The midsized Intrigue from Oldsmobile has the generic look common to many four-door cars on the road today. Under the hood, however, lives a 3.5-liter twin-cam V6 that almost makes the car overpowered. (As a red-blooded American, I don't think any car is truly overpowered).
Built on technology borrowed from the Aurora V8, the 24-valve V6 generates 215 hp at 5,000 rpm and 230 lb-ft of torque at 4,400. It is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission and the overall powertrain is the only one offered on all Intrigues (GX, GL, and GLS).
Once you push the accelerator to the floor -- and it seems you almost have to before the car starts moving -- the engine wants to take over. The engine has the pull of the proverbial 20-mule team -- on steroids. It's easy to spin the front tires from a standing start, and goosing the gas anywhere below 30 mph is enough to gently thrust the driver back in the seat and jerk the steering wheel from unsuspecting hands. The extra power stays with you way past 70 mph, so passing's always a breeze. All that power didn't seem to faze the mileage. It averaged 25 mpg on a long cross-country trip.
I did have a minor problem with the cruise control, however. I set it at about the speed limit -- 55 -- and sat back to enjoy the ride up and down U.S. 40 through Pennsylvania. Going down one particularly long hill, I noticed the car was almost going 70 mph. The car raced down the hill and part way up the next before the cruise control clicked in to keep it going 55. I had been under the (mis)impression that cruise controls kept you at the speed selected, plus or minus another 2 to 3 mph.
But fast or slow, handling on the Intrigue is solid. You can feel the road and the car responding to it. The car's speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion power steering, however, kicks in a little too much at low speeds -- the wheel is too easy to turn at parking-lot speeds.
The suspension consists of independent, MacPherson struts up front and an independent trilink with coil springs in the rear. Four wheel ABS and power-assisted disc brakes front and rear make for solid stops.
The car also carried Oldsmobile's Precision Control System, a $600 option that integrates four wheel-speed sensors, a steering angle detector, a yaw sensor, and a hydraulic power unit. It is supposed to help drivers maintain control in case of emergency maneuvers or heavy braking. It's the kind of automatic system you can't tell is there. I'd like to test drive a vehicle where the driver could turn this option on and off, and then experiment with the car until I could see or feel the difference.
The AM/FM, cassette/CD stereos sounded good (add $200), and the mocha leather seats were comfortable (add $995). The dashboard and ergonomics were clearly thought out, as was the good visibility out the sides and back of the car. Base price for the car is $23,720, and options, including 16-in. chromed aluminum wheels ($695) and destination charge ($560), took it to $26,890.