It looked great but was too little too late.
By the time the first-generation Oldsmobile Aurora hit the market in 1995, GM's premium brand was already in trouble. Whether officials knew this or not is a different story. Like every GM brand at the time, Oldsmobile had been reduced to little more than badge-engineered vehicles with higher price tags than their Chevy and Pontiac counterparts.
But beginning in the late 1980s, GM realized Oldsmobile was being neglected (sales numbers don't lie) and the decision was made to begin developing a premium sedan that looked unlike anything else at the time.
The first-generation Oldsmobile Aurora took styling inspiration from some of the brand's icons, such as the Toronado. The 1989 Tube Car concept, however, provided the best design preview of what Oldsmobile had in mind. Styling cues like full-width taillights, frameless windows, and a wraparound rear windshield all made production. The concept's suicide doors clearly did not.
Even though brand officials gave the final design the greenlight in mid-1989, production didn't get underway until 1994 following a two-year delay. When it finally did arrive, the Oldsmobile Aurora came powered by a version of Cadillac's Northstar 4.0-liter V8 with a total of 250 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. A four-speed automatic transmission directed power the front wheels.
Along with this advanced (for its time) powertrain, the Aurora came standard with a ton of cool features such as dual-zone climate control, six-speaker sound system, in-dash CD and cassette player, and eight-way power-adjustable front seats. Another high-tech feature was the dashboard-mounted onboard computer providing drivers with basic information such as updated gas consumption and the date. Hey, it was 1995 and this was state-of-the-art stuff. There were only a few options, among them a power moonroof, upgraded audio system, and heated front seats.
Despite everything Oldsmobile did to make the Aurora look great inside and out, it still rode on the same platform as the so-called "old man cars" like the Buick LeSabre and Park Avenue, and Oldsmobile 88 and 98.
The Aurora received regularly yearly updates throughout its production cycle, which ended in 1999. A second-generation Aurora debuted for 2001 but it wasn't anywhere near as cool or groundbreaking as its predecessor. By that time, Oldsmobile was in real trouble and was finally taken out of its misery in 2004. There's still a fair number of old first-gen Auroras out there, but we happened to find one for sale with just under 54,000 miles.
This 1997 Oldsmobile Aurora looks to be in relatively solid condition inside and out, though its leather seats do show some age. It's listed for just $3,999 at Central Jersey Auto Trading in Jackson, New Jersey. Sure, it's no first-generation Lexus LS, which debuted at around the same time and since achieved icon status, but the Oldsmobile Aurora certainly deserves a notable place in GM's history.
It was just sadly too little too late to help save the brand.