After flying high during the 1970s and 1980s, sales for GM’s Oldsmobile Division had dropped alarmingly by the early 1990s. Its cars seemed stodgy and outdated, technology-packed Japanese luxury machines were stealing customers, and the syllable “Old” leading off the brand’s name just served to remind car shoppers that the days of Dr. Oldsmobile’s Youngmobiles were long past. The response to these problems was clear: build a big, slick-looking luxury sedan with a modern DOHC engine and plenty of electronic gadgetry, then delete the word “Oldsmobile” from virtually everywhere on the car (it appeared only on the radio faceplate). This was the Aurora, which debuted for the 1995 model year. After taking a break for 2000, the Aurora returned in 2001 as a much-changed (and not nearly as bold) second-generation version; that’s what we’ve got for today’s Junkyard Gem.
In order to de-emphasize the first-glance connection with the Oldsmobile brand, the Aurora got this stylized-A badge instead of the Olds Rocket emblem that dated back to the early 1960s. Starting in 1997, non-Aurora Oldsmobiles got a new rocket-inspired logo that borrowed quite a bit from the Aurora glyph. This car got the “Gold Package” for an extra 175 bucks (297 bucks now), so the emblems are gold-colored. The Oldsmobile name went onto the decklids of these second-generation 2001-2003 Auroras, though marketing materials still referred to the car as “Aurora by Oldsmobile.”
All these attempts to push down the average age of Oldsmobile buyers while pushing away all those Acuras and Infinitis became less meaningful in late 2000, however, because that was when General Motors announced that the Oldsmobile brand would be phased out over the following several years. The last Oldsmobiles were 2004 models, though the Aurora only held out until 2003.
The interior of the second-generation was arguably of a lower quality than the first, with a lot more GM parts bin items spread about.
Still, 2001 ended up being the Aurora’s best sales year, with better than 50,000 sold.
This is the top-of-the-line 4.0 model, equipped with a de-bored version of Cadillac’s DOHC Northstar V8 engine and rated at 250 horsepower and 260 pound-feet. Unlike the first generation, the second-generation Aurora was available with a 3.5-liter DOHC V6 engine that was essentially three-fourths of a Northstar; that engine made 215 hp and 234 lb-ft.
The only transmission available was a four-speed automatic.
The 2001-2003 Auroras were based on the same G-body platform as their predecessors (as well as the Pontiac Bonneville, Buick LeSabre and Cadillac DeVille), but they were a bit smaller and lighter than the first-generation cars.
The upholstery was leather, of course, and offered traditional Oldsmobilic cushiness. The MSRP on this car was $34,794, or about $58,976 in 2023 dollars.
This one appears to be loaded with just about every possible option, including the $395 White Diamond paint and $1,095 power sunroof ($670 and $1,856 now), so the final tally probably pushed it into Cadillac Eldorado price territory.
This is the optional Bose Acoustimass audio system, which played CDs and cassettes. The price: $500 ($848 after inflation).
Mike Maroone still sells cars in Colorado Springs, and that’s the city in which this car’s final parking space can be found today.
You get inside it. It gets inside you.
This dealership promotional video is full of the standard clichés about “aggressiveness” and “crispness.”
It can’t escape praise, but it can outmaneuver it.