2002 Oldsmobile Alero

By September 5, 2001
2002 Oldsmobile Alero

With sporty styling, an elegant interior, a smooth ride, and spirited performance and handling, the Oldsmobile Alero is one of the best of the mid-size domestic sedans.

For 2002, a new more fuel-efficient 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine is offered along with a smooth V6. Automatic transmissions are standard, but a five-speed manual is available for four-cylinder models.

A classy interior, a roomy back seat, and a sizeable trunk make the Alero comfortable and practical. Clean lines differentiate the Alero from the pack of relatively bland mid-size sedans. Sedan and coupe body styles are available to suit your lifestyle.

The Alero is stable at high speeds, whether on a lonely Interstate or going through fast, sweeping turns. Quick, precise steering makes it enjoyable on winding back roads. The optional V6 engine delivers good mid-range torque for quick passing maneuvers, combined with quick, positive shifting from the available automatic transmission. Best of all, the Alero is affordably priced.

Over the next several years, the more than 100-year-old Oldsmobile brand is being phased out of the General Motors portfolio. This shouldn’t be a big concern for buyers, however. GM says its dealerships will continue to honor all warranty claims and maintenance for Oldsmobiles.

Model Lineup

Oldsmobile Alero comes in two-door coupe and four-door sedan body styles. Each is available in three trim levels, GX, GL, and GLS. Sedan prices: GX ($17,210); GL ($18,620); GLS ($21,965). Coupe prices are nearly identical.

For 2002, a new four-cylinder engine comes standard on GX and GL models. Designed by GM and Lotus, the all-aluminum 2.2-liter dual overhead-cam engine delivers significantly improved fuel economy (3 mpg) over the previous four-cylinder engine. A 170-horsepower 3.4-liter V6 is optional on the GL ($655) and standard on the top-of-the-line GLS.

All Aleros come standard with a four-speed automatic transmission. However, a five-speed manual transmission is an option for GX and GL2 trim levels, giving the buyer a $785 credit by opting out of the automatic.

Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS comes standard along with traction control.

A Performance Suspension Package ($250) is available for GLS models that includes a sports suspension, high-performance tires. GLS models come standard with 16-inch alloy wheels.

The Alero sedan competes with the Mazda 626, Toyota Camry, Ford Taurus, Chrysler Sebring, Honda Accord, Volkswagen Jetta, and Nissan Altima. The Alero coupe competes with the Dodge Stratus, Honda Accord Coupe and Toyota Solara.

Walkaround

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. Enormous tail lamps are by far the Alero’s strongest design element; they 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.

For 2002, Tropic Teal and Polo Green have been added to the pallet, and a new 15-inch six-spoke alloy wheel is standard on the GL and optional on the GX.

Interior Features

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. Alero’s interior colors, textures, and shapes are tastefully done and fit and finish appeared excellent in our car.

Alero’s front bucket seats are supportive and 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.

For 2002, the console area was redesigned with a bigger cupholder, and storage capacity was increased for CDs.

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.

Driving Impressions

This is an enjoyable car, whether on a long trip or running around doing chores.

When driven hard, our GLS delivered good grip, more than we expected from such a high-volume family car. The P225/50R-16 Goodyear Eagle LS Touring tires that came on our car are part of it. The other part is that Oldsmobile’s engineers have optimized the suspension system 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 comes on the GLS delivers good mid-range torque. That means you’ve got good power for making passes on two-lane roads. This V6 is also clean enough to qualify for California’s stringent Low Emissions Vehicle rating, but with 170-horsepower on tap still makes for an entertaining driver.

The four-speed automatic transmission works well with the engine and offers smooth, positive shifts.

We haven’t tried out the Alero’s new five-speed manual transmission nor the new four-cylinder Ecotec engine, but we expect it to be a good combination. Getrag, a German manufacturer renowned for superb manual gearboxes, builds the gearbox, while Lotus and GM designed the new engine.

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.

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. 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 Line Overview
Model lineup:Coupe: GX ($17,210); GL ($18,620); GLS ($22,190);
Sedan: GX ($17,210); GL ($18,620); GLS ($21,965)
Engines:140-hp 2.2-liter dohc inline-4; 170-hp 3.4-liter V6
Transmissions:5-speed manual; 4-speed automatic
Safety equipment (standard):dual airbags, ABS, traction control, rear child seat anchors
Safety equipment (optional):N/A
Basic warranty:3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in:Lansing, Michigan
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSPR):Alero GLS Sedan ($21,965)
Standard equipment: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, automatic transmission, antilock brakes
Options as tested (MSPR):Suspension Package ($250); power sunroof ($700)
Destination charge:$575
Gas guzzler tax:N/A
Price as tested (MSPR):$23490
Layout:front-wheel drive
Engine:3.4-liter V6
Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):170 @ 4800
Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):200 @ 4000
Transmission:4-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:20/29 mpg
Wheelbase:107.0 in.
Length/width/height:186.7/70.1/54.5 in.
Track, f/r:59.1/59.3 in.
Turning circle:35.1 ft.
Seating Capacity:5
Head/hip/leg room, f:38.4/50.9/42.2 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r:37.0/51.5/35.5 in.
Cargo volume:14.6 cu. ft.
Payload:N/A
Towing capacity:1000 Lbs.
Suspension, f:Independent
Suspension, r:Independent
Ground clearance:5.0 in.
Curb weigth:3077 lbs.
Tires:P225/50R16
Brakes, f/r:disc/disc with ABS
Fuel capacity:15.0 gal.
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of September 5, 2001.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-442-6537 - www.oldsmobile.com

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