Pros: Standard features, auto on headlights, lefty cupholder, V6 power, the looks.
Cons: Brakes, MPG, unreliability.
Back in November, my parents decided I needed to replace my 1993 Nissan Altima (see review)with 190,000 miles. Since they were to be my financial backers, I decided to oblige them. It came down to 2 choices (I didn't get much say in the choices as a whole), a 2003 Saturn Ion or my parents 1998 Oldsmobile Cutlass GLS. I opted for the Olds. I have now had the car for one week and will give my initial thoughts on it. I will also update every so often.
PRICE: I check the KBB, Nada, and Edmunds and came up with a private party value of about $8000. I purchased the car from my parents for $4950. It has 49,XXX miles on it, and the only option it didn't have was the sunroof. Some standard equipment for the GLS includes, PW, PL, P.Seats, CD/Cass, AC, CC, Keyless entry, remote trunk release, leather seating, auto on headlights, fog lights, driver/passenger airbags, and alloy wheels.
OUTSIDE: The color is a medium denim blue, with a neutral leather interior, very similar to what my Altima was. I think it is one of the best colors on the car. The wheels are stylish alloys which go nicely with the car. The Cutlass is essentially a fancier Chevrolet Malibu. The front and rear fascias are different, I do prefer the Cutlass. The Cutlass was discontinued after 1999, but thanks to the Malibu (now called the "Classic" for the rentals) retaining the same shape, the Cutlass still appears very modern for a 6 year old car (the fact my parents kept it meticulously clean may have helped too). The overall shape of the car is pleasing to the eye. Some may say it's bland or dull, but, I don't recall the 1998 Accord's or Camry's being style leaders. The foglights (standard on the GLS) seem a bit small for the car, but I have not had a chance to use them. The headlights are great, and cast a good amount of light in the right directions. I do love the size of the trunk. It has a handy cargo net just inside the trunk. The releases for the rear seats are inside the trunk, may annoy some, but it is a security feature-if you use the trunk lock out, then no one can get into your trunk. I like having the split fold seats, and have already used this feature.
INSIDE: This is the first car I have owned with leather interior, and was not too happy about it. Having 2 dogs I haul around, I was worried about nails and scratches. Well, a couple of bath mats cured that. And I have found the hair just wipes of the seats. My attitude towards leather may be changing. The seats themselves are very comfortable. The driver's side is power. I have ridden in all positions in the car and find it to have plenty of head and leg room up front, adequate in the back. The materials all seem of good quality. I like the two tone coloring of the dash. The gauges are simple, with a tach, speedometer, fuel gauge and temp gauge. The gauges glow a soothing blue-green. The car does have the standard daytime running lamps, but also has an automatic headlight system which turns on the headlights when the sensors detect a loss of light. VERY nice-never have to turn my headlights on or off. A very nice surprise also was the cruise control switch in the steering wheel, not on a stalk. And you don't have to turn the cruise main on every time you start the car. There is also a nice selection of interval wiper speeds. The power windows have a one touch down for the driver. One nice touch is the lock out doesn't prevent the driver from being able to operate all 4 windows. Another nice touch, the power windows switches, door locks and power mirrors are lit at night. The HVAC is in a good location, and the dials easy to turn. The radio is mounted in a location just over the HVAC. The factory CD/Cass system in this car is great, with what I believe is a 6 speaker system. Everything is user friendly for the driver. The armest has storage inside, but also flips up to reveal more storage. Not to mention 2 cubbys under the HVAC, 1 cubby in each front door, a large glove box, and map pockets on the seat backs. But my favorite is the cupholders. Two for the back, one in the middle by the shifter for the passenger, and one...ooooooo....to the LEFT of the steering wheel for the driver. You do not know how happy this makes me, as a left handed driver!!! Also very convenient for a driver thru-they hand you your drink first, and the cupholder is right there. The cupholder by the shifter contains the removeable ashtray which is my coinholder. Each cupholder and cubby in the dash have removable rubber liners for cleaning. Overall I find the interior a very pleasing place to spend my commute.
ENGINE/POWERTRAIN: Not my strong suit, but here's what I know. The Cutlass comes standard with the same 3.1 V6 used in the Malibu. It's rated for 155 HP and 185 LB FT Torque and mated to a 4 speed automatic-the only transmission available. Coming from a 4 cylinder/5 speed manual, this is quite the switch. I love having the extra power of the V6, especially for passing, merging and steep hills. However, my gas mileage is averaging 23-25. This is pretty hard to take coming for a 30 mpg 4 cyl. The transmission does what it's supposed to, with noticeable shifting, nothing bad or great. Being a die hard manual trans man, not having the freedom to shift is bad. One nice feature though, it does have second gear start. If you put the transmission in "2", it will start out in 2nd gear. This is especially nice for the winter, starting out on slippery roads. I think the engine sounds are fine, I don't usually hear them, though my radio may be a little louder than others. The Cutlass comes standard with ABS and a front disc, rear drum combo. I know what ABS is, the other I have no clue. I don't really like the feel of the brakes, but am getting use to it. I have heard of situations with the brakes on the Malibus, but I don't know if this is the case with the Cutlass. I have not had to use the ABS yet. To me, for a 1998 domestic, this car drives, rides and handles wonderful. It's not floaty, it's not bumpy, it's just right. The car does corner well, with little complaint. I sometimes feel like it's an American motor stuck into a Japanese sport sedan. Drive one and you'll understand.
UPDATE: 65,XXX miles. So far the only problems I have had is the brakes. But that was the fault of the place that put them on. I still enjoy the car greatly. I have gotten used to the automatic, but still miss my manual tranny. I love the V6, and my gas mileage shows it. I am still averaging 23-25 MPG, with a mix of highway and city driving. We are in the process of moving, and my car holds a fair amount of boxes. I am still wary of the fact it's American, but overall...it's a good car. Looking forward to see how it handles in the winter.
OVERALL: I think that the Cutlass(and Malibu LS) is a great used car value. Packed with a long list of standard features, you can pick one of these up for a reasonable price. It's roomy, practical, yet fun to drive.
I have now had the Cutlass for almost 2 years and 30,000 miles. The car has required over $1600 in non-maintenance related repairs. The first thing was (I'm horrible with these things) a gasket (?) in the engine that was slowly leaking and would have eventually gone into the engine. The other problem was the ABS sensors and computer went out. There have been no other issues to date, but I have to say between the our 2 Nissan's combined 170,000 (that we put on) miles, we only had about $500 in non-maintenance repair. I would still cautiously recommend this car, if it's been properly maintained. Howver, I'd rather have a Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Subaru, etc.
Last week, at 82,000 miles the alternator went out, leaving my partner stranded in the country. After paying $315 to have the alternator replace, we were told that because it had made the dash gauges go all crazy, the gas needle flipped over and was now under the pin. That would have been another $100 or so for them to pull apart the dash to flip over the needle. And I was also told that because of the alternator, my 4 month old $80 battery was no longer holding a charge. So I started looking for a different vehicle. My partner now gets to drive his Nissan again (which I had been driving) and I purchased a 1996 Toyota Corolla. I think it speaks volumes that I sold a 1998 with 82,000 to purchase a 1996 with 158,000 miles. I can no longer recommend this vehicle due to repair and reliability issues.