Olds' Bravado Leads To Exciting Bravada
New GM SUV a Winner
by Jim Bray
The 2002 Oldmobile Bravada is nothing if not fully equipped.
In fact, there's so much stuff crammed into this mid-size SUV that I wonder
how much is really just technology for technology's sake.
The $36,327US (as tested) Bravada shares most of its guts with GM siblings
from Chevrolet (Trailblazer) and GMC (Envoy), which I'll be trying in a few
weeks. They feature a strong, all-new chassis and a 270 hp, 275 lb.-ft torque,
Vortec 6-cylinder engine GM says out powers the V8's in its class. I don't
know about that, but there's certainly enough power on tap when you need it.
Bravada also features an electronic rear air suspension system (for people
with electronic rears?) that, while making the vehicle a tad "floaty"
on paved roads, proved a welcome antidote for chattering teeth when we took
the SUV onto some rather washboardy dirt "roads" that would probably
have left calcium dust deposits in our mouths in more stiffly sprung vehicles.
Five can sit comfortably in the Bravada's leather-trimmed seats (though there's
no third row, unfortunately) and the lucky pair who sits up front can take
advantage of eight way power seat adjustments. The driver's seat also gets
two memory settings. There's plenty of headroom and legroom, and the rear split
seat folds down to ensure an even more cavernous storage area than Bravada's
already generous rear end offers.
The result of all this stuff is a vehicle that feels stable and secure at
all speed ranges I tried, from residential street to highway passing lane and
on road surfaces from new asphalt to loose gravel. The engine pulls smoothly,
the power rack-and-pinion steering feels good, and the four wheel all-disc
anti-lock braking system brings Bravada to a standstill without fuss.
I had one particular moment (on a vile stretch of gravel-surfaced hill) when
the ABS really came through in spades, stopping the Bravada quickly and perfectly
straight in a most impressive manner. This was also in part due to the vehicle's
optional SmartTrak all-wheel drive system (the base model is rear drive), which
springs to life when the ABS sensors decide the vehicle needs a bit of extra
stability - and it did. I have no idea how this will translate into real off-road
performance, but on country back roads it worked very well.
The four speed automatic transmission also works well for the most part, though
it seemed to shift more when it wanted to than when I wanted it to. I guess
And speaking of devices, you'll want to spend some time with the owner's manual
to get a handle on all the gadgets GM has packed into the vehicle.
I kid you not. You get treated to typical things like a very good (though
excessively bassy) AM/FM/CD stereo, power everything, automatic dual-zone climate
control, a remote-control keyless entry system, security system, and a year
of the OnStar "Help! I need to be bailed out!" service - but that's
only the beginning.
The headlights and windshield wipers can operate automatically, and the leather-wrapped
steering wheel has audio touch controls - as well as buttons for fan/temperature, "Driver
Information Center," and fuel/ range calculating. That Driver Information
Center (which displays at the bottom of the instrument panel) has far more
features than you'd probably need and it's a fine line between arguing whether
they're convenience features or just plain doodads. After all, you can control
things like whether your outside mirrors tilt down when reversing, if your
seat slides back to facilitate easy entrance when you press the button on the
key fob, or if the remote keyless entry signals you via flashing the headlights,
honking the horn, or both.
Then there's the voice note recorder, which lets you be back seat driven even
when you're alone in the Bravada (Press "play" and hear "Remember,
dear, don't speed!"), and the handy compressor you can use to inflate
a football, airmattress, or flat tire.
The compressor periodically emits a "Phhht" when vacating excess
gas, which caused some suspicious glances to be thrown my way by passengers
unsure about just who or what was passing excess gas
Throw in the usual safety and comfort features and you have a very well equipped
and competent SUV that, alas, shows how Oldsmobile really can get thing right
- just before GM shuts down the division.