If Doug Stott's passion, enthusiasm, and energy that are evoked by authentic driving machines—the new 2001 4.0- liter Aurora, in particular—could be bottled and distributed, then Oldsmobile would undoubtedly sell far more of its Auroras than the 40,000 they hope to move during this calendar year (4.0- and 3.5-liter versions combined), a volume which is double that which they've been doing with the previous-generation vehicle. Stott has been with the Aurora program since the first generation sedan was under development, a vehicle that, in 1994, helped ratchet up both the visibility and viability of a GM division that, some people began to think, was on its way out.
In working on the second-generation Aurora as assistant brand manager-Product, Stott has spent his time talking with customers and prospects at countless clinics, then working with the engineers who are charged with translating the identified wants and needs into an appealing amalgam of metal, plastic, rubber, and glass. As he relates his travel schedule, it sounds like he's rarely at his desk in the former Renaissance Center (i.e., GM World Headquarters) and always on the road; when he talks about the cars that he's had the opportunity to log seat time in order to understand what the other guys are doing, it becomes clear that for him, cars should be all about driving. Essentially, he's the kind of person that more car companies need for developing new products.
The new car is 199.3 in. long and has a 112.2-in. wheelbase. That's 6.1 in. shorter than the previous model, and the wheelbase is reduced by 1.6 in. Stott says that one of the goals in developing the 2001 model was to be under 200 in. in length: "All of the imports"—at least those within the entry-luxury segment that it competes with—"are under 200 in., and we wanted it to be more import-like." The plan here is to attract more females and younger people to the vehicle. Stott quickly points out, however, that because it is smaller, "the handling is lighter, more responsive." This is enhanced by the use of the patented Magnasteer speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion system; it uses an electronically controlled magnetic field to adjust steering effort as required. They've equipped the car with a new intermediate shaft, which links the steering wheel and the steering gear; the shaft features a vibration-deadening elastomer that's surrounded by aluminum fittings: the driver gets the road feel without harshness. And there are traction control (both torque reduction and brake application) and what's called a "Precision Control System," which is Olds' version of an electronic stability system (sensors monitor steering conditions—understeer and oversteer—and brakes are applied as required).
One of the problems, Stott notes, that can occur as a result of shortening a car is that headroom is reduced (in order to keep things proportionate), but he notes that they worked at keeping the headroom as high as possible (38.6 in. front/37.7 in. rear), which is especially important as the sunroof fitment (which is performed by Webasto) is in excess of 60% on the Aurora. In fact, the headroom has been increased.
Making It Quieter
Naturally, there are a variety of improvements for the 2001 Aurora. One of the areas of some concern was with keeping the drive quiet. So there is extensive use of rubber iso- lating elements that are fitted throughout the chassis. Many body cavities are filled with expandable noise-reducing baffles. The dash panel is essentially a big noise buffer; there are five layers: a fiberglass insulation mat, a viscoelastic energy absorbing element; a double-steel panel; and a single-piece dash mat. Road noise from below is addressed through the use of a cast foam carpet complemented by more than 20 noise blockers that are built into the pillar and rocker panels and installed on the floor pan.
One of the biggest improvements to the Aurora is found under its hood—an aluminum hood. There are now two engines available, a 215-hp, 3.5-liter V6 and an improved 250-hp, 4.0-liter V8. Both engines have cast aluminum blocks and heads; both have dual overhead cams. The addition of the V6 to the line-up is to increase the appeal to more customers. Improvements to the V8 include a revision of the head, intake valves (larger), exhaust valves (smaller) and the use of a roller-follower valvetrain.
Because the 2001 Aurora is smaller than its predecessor, it is lighter. The V6 version (of which there wasn't one before) is about 285 lb. lighter than the previous generation vehicle (the curb weight for the V6 model is 3,686 lb.); the 2001 V8 weighs in at 3,803 lb., which is down about 165 lb. There was a lot of attention paid to weight, Stott says. For example, in order to keep the weight down on the V8 version, as well as to achieve good weight distribution (front to rear it's 63/37%), the rear decklid is fabricated with aluminum. It is steel for the V6 model. The shape of the decklid includes an insert area for the license plate. Stott points out that when the steel is stamped, the material doesn't lend itself to being shaped so that the depression for the license plate can be produced; it is necessary to use a plastic insert. But when the engineers looked to aluminum to reduce the weight of the vehicle, they recognized that due to the malleability of the material, they are able to make the decklid in a single piece; no plastic insert is necessary. According to Stott, the aluminum decklid provides a 7-kg weight savings.
Other uses of aluminum in the 2001 Aurora are for the front and rear control arms and knuckles, and bumper beams.
Magnesium is used, as well. One of the things that was of concern was to assure that there would be a feeling of rigidity to the vehicle, as well as improved safety. A way that this is being addressed is a magnesium casting, a beam, that ties the A-pillars together. Not only does this element help transfer load in the event of side impact, but in the more ordinary, day-to-day driving, the magnesium beam helps minimize instrument panel rattle and steering wheel shake. Magnesium is also used for fabricating the steering wheel ring.
Inside the Aurora, Stott points to the wood trim. "That's real wood," he notes. He mentions the name of one of the cars that the Aurora competes with and comments, "Except for on the shifter and the steering wheel, they use genuine, real plastic."