Intrigue driving experience. The stuts, for

example, have four-stage valving with integrated rebound springs and fade-resistant

synthetic oil. As a result, the Intrigue's suspension is able to keep pace

with pavement oscillations, which in turn keeps the tires in constant contact

with the road.

Steering--GM's new magnetic variable assist rack and pinion system--is

another pleasant surprise. Olds has added a splined intermediate shaft

that eliminates the subtle play associated with u-joints, yielding good

on-center feel and better-than-average precision.

Brakes are disc all-around, with bigger (by 25 mm) front rotors in our

test car's optional Autobahn package, which also includes H-rated 225/60

tires and a top speed potential of 128 mph, versus 107 for the basic Intrigue.

Like most GM cars, ABS is standard equipment, and pedal feel is firmer

than previous examples of GM antilock systems. Interior
The Intrigue is big by mid-size standards, and there's corresponding

roominess inside. Front leg room, augmented by extended seat travel, is

abundant, and there's plenty of space for two adults in the rear, though

the center position might not be quite as comfortable for a third. Rear

seat space is disguised by the long seat cushions, which provide exceptional

thigh support, but the Intrigue beats the Camry for rear seat legroom by

1.4 inches.

Trunk space is vast--plenty of room for golf bags, or mass quantitites

of luggage--and it's easy to get at.

Driver sightlines from the nicely contoured--and nicely adjustable--front

bucket seat are excellent, thanks to plenty of glass and the low height

of the instrument cowling. The analog tachometer and speedometer are separated

by an illuminated PRNDL repeater for the transmission, and the steering

wheel hub has auxiliary switches for the cruise control and, on our test

car, sound system, though not as attractively integrated as in the Aurora.

Like the new Chevy Malibu and Olds Cutlass, the Intrigue's ignition

switch is on the dashboard, eliminating the neck-craning and fumbling associated

with column locks. Similarly, the location of the emergency flasher and

main cruise control switches, stacked to the right of the instrument nacelle,

is ideal--easy to find, easy to reach.

The inside color scheme of our test car--a subdued contrast of taupe

and cream, miraculously devoid of woodgrain--looked like something from

the cover of an interior design catalogue, and was very tasty indeed.

Intrigues come well equipped. The basic car includes air conditioning,

AM/FM/cassette audio, and power windows, mirrors and locks for a base price

of about $22,000. GL models, which will start at about $23,500, include

leather, dual automatic climate controls and even more audio--a Delco/Bose

AM/FM/cassette system with an in-dash CD player.

Although Olds had not announced final pricing at press time, with the

Autobahn package our test car added up to about $24,500. With a sunroof

and other extras, the line will probably top out at about $26,000. Driving Impressions
The sum of all the chassis and suspension work is handling that measures

up very well against the development targets. The Intrigue has a bit more

grip than a Camry LE or Maxima GXE, stops a bit shorter and changes directions

without drama.

Inevitably, quick transitions produce a fair amount of body roll, and

with the Intrigue's relatively high curb weight, that entails more weight

transfer than you'll encounter in a Camry or Maxima. But these motions

are nicely controlled; leave the dramamine at home.

Power is supplied by GM's ubiquitous 3800 Series II V6 (a new 3.5-liter

dohc 24-valve V6 is due next year), allied with a four-speed Hydramatic

automatic. The supercharged version of this engine isn't offered, but unless

you're in a real hurry, the normally aspirated edition gets the job done

very nicely, and without much noise.

The pushrod 3800 V6 lacks the top end zeal of overhead cam designs--the

Camry V6 takes the prize in this department--but with its extra displacement

the 3800 generates torque that's close to tugboat territory, and torque

is what most of us employ in most of our driving.

There's enough of it here to hustle the Intrigue to 60 mph a wink quicker

than the Maxima and Camry automatics, and, like virtually all GM automatics,

shift quality is close to seamless. Summary
Olds intends to market the Intrigue GL as a "performance sedan,"

and we think that's a bit of a stretch. While it's reasonably agile for

a car in its size class, the Intrigue's strengths are quiet comfort with

a taste of elegance in a subdued but stylish package.

As a descriptor, Oldsmobile's "one great car" development

philsophy is closer to the mark. In fact, we'd say it's right on target.

Model as tested
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Kansas City, MO
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
Autobahn package, leather seats, premium AM/FM/CD/cassette audio, chromed aluminum alloy wheels

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Safety equipment (standard)
ABS, dual airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
3.8-liter ohv V6
4-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
(GL) Automatic climate control a/cAM/FM/cassette audio, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, cruise control, intermittent wipers, rear defrost, power leather seats, aluminum alloy wheels

Engine & Transmission
3.8-liter ohv V6
Drivetrain type
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
195 @ 5200
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

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