(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.
Its real 4easy to see why the Commodore was so popular other than the 3.8V6 it shared nothing with this
I bought a used ’99 in 2003. Other than the normal GM issues on older cars like window motors and electrical stuff, my son and his wife are still driving this car 12 years later with almost 200k on the clock. I’m convinced the last thing to fall apart will be the 3800, which still doesnt use a drop of oil, and God only knows when the last time that was changed..
Out of all the GM divisions that have been axed, I miss Oldsmobile the most.
Me four. I do have a thing for first gen Saturns too
I know what you mean! I got almost 1/2 a million miles out of a pair of S Series Saturns! I drove them until the wheels fell off of them! 🙂
I agree with your feelings, guys.
Owned a 98 Intrigue, nice car…but my friends 4 year old Camry was not as good looking as my white on grey leather GL with chrome wheels inside or out but was other worldly in terms of driving dynamics NHV. We lived in metro Detroit with moon crater roads and his car would just soak in the bumps that would make my Intrigue shudder. Bought a 99 Aurora and at 2years old with less than 30k on the odometer my future wife’s then new 2002 Corolla took Metro Detroit’s roads way better than my Aurora which again would shudder over major road imperfections. My avatar should at this point should be a Toyota sign as I have driven on since late 2002. But I miss Olds owned a 98, a Cutlass S, Supreme and Brougham, a Toronado, the above.
Olds is badly missed by me, all of my friends, my folks and many many customers at our dealership!
I remember when the multi line dealership I worked for sold it’s Old’s franchise to the local Cadillac dealership. It was only about a year later GM announced Oldsmobile was going away. Smart move, and I’m sure a very unhappy Cadillac dealership over that deal.
The W body was the last kick at the sedan market for GM. At the time, their competition, namely Toyota and Honda, were turning out some really nice products with slick as all get out, multi-cam V-6 motors and really nice, soft touch interiors. They were good cars and people were willing to pay a premium for them.
We have to remember that the W body came from a GM where senior managers were proud that they had never driven a “foreign” car.
I am not much of a GM fan, (usually the case for anyone who has had the misfortune of working for them) and these really were not bad cars. It is just that their competition was so much better. Problem was by 1997 adequate was not good enough.
“We have to remember that the W body came from a GM where senior managers were proud that they had never driven a “foreign” car.”
I’ve heard this story many times, and I have to wonder at the mindset of people in management who were proud of their ignorance of their primary competition. In what school of management did this theory prevail, or was it just personal xenophobia on their part? How are you going to beat a competitor’s product if you don’t know what it’s like or what makes people prefer it? It’d be like target shooting while blindfolded.
For GM’s sake, I hope that attitude is long extinct.
An all too common trait of mediocre top-down organizations, where demonstrating blind “loyalty” is more important than knowledge.
I’ll be honest and say I really loved these cars and IIRC the Intrigue was the best reviewed of all the W-bodys with many of the car mags declaring that of the W-body quadruplets the Oldsmobile was the one to get.
One thing I have noticed is that here in my corner of the world their are more Intrigues still on the road than Regals and Luminas of that vintage. (The Grand Prix is still champ of that generation for survival but please the Pontiac must have outsold the Buick and the Olds 2 to 1.)
The biggest stinker out of this was the 3.5 or “Shortnorth” engine. Apparently it was not as troublesome as the Northstar but the program still went no where. The engine was supposed to spawn an new generation of V6’s based off the architecture.
I would say all of the survivors are 1998-99 3800 Cars. You’ll still see those carry a (slight) price premium over the Shortstar cars. One, it was a horrible engine (Loud and torqueless off idle) and apparently, given it’s very Olds Intrigue/Aurora 3.5 specific, parts are hard to find.
Step 1: pick up an Intrigue with a bad “Shortstar”
Step 2: transplant engine and trans from a wrecked Impala SS/Grand Prix GXP
Step 3: figure out how to wipe the smile off your face… 😛
Pictured. Make mine black without a spoiler.
That’s my boy!
I have to disagree on the Shortstar engines. I have an ’01 Intrigue with that engine and find that it suits the car better than the 3800 (comparing it to a ’98 I once rented). It doesn’t wake up until later in the power band, true, but it also doesn’t run out of breath at 4500 rpm like a 3800. Parts are definitely rarer, given the two-car only application, but I haven’t had any more difficulty sourcing them than I did for the LeSabre I had before it.
Reliability-wise, they may not run until the apocalypse like a 3800 will, but they also don’t have any glaring problems early in life like pretty much all of GM’s pushrod V6s did at the time (intake manifold plenums and gaskets, almost to a one). With 162k miles on mine, it still returns over 30 mpg on the highway. Reliability of the rest of the car has been a mixed bag, but I can’t fault the power train.
I had two, both with 150K miles on the clock and they still ran like new with no ticks, knocks or oil usage. My friend had a 2000 with this motor and had no issues with 120k. I still think a 3800 would overall last longer but think the 3.5 if properly cared for was hardly a bad engine.
I know what mean, sir! I recently bought a first generation 1998 base model Intrigue. It still needs a little work, but I keep telling folks that when it is said and done that I will have about 2 grand invested in it and then she’ll run “forever!”
So after taking the time to slam the Intrigue, you dont offer an alternative? What would have been an “Oldsmobile worth buying” in your opinion?
An Eighty Eight LSS with an interior that doesn’t warp, decompose, or self-destruct would be a start.
It isn’t that I hate Oldsmobile…think of my criticism as that of a parent that’s disgusted with their underachieving, unserious kid.
Well that’s constructive. Rather than lashing out at the critic shouldn’t you’re irritation be directed at the company that sunk the brand through their own neglect and incompetence?
I always liked Olds, right up until the end, but the ’80s cars were built like crap and the ’90s cars quickly fell apart from the inside out. GM chased away its loyal customers through repeated abuse and it didn’t have to be that way.
Unfortunately, the remaining GM apologists still insist on blaming import buyers and the ever-elusive “Japan, Inc” for the company’s troubles. Oldsmobile ads in the early ’90s told buyers to “Demand better;” perhaps if GM loyalists actually had instead of constantly defending crap like the J-car, things would be different today.
The Toyota Avalon was the best traditional Oldsmobile of the 1990s.
It’s too bad the rest of the car(s) didn’t match the reliability and longevity of the 3800
Odd considering how many 1998-2002 Intrigues I still see on the road (more than any Camry or Accord).
…and the next decade or two as well.
And now the Crown Vic. “How are the mighty fallen!”
I remember those pathetic ’80s “Japan Inc.” excuses. Does “Germany Inc.” therefore explain the fall from grace of American luxury brands? Nowadays, Greek spendthrifts could use that as a handy palliative for their troubles.
My grandma had both an avalon and a cutlass ciera and she liked the cutlass more.
Our friend Ash, a former doctor, owned a 2000 Camry XLE V6 which seemed to always have warped brake rotors. We were installing a third set of brakes with 60K miles in my driveway and took my Intrigue to get the parts. He liked the car so much he went out and bought a 2002 Grand Prix GXP supercharged with every option in early 2003 and still has it to this day. The Camry rode and handled like an old LeSabre with worn out struts and soft tires in comparison. These were his words not ours.
Carmine, as far as Oldsmobiles worth buying, I would have taken a Ninety Eight or one of the last Eighty Eights, especially a ’97-’98 Regency with the Ninety Eight’s interior. Yesterday I posted pics to the Cohort of a ’94-’96 Ninety Eight that was in perfect shape, including the driver’s seat. It still had the Oldsmobile Edge sticker in the window. Ice blue metallic, navy blue leather and wire wheel covers. It was sharp!
Like some of you, I really liked the look of the Intrigue when it first came out. (Intriguing?) And the ones with the 3800 were not bad cars. But as someone else said, average was not going to cut it. Even against the Taurus and Intrepid, this car was only average, and it was definitely sub-par against Toyotas and Hondas.
I hate to say it, but this probably would have sold better as a Cutlass.
I was going to say the same thing, what really hurt this car was the “Oldsmobile-we’re sorry” divisional self hate that was going on, combined with GM’s name suicide game of changing names and throwing away any brand equity that was left, people did’nt even know who made this car, they could not identify the new Oldsmobile emblem on the front and I alway thought the Intrigue name was to close to the Dodge Intrepid, if this car would have come out with the name Cutlass and the regular rocket emblem, it would have done better, the same for the Ciera replacement Malibu re-badged Cutlass.
The shoud have done what Buick did, when the FWD A’s were finally put out to pasture in 1996. Buick put the well known Century name on a W-body and kept selling it to people that wanted a Century, the same car with buckets and a 3800 became the Regal. Olds could have had a W-body Ciera with the 3.1 and then the Intrigue shoud have been a Cutlass, having a coupe available would have helped too.
A story I heard was a woman saw an Intrique, and assumed it was an Infiniti, since “the name started with an ‘I’ “, and went to said dealer and bought one, instead of the Olds.
That about sums it, JP. My dad, who essentially wrote GM off in the early ’80s after several lemons, really liked the Intrigue and Aurora. They looked great, but the execution was crap. Sure a 3800 Intrigue was probably pretty durable, but it felt like a rickety piece of junk compared to the Accord my dad bought instead.
Olds was so desperate to shake off its old fart image in the ’90s that they destroyed all their remaining brand equity. The “Not your father’s Oldsmobile” campaign should have been the first clue, but they went ahead and threw out the Cutlass name and the familiar Rocket logo anyway. The original Aurora and first-year Intrigue didn’t wear any Oldsmobile badging whatsoever. Around ’94-’95, there was much speculation that Olds would even change its name, perhaps to “Aurora.” Stupid, stupid, stupid.
The most ridiculous part is that, after killing off the brand, GM essentially tried to remold Saturn into Oldsmobile.
It didn’t have to be that way. I always thought Oldsmobile was a stronger brand than Pontiac and Buick, let alone Saturn and would have been better suited to survive after the bankruptcy.
“Rickety piece of junk.” I think that covers their whole model line. Then and now.
Oldsmobile name was really dead in the 90’s. Cutlass had more equity. And with all the infighting, image changes and compromising, it had no chance.
Too many brands overlapping, and only loyalists pining for the 60s/70s were going to even consider buying, and at that only used or company discounts.
I remember that the Intrigue was prominently featured in the X-Files movie which came out the same year the car was introduced. The movie was referenced in most of the Oldsmobile advertising too.
Other than owning at one time a 67 C-10 and a 74 Camaro, I’ve not had much experience with GM, but I always thought the Intrigue was the best looking of the GM’s at the time. I spent a week with a rental Malibu of the same period and I remember thinking, “dang, this Chevy is a pretty good car”. Based on comments above, I guess a long term ownership of one would have changed my mind.
I agree with jpcavanaugh, calling it a Cutlass would have been the prudent marketing move.
Wayne, if you only knew.
In early 2001 I was working at a little Olds dealer in tiny Roscommon, MI. Compared to the other GM cars sitting on the used car lot, the Oldsmobiles seemed to offer just enough differences that made them interesting to me. The Intrigue was a really nice car-new. My boss had a bad habit of going to auction and buying up high mileage rental cars and older off-lease models. The cars from the rental fleets, while no more than a year or two old, felt just plain old and worn out! People would ask me what I thought about the Intrigue, and I would always say it’s a really nice car, just don’t buy a used one.
Nevertheless, I still miss Oldsmobile…
Roscommon, where the fuel pump in my K-car New Yorker Fifth Avenue failed.
I actually test drove one of those. It looks great inside and out, what brings the car down is all these GM parts bins inside, back when GM’s parts bins weren’t up to the competition. The traditional GM brake feel is what turns me off the most.
The Intrigue had really nice clean exterior styling and while dated, the 3.8 liter V6 was an efficient powertrain.
As others have mentioned, what really let the Intrigue down was the interior. The Accord and Camry of the same vintage had really nice soft-touch interiors with plastics that have aged well even to this day. The Intrigue interior felt awful and plasticy from day 1.
My dad and I test drove a new one with the 3.5 liter Shortstar in 1999, as a potential addition to the family fleet. After the drive, he stated there was no way he was going to pay $28k for a car with an interior as bad as the Intrigue’s. It rattled on our test drive. Can’t help but wonder what it would have been like in a few years.
Friend of mine has one of these, what really gets me is the design of the truck/taillights. In that the flow of water from the lip around of trunk is directly over one of the bolts for the taillights. And to boot, they didn’t even put a real fastener on it, just a plastic clip to hold the trunk liner in. The result being a trunk full of water from a PNW winter. I was amazed on seeing this, I knew 90’s GM are poorly designed, but this takes the cake. /rant over
I actually have an Intrigue as my daily driver, a 2000 model with the 3.5. The maligned “shortstar” isn’t as torquey as the evergreen 3.8, but it’s more refined and returns a consistent 28 mpg. The interior is handsome enough, but as others have said is not put together as well as the Japanese competition. Where these old W bodies shine is as inexpensive commuters. Really, they are not as bad as some would think – and because of their “orphan” status, they can be had for next to nothing. I’m closing in on 175,000 miles with no problems other than a couple of wheel bearings and new front rotors. To me the styling is very good – conservative but not anodyne like the CamCord. The money I save by not having car payments and high insurance rates goes straight into the motorcycle collection. Brilliant! When this one gets north of 200,000 miles, I’ll go buy another. Or maybe it’s time for a panther . . . . .
Thanks for the counter-response. While I didn’t own one, my in-laws had a 1998 with the Buick V6. My FIL loved that car; when my MIL insisted on a new car (ca. 2005), he fought her to the very end. Theirs did have a few issues, wheel bearings, warped rotors and something else that I don’t remember right now. The car was not totally trouble free, but few rarely are.
I had occasion to drive it frequently, for a car that size, it was a great driver. It could handle the hilly, curvy roads of NE Ohio with ease. The 3.8 gave great gas mileage, and I’m a fan of the W bodies, for it’s relative space to size of car ratio.
I have a friend who is an absolute Honda fan. Over one holiday visit, his Honda was in the shop, so he rented a car to come out here. He ended up with an Intrigue as the rental car. He admitted to me that he thought he would hate driving the car. As it turns out, he liked it a great deal. He never did buy one, though.
I agree with others that it would have been better marketed as a Cutlass, even though the Cutlass name had been diluted with so many variations across different GM platforms. Of course, I’m one of those folks who thinks that the Saturn division was a complete waste of resources, and the idea of “twinning” Olds with Saturn was even a worse idea, if that were possible.
But that’s all water under the bridge now.
Although we never got Oldsmobiles new here (well not in the last 60 yrs anyway), I was always taken by the car magazine pictures of the front end design. It really is rather distinctive – and a tidy bit of family resemblance to the Aurora (a great looker in the original shape). But having now seen what the Intrigue’s back end looks like, I have to say it’s the diametric opposite of the front; it’s so generic it could be anything. The tail-lights look like those on the mid-90s Mitsi Lancer coupe, the spoiler looks like a bit of carelessly melted plastic, and the overall effect is one of “meh”. It’s like they were enthusiaistic at the front and gradually ran out of energy as they worked towards the rear end. I still like the front though…!
I’m sad no one noticed my Lincoln on the edge of picture 4!
I recall that when the Intrigue was introduced one of the automotive press publications did their usual review and totally panned the car. (I think it was the Detroit News but am not positive.) Seems they got a regular production model, not one prepped and inspected for press review. The car the reviewed had lots of manufacturing glitches, loose parts, rattles, etc., etc., etc. Olds showed up the day after the review ran with a fully inspected/corrected Intrigue that was really nice but the damage had been done. Another nail in the coffin.
I loved the ads because they featured an Amtrak Superliner train racing across the west, ala “Orient Express”.
I liked the car, too. That, and the Aurora. Too bad Olds had to go. I still miss the Cutlass 442…
The wife has been driving a 2001 Intrigue since April 2003. We bought it from an older guy with 15K on the clock. It virtually was a new car. I cannot even remember half the things that have gone wrong in the last 9 years. The car has almost 100K now. Transmission rebuild, ignition lock switch, exhaust resonerator, power steering lines, AC, blower motor, brakes numerous times, etc.
However, this car still looks good after sitting out in winter and hot sun. The cheap interior still looks good. The carpet could use a shampoo, but still nice. The car has quirks, such as not starting, wait 10 minutes til the security system resets. The turn signals go out occasionally until the 4 ways are played with. Uses a quart of oil every 1,000 or less. AC is not currently working.
All in all, the transmission rebuilt at 55K and ignition switch, (both out of warranty) were the only items I could actually fault the car for, in addition to the security system starting problems. Yet this car cost $ 26,000 new. Getting it for half that made it a good car. I’d have had fits paying $ 26K for this car, and paying $ 1,700 for a tranny rebuilt and $ 350 for an ignition switch. The Olds Intrigue was not a $ 26K car.
“…you seldom see the later years of this car…”
Or maybe you’re like me, and can’t distinguish them from the Aleros because you never paid enough attention to anything Oldsmobile was trying to sell in the 1990’s. Yes, it’s sad that GM chose that nameplate to kill, but really, considering what they were doing with it, why not?
Yes, as painful as it is to admit, the decision to phase out Oldsmobile was almost a mercy killing by that point.
Towards the last days of Oldsmobile, they were playing around with a performance brand like Pontiac did with the GXP series of cars, Olds called theirs OSV, Oldsmobile Specialty Vehicles, there was an auto show Intrigue concept with the Auroras 4.0 litre V8 stuffed inside, an Alero with the 3.5 Shortstar and an Alero with an Aurora V8 too, plus a tweaked Bravada and Shillouette concepts as well.
Looking back at the promising Intrigue, I’ve always thought it sad that Oldsmobile was the division that got itself cut in the early 2000s, when it was the one that had shown so much promise in preceding decades.
My parents bought a 1994 3.1-liter V6 Cutlass Supreme new–it was their “we’ve arrived” vehicle at the time–and they only got rid of it when the family mechanic pronounced its meticulously-maintained engine (oil changed every 3K miles, etc) a lost cause at 80K-something-miles in 2004.
Mind you, I recall my mother freaking the f*** out when the steering column began smoking on the drive home from the dealership, so it may have been a lemon all along.
Still, it’s unfortunate that a company that turned their corporate architecture into such cars as the Eighty Eight LSS, Intrigue, Alero, and other reasonably worthy vehicles ended up getting the axe. You get the feeling that the engineers at Olds were doing their damndest to hold things together, and one can only hope that those lessons were absorbed into the GM labyrinth.
How GM could take a Make with best-selling models like the Delta and Cutlsss Supreme (Rwd) of the 80’s, and systematically screw it up has always baffled me. I had a co-worker who had a gorgeous ’85 G-coupe Cutlass that was also a quality car. She traded it for the egg-shaped ’88 Cutlass…Recalls, horrible paint peeling within 6 months, rattles, and the dash pad peeled away from the defrost grilles…When the MalibuCutlass came out, I knew Olds was a goner. The money spent on Saturn killed Olds, and eventually Pontiac. PS: My friend’s ’88 Grand Prix (same platform as the eggOlds) had the same dash peel, and get this: the driver’s door completely FELL OFF in a parking lot!
The Intrigue was Oldsmobiles attempt at making their midsize car into a European style car. The Olds 88 was also to become a Euro style car and probably the Northstar V6 was intended for both cars. Olds had much of the 90’s to make this work before GM’s management decided it was not working and put Olds on the termination schedule. My feeling is that GM management realized in the late 80’s that Buick and Oldsmobile were basically the same cars. How or who decided that Buick would be a traditional American style car and Olds would be European is not clear to me.
Two things are obvious to me:
1 – Oldsmobile did not get platforms to build a true European style car on (this would have required a RWD platform)
2 – Oldsmobile sales did not do well with the new style cars. When both Olds and Buick were making a Euro-style specialty model, these did OK, but not good enough to make a whole division work.
I think one fundamental problem was that GM management really believed that they could viably push Buick and Oldsmobile to two very different audiences — Buick to buyers of traditional American family sedans, Oldsmobile to “import intenders” — without investing in separate platforms or powertrains and without matching the materials or assembly quality of the imports with which Oldsmobile was supposed to compete.
I don’t know either how Oldsmobile ended up as the import fighter brand, since the marque always had a pretty strong middle American vibe. It smacks of process-of-elimination thinking (“Well, it can’t be cheap — that’s Chevrolet; it can’t be sporty — that’s Pontiac; it can’t be traditional American family sedan — that’s Buick”) and also perhaps the outdated assumption that “import intenders” were a much narrower segment of the market than was actually the case by the ’80s and ’90s.
It’s the same old cynical GM story thinking they could remake a mediocre car with revised marketing, being too cheap to substantially improve the product.
I think GM management realized that they had too many makes that were more or less the same thing. The 1990 Bonneville, Olds 88 and Buick LeSabre are all variations on the same thing, and the 98 and Electra/Park Avenue were not much different either. I think Olds was successful in moving in a new direction, but their customers did not all follow. In the early 50’s Pontiac was less sporty than Oldsmobile was.
I suspect that GM management posed to Buick and Oldsmobile that they needed to move in different directions. Perhaps the two divisions were allowed to propose what they would do with an American vs European sedan and then somehow Olds become the Euro sedan. I have to wonder if management expected one division to fail.
One possible reason that Oldsmobile ended up designated as GM’s “import fighter” was because Olds owners were migrating from Cutlass Supremes and Cieras to Accords in the late 1980s.
I remember an article in USA Today about the 1990 Accord. It was when the Accord had grabbed the number-one spot in sales among all passenger cars. A Honda salesmen said that it attracted a lot of people trading in Cutlass Supremes and Cieras.
A co-worker’s wife had a Intrigue and evidently loved it, as he still talks about it. They kept it for almost ten years, trading it in on one of the new-design Regals sometime around 2010. The Regal did not impress as much and she now drives a Mercedes E350…so evidently the “new and improved” GM is still managing to lose loyal customers.
Given my Alero experience (aka the Intrigue’s mini-me), Oldsmobile deserved to die. The nameplate does indeed have a rich history and for that I was sad to see it go, but by 2003, they weren’t putting out anything compelling anyway. The Intrigue looked great from front and side angles–I’ll certainly give it that–but the last Olds product that really ingtrigued me (pun intended) was the first-gen Aurora.
The first gen Aurora was a nice looking car, but the interior was low end and not as roomy as the comparable Riviera (I owned one of each).
The Mercedes E class out classes the Regal by a whole bunch. In 2010 the STS might have been comparable, but barely. The new CTS is more in the E’s class I think.
The Regal was a ’10 or thereabouts. They traded it on the Benz last year. 2012 E350 Bluetec 4motion with every conceivable option, purchased CPO.
I’d assume they cross-shopped Cadillac but I don’t know–I think they’re burned out on GM as a whole. (Either that or they’ve drunk deeply of the Mercedes kool-aid.) He currently drives an ’05 Tahoe but is looking at trading it on a GLK as they don’t need the size anymore as empty-nesters.
Cadillac does not offer any diesels. My CTS has a lot of stuff (all standard).
I had a loaded Intrigue GLS with a 3.5 and it was the absolute worst car I ever owned. I could fill a book with the problems from the engine to peeling paint. The first and last GM car for me.
We were looking to update the family sedan when these came out. Yes GM admitted a problem but competing with Toyota really should not have been the first topic of discussion at the show room. Both Old’s and Cheve dealers sales persons told me that these were brought out to compete with camary’s so I simply replied why not best them in stead of trying to match them and continued to drive the 1985 Pontiac parisenne we had.
So typical of GM, given enough time, they could straighten out a new car platform. This was a quite nice W body, so much better than the ’88 and up W body Cutlass Supreme.
The most memorable thing about these final Oldsmobile cars is that some of them got rear fog lights, a relative rarity among vehicles sold in the US. I guess the idea was that Oldsmobile would be the European GM division.
Unfortunately, as one might expect, a lot of people mindlessly drove around with them on 100% of the time. It was bad because the brighter, red, rear fog lights tend to look like brake lights that were stuck.
It’s a real shame that a lot of American drivers are such idiots about fog lights, both front and rear. Rear fog lights should really be mandated because of their usefulness in actual foggy conditions.
Rear fog lights are fantastic in blowing snow, blizzards or exhaust fog.. I had a set of aftermarkets on one of my wife’s cars. I had plenty of drivers ask me where I got them. They are probably illegal so I only used them with discretion in adverse conditions.
I remember ads for the Intrigue around 2000: “Start Something”. WTH does that mean or represent ? Start what? A riot? A house fire ? A fight with your best friend ?
At the introduction of the Calais in 1985 Maryanne Keller was predicting the demise of Oldsmobile. That was the time when Oldsmobile should have “started something” by reinventing itself.
Keller’s observation was that Olds’ demographic would be gone one day and the brand had stagnated.
In the late 90s period GM execs were jaw boning about how they’d no longer base their divisional offerings as “something to sell in the segment”. And then comes out with the Cutlass badged Malibu.
And they continued to do just that with the Escalade, Equinox and Torrent GM Corporate Mini Vans and further along, the Pontiac G5 and G3.
Their real purpose was to sell as many SUVs during that era as they possibly could. The rest of their claims were total claptrap.
Pretty demented. Sad end to a great marque.
Most of the bland cars around this time (2000), as well as many look-a-like today – especially all gray interiors (unlike cars of the 1950s and 1960s and early 1970s) somehow remind me of what Edward R. Murrow said about Television: (Just substitute This Instrument for The Automobile)
“This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box.”
That must be the saddest rear spoiler I’ve ever seen.
I owned four Olds over the years. The only one I was happy with was the first, a 1950. A couple of them were really bad. I was sad that the nameplate went out of business because part of me remembered them from my high school days. The
more modern incarnations were (for the time I owned them) an 82 cutlass that couldn’t keep a trannie, a 77 Starfire that should have been bought back because of the lemon law, and a well used Olds Bravada that was a real exercise in futility. I pretty much have sworn off GM but much like an abused spouse I always seem to let them back in because it will be different this time.
I think that Toyota and Nissan have allowed me to get over it. I hope the CVT trannie proves better for us than the Olds metric in the 82. Oh well, watcha gonna do?
And now, everything from a Mercedes to a Hyundai looks like a Camry. What happened to car stylists?
I think the answer to the question you ended with, in what year was Oldsmobile’s last chance to turn itself around, was 1986, or perhaps the 1986-92 period. That is, of course, the year the Taurus was introduced. Before the Taurus, the Cutlass actually held the sales king role that Camcords do today. GM never could come up with an answer to the Taurus. The best Olds could do looked like an awkward clone of a Saturn (which is further evidence that the money spent on launching Saturn would have been better spent on building a better Olds). So by the time the third generation Camry appeared in ’92 and blew everyone else into the weeds, Olds was hopelessly behind and heading down the wrong path.
Someone at work has one just like this.
“…a car that felt like it was already 4 years old…”
My friend and I went to check out the new (at the time) Olds, driving his 3 year old, 65K Camry to & from the dealership.
His just-paid for Camry felt SO very similar! His comment was “Nice but bland car, I guess, but not worth payments again & the insurance increase.”
I remember looking at a brand-new Intrigue in late 1999. It was top-of-the-line GLS with the Shortstar V-6. The sticker price was almost $30,000 – remember, this was in late 1999. It was no wonder that GM had a tough time selling them.
The funny thing is that our friend Ash, who was a Doctor at the time owned a 2000 Camry XLE V6 that we did front and rear brakes on in our driveway. He was shocked at the difference in ride and handling with my then 2002 Intrigue compared to his Camry when we took off to get the brakes. His Toyota was so soft and floppy it actually squealed the tires going around corners more than 20 MPH. And it only had 60K miles. He liked my Intrigue so well he purchased a 2002 Grand Prix GXP fully loaded in a nice dark blue with chrome wheels and still owns it to this day. And this a well heeled Doctor (now retired) with loads of money that could easily go out and buy any BWM or Mercedes.
I always thought that this car resembled an Eagle Vision (somewhat), mainly due to its frontal appearance. It’s certainly a faint resemblance as it isn’t nearly as aerodynamic as the Vision and its other cab-forward siblings. It doesn’t look too bad, but GM was helpless when it came to interior design.
I had two Intrigues. The first was a 1999 blue base model that replaced my 1996 black Lumina LS which was an excellent car with no problems. It had the then optional 3.5 Shortstar. I drove that car up to 150k miles with the only trouble being the infamous intermediate steering shaft that needed replacement which I did myself for less than 100 bucks in my own driveway. That car never needed the battery, alternator, water pump or even the spark plugs replaced but it was getting a little harder to start so I would have been replacing those if I kept it longer. I NEVER turned a single wrench in that engine bay to fix or replace anything and the 4T65 trans axle still sifted smooth and never gave me any trouble but then I serviced it ever 50k miles unlike most people I have spoke to. I replaced the blue 1999 with a 2002 white Intrigue with the same engine but more options with only 21K miles in 2004. I drove that car up to 150K miles and only needed to replace one rear wheel bearing and was able to grease the intermediate steering shaft this time which smoothed it right out until I traded the car in. As with the 1999 the 3.5 always ran perfect and smooth, was dead reliable and was able to go that 150K without a single under hood item replaced. No window regulators. No interiors mysteriously falling apart like some claim. In fact the dealer I traded the 2002 in said the interior looked nearly like a new car when I bought my 2007 Malibu which wasn’t as reliable as those W-body Intrigues. But that as they say is another story.
“Too bad Olds had to go. I still miss the Cutlass 442…”
This is the issue, people say they miss Olds but then it’s 45 year old products.
Reality is that while the 2 door Cutlass Supreme was in style and huge seller in 1976, 10 years later, it simply was out of style. And bringing out a rounded model for ’88 was just copying the Taurus, and still thinking 2 doors were “in”. Relying on the B piller door handle as a ‘sales gimmick’ bombed.
To younger Boomer buyers in 1986-90, Oldsmobile was “totally out” and “so 70’s disco”. But older buyers still wanted the ‘leisure suit’ look. GM should have kept Olds as the ‘old time’ make and let it fade out.
Buick is fine now, and enough of the ‘they shoulda killed them instead’!. This shows typical GM infighting.