Vintage Car And Driver Review: 1986 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale – Personality Crisis

Time to revisit a GM model that gets little love. An offering that seemed to click a few right buttons while missing on its ultimate mission; to bring new buyers into Oldsmobile’s fold.

On paper, the Delta 88’s specs showed promise of it being a satisfactory product. And in the flesh, it was decently and cleanly styled, with the coupe being the best looking of the lot.

As Car And Driver said, trouble started as a ‘personality crisis’ appeared under driving: the Delta ’88 had a good chassis that offered respectable performance, but controls and sensations that felt oddly isolated. The cabin was ‘astonishingly quiet’ in perfect Oldsmobile tradition, with seats that dated ‘from the overstuffed-furniture period of Detroit interior design.’ Meanwhile, the dashboard’s layout was wholly traditional, though styled under the severity of Giugiaro’s origami thinking, and sprinkled with bits of ’80s neon.

In all, the car was a mix of new driving dynamics and amenities that aimed to keep loyalists pleased, while attempting to contort itself into impressing import buyers. It was ‘the meshing of two contradictory temperaments.’

Indeed, the ‘personality crisis’ affected GM as a whole, who had lost the market’s grip by then. To be fair, the mix of Detroit-tradition with whatever curious idea US-execs had about ‘Euro-traits’ was a common malady in many American cars of the time.

By most accounts, these were decent cars. A number of items in the ‘to do’ check-list passed muster: the H-bodies had decent packaging, and with the proper suspension setup (the test’s FE3), they didn’t wallow like Lt. Kojak’s colonnade Century. Owners have praised these vehicles and referred to them as a ‘lot of car for the money’ (mostly when bought used).

While lagging behind Ford’s trendsetting ‘aero’ lineup, I found this generation of H Bodies pleasant and attractive enough. The problem? I never found them sufficiently compelling to purchase. Most Gen-Xers agreed and stayed away from Olds in droves. A shame, as I had a sentimental fondness for the brand.

A sympathetic view on the Delta 88:

Curbside Classic: 1987 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Brougham – ‘H’ Is For Harmony