In late October 2010, I purchased a fully loaded 1999 Oldsmobile Aurora in great condition. Manufactured during the last year of production of the higher performance first generation Aurora, my automobile is unique in so much as only six others (0.031%) were as well equipped: all options and blessed with the 160 mph capable "Autobahn" gear ratio transmission of 3.71 (instead of the 3.48 transmission).
Engineered to be the best Oldsmobile ever produced, the vehicle was meant to compete with the Lexus and the BMW. The Aurora was also intended to save the Olds name plate from extinction, and launch a comeback of the marque. Oldsmobile sales had dropped from 1,066,122 in 1985, to a mere 389,173 in 1992.
Design work on what would become the Aurora had started in the late 1980's, and surfaced in a 1989 engineering concept known as the Oldsmobile Tube Car. Beyond the overall similar shape, the Tube Car possessed many design elements that were later found on the production Aurora. This design was ahead of its time, and GM has incorporated many of the advanced characteristics of the Aurora into the Chevrolet Volt (i.e. the Aurora has a drag coefficient of 0.32, Volt's coefficient of drag is 0.28).
As initial production neared, the Aurora's engineering team resisted efforts to dumb down the vehicle. The Aurora was powered by a 4 cam 32 valve 4.0L V-8, and featured a standard onboard computer. During the normal crush-to-failure tests done by automakers to evaluate body rigidity, the Aurora's unibody construction actually broke GM's testing machine. A frame-crusher normally used to test stronger truck frames had to be employed instead, with Aurora exceeding federal standards for passenger cars by two times over. After the demise of Oldsmobile, I never forgot the Aurora, and enjoyed the sleekness of the vehicle's design when I saw one on the road.
I paid cash for the Aurora, and have no monthly payment. The car is great, but all older vehicles require more maintenance than do new vehicles. I recently reviewed total cost of operation by tallying receipts. I was not entirely surprised that in using the Aurora as my primary vehicle, cost of operation has been $530.00 per month. This includes $2400.00 in gasoline, and $2900.00 in repairs (for brakes, new tires, etc.). Having spent $2600.00 to purchase the car ten months ago (which was an incredible bargain), total cost of ownership equates to $890.00 per month. Although I could have leased a Cadillac at this rate, I wanted the Aurora, and remain pleased with it.
In early October 2010, I ordered a Chevrolet Volt. My 2012 Volt will be manufactured during August 2011. Many car shoppers interested in the Volt will opt for the low cost lease, which is $350.00 per month. Provided my usage pattern, it will cost $40.00 per month to power the vehicle. In addition, the Volt is covered by a 36-month bumper to bumper repair warranty.
I did not select the Volt solely for economic reasons. The environmentally friendly aspect of the Volt was not the primary consideration in choosing it. Nor did I opt for the Volt simply because I will no longer be contributing to the erosion of America's wealth and national security.
For me, the most compelling reason for driving the Chevrolet Volt is the driving experience itself. The electric drive provides 273 pound-feet of *instant torque* (the Aurora attains 260 pound-feet torque at 4400 rpm). The car is as quiet as a Rolls Royce. The heavy weight of the Volt and the aerodynamics of the design mean that I won't experience buffeting when passing the monster semi-trucks that frequent the highways of the midwest (this is also true of the Aurora). In addition, the Volt is the most technologically advanced automobile yet manufactured (its computers include more lines of code than the Boeing 767 Dreamliner).
The Chevrolet Volt has won a number of awards related to driving experience:
- 2011 North American Car of the Year
- Motor Trend 2011 Car of the Year
- Car and Driver 10 Best for 2011
- Ward’s AutoWorld 10 Best Engines for 2011
- Automobile Magazine 2011 Automobile of the Year
- 2010 Breakthrough Technology - Popular Mechanic
- Green Car Journal 2011 Green Car of the Year
As you will have observed, operating the Chevrolet Volt (including the monthly lease payment) will immediately save $140.00 per month over an older car in excellent condition (for which I have no monthly payment). I will keep the Aurora, and will drive it on the occasional sunny Sunday afternoon, but the Volt will become our primary vehicle.