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The Oldsmobile Aurora vs. the Chrysler 300M

When the Oldsmobile brand seemed to be going the way of Plymouth and DeSoto, GM responded by funding a new flagship, the Aurora. The platform does double duty as the Pontiac Bonneville and Buick LeSabre, but the most luxury-oriented application is the Oldsmobile Aurora. Powered by a standby six or a four-liter V8, the Aurora is dignified yet fast.

Both the Aurora and 300M are relatively uncluttered, clean vehicles with well-designed interiors. The Aurora has the edge in luxury trim, with more useful consoles and more expensive-looking doors and seats. The 300M's instrument panel looks better, but the Aurora is not far off.

Both cars handle well, though the 300M has a clear advantage. Acceleration is nearly the same, with the Aurora slightly faster in V-8 trim and slightly slower in V-6 form. Gas mileage is disappointing in both cars, in the low 20s.

Instrumentation and controls are good in both vehicles, with the nod going to the Aurora both for usability (believe it or not) and quality feel. The Aurora has a cockpit-type interior, with the center stack tilted towards the driver, a bit rude to the passenger. Its trip computer is easier to read and better placed than the one in the 300M, and provides information on tire pressure and the need for oil changes. The 300M does have AutoStick, while the Aurora makes do with a gated gearshift. Both have center-mounted gearshifts and foot-operated parking brakes.

The Aurora's stereo has good sound, and though it is gadgety, it is also easy to use. Chrysler's is competent but not quite as good.

The Aurora is slightly smaller inside than the 300M, wide but with less rear leg room. The trunk is immense, but the trunk pass-through is small.

The Aurora's 4-liter V-8 engine has strong torque and never seems to be working hard. A better choice is the V-6, which is only a few fractions of a second slower but has strong torque and about two miles per gallon better mileage.

The ride on both cars is comfortable without being bereft of road feel.

The Aurora comes with much more standard equipment, especially with the V-8 package. Standard on all Auroras are leather, automatic climate control, oil life and flat tire sensors, and front side airbags. The V-8 adds memory seats, rain-sensing wipers, traction control, and dual-zone climate control.

In sum, the Oldsmobile Aurora is tilted more towards the luxury market, but it has good enough handling for most drivers, and a slightly more powerful engine than the 300M. Its list of "standard options" is longer, and it has some more driver comfort features. The Chrysler 300M is slightly larger inside, more nimble, and feels sportier. We prefer the 300M, but like most people who write about cars, we also prefer cars that feel small and sporty. If your tastes run to the large and luxurious, the Aurora's more likely to tickle your fancy. You may also want to try out the supercharged Pontiac Bonneville, Cadillac Catera, and the Chrysler Concorde (which is larger and more comfortable inside than the 300M, yet costs up to $10,000 less).

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