1999 Oldsmobile Intrigue GX 3.8 Series II from North America
A great car that could have been better
Within two weeks of purchase, I brought the car in for some small complaints. While during a weekly check of fluids, I noticed what I would describe as a rusty sludge in the coolant reservoir, a shudder between 1st gear and 2nd gear, and a gurgle accompanied by the headlight flicker that many on this board have complained about. This happens the first time you turn the steering wheel after starting the engine.
The dealer never did flush the coolant as I requested. The transmission problem was diagnosed to be the pattern the electronic transmission "learned" from the previous owner, which was reset. The gurgle and flicker did not occur while the dealership had the car.
A short time later the gurgle and flicker became accompanied by a light shudder at slow speeds, i.e. parking. At this time the dealer could find no problem with the car.
After a month, the shudder in the steering was more prominent. There was also a noticable shaky feeling through the steering wheel when hitting bumps, especially in corners and while braking. I returned again to the dealer and the problem ended up being the lower front strut assembly, replaced under warranty. The shudder was caused by the routing of power steering lines, which has a service bulletin out on it.
At 52,000 miles I replaced the front brake pads, which were down to 1/32" which is far beyond the minimum pad thickness. There were no wear indicators in the brake linings to warn the driver of this.
I have not bothered to mention to my dealer the problem with my wipers. If you hit mist quickly, the wipers come up from park position to rest position and then go back down. This problem is prevalent in MANY GM vehicles and GM has so far refused to do anything about the five or six model years of nearly all GM cars that have this problem. I do know that eventually I will have the "wipers do not return to park" problem that other GM cars have. I just hope this happens while under warranty.
The Intrigue has a clean, rounded shape and a moderately aggressive stance. It has a low ground clearance. All told, it is a stylish car.
While test-driving this car, what sold me was the incredible handling and performance. Half-throttle rocketed the car forward, cornering at fast speed was sure and stable. Steering is quite responsive, mostly noticable on S-curves.
I have driven an Alero, which is supposed to be a sporty car, and I was more impressed by the Intrigue's handling.
Rear seats are difficult to get in and out of, but I'm rarely in the back seat. Leg room in the rear is impressive, but not as impressive as the Toyota Avalon.
Front seats are supportive for taller passengers. The power driver seat is a nice touch.
Controls are easy to operate for the most part. Most controls are simply icons, especially on the climate control. The air conditioning is slow to get cold, my mother's 1997 Cavalier is colder.
The cloth seats are soft to touch. Interior trim is cheesy plastic, my rear driver door power window switch keeps popping a few degrees off kilter. The rear seat cupholders are a nice touch, but hard to reach without leaning drastically forward. Front cupholders are located in weird places, one is directly in front of the climate control panel, and a soda cup from a fast food place obscures the climate control panel entirely. That is, of course, if you can get a cup to fit it. The other front cupholder is innovative, with a simple press it retracts into the console. Again, it only fits cans well, and if you squish a 20-oz. soda bottle in it, keep the cover on. Under hard braking the bottle will fall out.
The dashboard lights up like a fireworks display, there's pretty much a light for everything. Gages are easy to read, and finally I have found a car that lights up the gages at night so bright that I actually have to turn it down a bit.
The six-speaker stereo is well-rounded. Bass response from the rear 6"x9" speakers is not anything to write home about. Replacing these speakers will not be easy, in fact, if you want to do this yourself, you should buy a factory service manual to help with the disassembly of the entire rear seating area (which is required to get the rear deck out). After installing two 10" subs in the trunk, the stereo is much more impressive. Within three months I have half-blown the front door speakers, but the ear-level tweeters installed in the doors are crisp and tight. The rear-window antenna for the radio is a nice touch as far as style goes, but it's near-impossible to pull in ANY radio stations unless you park under their towers.
The vehicle is quiet and airtight for the most part. There is a slight whistling noise behind me on the driver side, but the radio drowns it out. If the air conditioning is on full blast, you can actually feel it coming into the trunk if all the doors and windows are shut and you are reaching in the trunk for something.
The Anti-Lock Brakes and Traction Control are where General Motors needs to hit the drawing board again. If you hit a bump while braking on dry or wet pavement, the Anti-Lock Brakes kick in to lengthen your stopping distance. Traction Control frequently kicks in unnecessarily, especially when backing out of parking spaces. Winter driving leaves much to be desired, mainly from the all-season touring tires. When traveling uphill in snow, your tire will spin slightly, prompting the computer to cut back on engine power. In New England, this is a sure way to get stuck. Many times I have been in the middle of a hill, accelerator depressed about halfway, engine at idle speed, car stopped. I have to back down the hill, shut off Traction Control, and gain momentum to get back up the hill.
Bottom line, this car is comfortable and performs well. With a few more tweaks, Oldsmobile could have made this car serious competition for the Taurus/Sable, Camry, Accord, etc. They could have made the fuel economy better, my 1991 Chevy S-10 Blazer with a BIGGER engine and 4-Wheel-Drive gets similar gas mileage.
All-in-all, I love this car, and aside from all its quirks, I'm proud to say it's mine. Many of my friends have complimented me on the car, and when it has been freshly washed looks outstanding.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 8th August, 2003
20th Apr 2004, 17:29
I agree with your review of teh Intrigue. It does have a personality, but overall it is a fast good looking reliable car.
24th Jul 2005, 09:12
I thought your review of the Intrigue was very well done! I wonder at times why a similar review wasn't made by the automotive journalists when the car was released to the masses. In Canada it was chosen as a best buy in 1998. I guess the car was much better brand new, not developing or displaying the problems we now know about.
Owning a 99' Intrigue GX painted in a beautiful metallic green as I do, I have a great understanding of the problems you mentioned. The car could have been so much better! Yet, despite it's flaws, I love it and will keep it as long as I can afford to pay for the gas is eats up so willingly! The car is fast and handles well in stock trim especially since it shares much of it's soul with the Pontiac Grand Prix. A good gene pool in terms of performance, but of course bad when it comes to fit/finish and materials quality. If I could go back and choose again, I'd buy the last model year, one of the final 500. In GLS trim of course.
Unfortunately, my car has more rattles and groans than I can count with my fingers which I grudgingly accept as "normal" for this car, but when I turn the music up, it all goes away and I'm able to enjoy the car on it's best merits - performance and comfort. Also on it's looks. After a good polishing, especially with 18" chrome wheels it looks beautiful!