2000 Oldsmobile Alero Reviews and Ratings

Sedan 4D GL

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2000 Oldsmobile Alero
Jim McCraw

Introduction
Introduced just last year, Oldsmobile's Alero offers practicality and an enjoyable driving experience. Good mid-range power, crisp shifting and quick steering combined with a roomy back seat, a handsome interior with a nice leather option and a big trunk provide an attractive alternative to the other cars in its class.

The Alero follows in the footsteps of its big brother, the Aurora. You may remember the Aurora. It's that swoopy performance sedan with sea-creature styling that debuted in 1994 and led GM's stagnant Oldsmobile brand into the rosy automotive future. That future includes vehicle platforms that are shared among many divisions yet offer definitive style that can compete in the global arena. (Aurora has been redesigned for 2001.)

It is with that spirit that the Alero integrates a host of lessons learned from the Japanese into a distinctive American car. By combining a reasonable level of refinement with a long list of features and comforts, the Alero sedan stands up as a worthy, high-value competitor to the Japanese and American cars in its class. This Alero is a vast improvement over its predecessor, the Achieva, and Oldsmobile expects to sell about 150,000 Aleros this year, making it the company's largest volume offering. Model Lineup
Aiming to grab a large slice of the small-car market, Alero has plenty of models to go around. It comes as two-door coupe and four-door sedan. Each is available in three trim levels: GX, GL and GLS. Prices for sedans and coupes are the same: GX ($15,675); GL ($17,650); GLS ($21,365).

A 150-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is standard on GX and GL, while a 170-horsepower 3.4-liter V6 is optional on the GL (for $18,875) and standard on the top-of-the-line GLS. New for 2000 is a 5-speed manual transmission, standard on the base-model GX and optional on the GL and GLS.

Options include a Performance Suspension Package ($250 on GLS, $785 on GL) that includes Goodyear RS-A P225/50R-16 tires on silver alloy wheels.

The Alero Sedan competes with the Ford Contour, Chrysler Cirrus, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. The Alero Coupe competes with the Dodge Avenger, Chrysler Sebring Coupe, Honda Accord Coupe and Toyota Solara. Walkaround
The Alero shares a strong family resemblance with Oldsmobile's bigger Intrigue and Aurora sedans. Examples of where that can be clearly seen are in the squashed-oval horizontal headlights and in the artful treatment around the fog lamps and front bumper. By far the strongest design element is the enormous tail lamps, which look like they are draped around the corners of the car and are instantly recognizable from quite a distance.

Oldsmobile's Alero shares its chassis with Pontiac's Grand Am. The common Alero/Grand Am platform provides a rigid body structure that allowed more precise suspension development, which in turn provides a decent ride and competent handling. Tubular door beams and strategically placed foam blocks help guard against side-impact injuries.

Don't be fooled by the Oldsmobile marketing department's Active Response System. It's really just a zoomy name for a list of features and standard equipment increasingly common on cars of all makes and sizes, such four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, traction control, four-wheel independent suspension, and hydraulic engine mounts. Our GLS sedan test car came with the performance suspension package, a moonroof and an upgraded sound system. Interior
The Aurora's influence on the Alero carries through to the expensive-looking interior. All the individual pieces fit together in a way that is natural without being ordinary, scientific without being flashy. The instruments, located under a deep, curved hood that keeps the sun off the faces, are large and legible. Audio controls are positioned in the center of the dash above the less-often-used rotary switches for the climate controls.

Looks can be deceiving. Like many GM seats, the Alero's front buckets don't look supportive, but they do in fact hold you in place well when cornering. Interior space is comparable to other cars in this class, and the Alero accommodates large drivers with ease. We especially liked the seat-mounted three-point seat belts, which move fore and aft with the seat. They seem more comfortable around the shoulder than traditional belts mounted to the door frames.

Rear seats are surprisingly roomy, offering lots of headroom for taller passengers. All models now get child seat anchors in the package shelf. The trunk is big; at 14.6 cubic feet, it is significantly larger than the Honda Accord's 13.6 cubic feet of cargo space. The rear seats fold down for more space and are split for carrying one rear passenger and longer items at the same time. A low liftover height makes it easier to lift groceries and other cargo over the rear bumper.

Alero's interior colors, textures, and shapes are redolent of every Japanese car, showing just how far GM has come from the cheap plastic of its earlier products. Fit and finish were excellent in our test car. Driving Impressions
The Alero is a blast to drive, a real treat when compared to its dreadful forebear, the Achieva.

Our GLS offered more grip than we would have expected from such a high-volume family car. It's easy to credit the GLS model's larger P225/50R-16 Goodyear Eagle LS Touring tires mounted on wider alloy wheels. However, Oldsmobile's engineers have optimized bushings, springs, strut damping, and front and rear anti-roll bars to deliver the ride and handling demanded by import-oriented customers. The front and rear suspension struts attach to the car through intermediate subframes, which allow the springs to keep the tires in firm contact with the road without transmitting a lot of harshness to occupants. An ultra-stiff floor pan allows for more compliant suspension travel in the interest of smoothness.

The large tires on the GLS impart a somewhat heavy feel to the steering, which, like most cars from GM, has a slight dead spot at straight-ahead. But overall the steering feels quick and precise. This steering response makes the driver feel connected to the road. The Alero is taut, yet remarkably free of rattles over potholes. A bit of road noise and vibration dampened our enthusiasm slightly.

The 3.4-liter V6 that is standard on GLS delivers good mid-range torque. That means you've got good power for making passes on two-lane roads. This V6 is clean enough to qualify for California's stringent Low Emissions Vehicle rating thanks to a revised intake manifold, new fuel injectors and higher fuel line pressure. The engine also gets a new camshaft and cam drive, plus new pistons pins and rings, as GM continues to extract more performance from a basic engine design that is 20 years old.

The four-speed automatic transmission works well with the engine and offers smooth, positive shifts. This is the same transmission as in the Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan, but it has been recalibrated for quicker downshifting, a welcome improvement.

We haven't tried out the 2000 Alero's new manual five-speed transmission, but it is built by Getrag, a German manufacturer renowned for its excellent manual gearboxes; a new plant in Italy produces the transaxle. This setup should make the standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine an attractive alternative to the more expensive V6.

All Aleros come standard with anti-lock brakes and electronic traction control. ABS allows the driver to maintain steering control of the car during emergency braking maneuvers. Traction control reduces wheelspin under hard acceleration.

Aluminum brake calipers are 20 percent lighter than cast-iron designs, which contributes to better handling and a more controlled ride (by reducing unsprung weight). The traction control system uses ABS wheel-speed sensors that detect when the front wheels are spinning; torque is then reduced by upshifting the transmission, retarding ignition timing and, if necessary, cutting fuel to the injectors. Oldsmobile says this system has proven to be more effective than other traction control systems that use both power reduction and brake application to maintain control. A switch allows the driver to turn the system off if necessary, such as if the car is stuck in a snow bank. Summary
Given its sophistication and features balanced against its attractive price, the Alero is clearly Oldsmobile's best attempt yet at making a small car to compete with the benchmark cars from Japan. A new 5-speed manual gearbox should add to the sports appeal of the GL models. As a solid entry-level choice that no longer feels like a cheap rental unit, the Alero is quite appealing and should not be overlooked.

Model as tested
Alero GLS Sedan ($21,365)
Basic Warranty
3 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in
Lansing, Michigan
Destination charge
535
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
15675
Price as tested
22950
Options as tested
Performance suspension ($250); power moonroof ($650); 100-watt Dynamic Bass Audio system ($150)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
GX ($15,675); GL ($17,650); GLS ($21,365)
Safety equipment (standard)
Dual airbags, ABS, traction control, rear child seat anchors
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
3.4-liter V6
Transmissions
4-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
Air conditioning, passive anti-theft system, cruise control, power steering, power brakes, power mirrors, tinted glass, remote locking/security system, tilt wheel, alloy wheels, AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo, rear defrost

Engine & Transmission
Engine
3.4-liter V6
Drivetrain type
front engine, front-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
170 @ 4800
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
22/31
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc
Suspension, front
Independent
Tires
P225/50R16
Suspension, rear
Independent

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
38.4/50.9/42.2
Head/hip/leg room, rear
37.0/51.5/35.5

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
14.6
Wheelbase
107.0
Length/width/height
186.7/70.1/54.5
Turning circle
35.1
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
1000
Track, front/rear
59.1/59.3
Ground clearance
5.0
Curb weight
3077


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