CC Capsule: 1999 Oldsmobile Intrigue – First, Admit You Have A Problem

(first posted 2/6/2012)   You had to be pretty optimistic to think this car was going to save Oldsmobile.

I remember reading numerous car magazine articles about the Intrigue when it was launched, and the common theme amongst them was the palpable sense of hope that this car (and also the ’97 Malibu) was signaling some kind of new commitment by Oldsmobile, and by extension, GM, toward making better cars.  (Sound familiar??)  There even seemed to be a whiff of hope that it signaled the entire domestic auto industry was about to get serious about building class-competitive cars.  I guess when a Toyonda Camcord had been so clearly better for such a long time, anything looks like it might help.

It looks helpful enough, doesn’t it?  The Intrigue is really not a bad looking car–that extra 10 minutes they spent making this warmed-over W-body pop really paid off.  Add in the evergreen 3800 engine, a shorter final drive, and GM’s better suspension bits and you had a pretty nice car.  The sawed-off Northstar 3.5 liter DOHC  “Shortstar” V6 was still a year away from launch, another case of taking a car out of the oven before it was done.  (But the good engine was coming!  It’ll transform the car!  Best power in its class and stuff, and isn’t it pretty?  Great lease rates, $0 due at signing and $14 a month for 109 months!!!  It’ll be different this time, honest!!!)

Well, this time wasn’t different enough.  I’m not going to bother to look up sales figures, but you seldom see the later years of this car, which ended after 2002.  Like so many GM cars, this one began life as a car that felt like it was already 4 years old; a nice, fully-equipped car that’s basically a good deal using a familiar formula with familiar pieces, but nothing special.

Like many others, I’ve often felt that Oldsmobile didn’t have to go away, and if only we could’ve made them wake up and see how they were hurting themselves, they’d snap out of their stupor and start building cars worth buying again.  When should we have done this, 1998?  1986? 1974?  The moment the 350 Diesel was conceived?  If we had done it when their slide would have been easiest to prevent, they would have laughed in our faces and partied on.  No, you can’t help some people (er, businesses.)  They have to want to change, and Oldsmobile didn’t.  RIP, old friend.