Yet another vehicle has found itself a home in my shared fleet. This one isn’t some horribly complicated Volkswagen but a sporty sedan from a dead brand known for selling cars to the elderly. The Oldsmobile LSS looks like your grandpa’s car, but it’s actually a hoot to drive.
My fiancee’s Chevrolet HHR has finally found the end of Its road. The little retro hatch got boiled in Texas a couple of months ago. Since then, the car has limped along with me trying to keep it on the road. But a number of check engine light codes longer than your average grocery list signaled that it was time to move on.
So, what was next? We could have picked up a reliable, but boring Toyota Camry. David Tracy’s awesome Lexus LX 470 was also in the running. Ultimately, we decided to get another dream car, but from a place that has never heard of this thing called snow.
We worked our way down her list of bucket list cars from a first-generation Ford Escape to a Volkswagen Beetle and another Chevy HHR. Sadly, everything was either too broken or too expensive. This car market is so bad that even non-enthusiast cars are expensive.
Then she found it, the car she needed to buy.
At first glance, I was confused; an Oldsmobile Eighty Eight? Then I looked a little closer and saw the telltale sign that this was something special. This is a 1997 Oldsmobile LSS.
The futuristic Aurora breathed some fresh new life into the Oldsmobile brand and some Aurora quirks trickled down the line. One recipient of changes is the Eighty Eight and its performance variant, the LSS.
The LSS, which stands for Luxury Sports Sedan, has some styling elements inspired by its sibling, like the sleek front end, seat design and wheels. But to most people, it looks like a slightly cooler Eighty Eight.
We decided to buy the LSS and picked it up during the Gambler 500 Tennessee. The car comes from Alabama with 140,000 miles on the odometer. It needs some minor front end work and a new headliner, but otherwise it can be a daily right now. It doesn’t even have any rust.
The occupants of the LSS get to enjoy sitting in comfy leather seats that would work just as well as recliners.
These are the kinds of seats that you don’t so much sit on as sink into. The dashboard is a very 1990s wraparound design that flows into the doors. Interior materials are actually pretty impressive for the car’s age and it’s only let down by the fake wood trim.
The LSS is also pretty well-equipped, with dual-zone climate control, heated mirrors, automatic headlights and more.
Oldsmobile even had a primitive GPS system as an option that looked like a Game Boy tacked onto the dashboard.
Perhaps amusingly, GM thought that this car would lure people away from buying a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz.
The LSS is motivated by GM’s venerable 3800 V6, pushing 205 HP to the front wheels in naturally aspirated form, 240 HP with a supercharger. This one doesn’t have the supercharger, but I found it surprisingly nippy.
I timed a few sprints to 60 mph found it could do the job in about 7.5 seconds.
That’s not very fast by today’s standards, but it’s way faster than you’d expect a car that looks like something your grandpa would drive to be. And that 3800 offers healthy acceleration right through speeds that are way too fast for any American highway.
Handling is ok. Even though this car is supposedly tuned for a more European driving experience, it’s really so soft that it feels most comfortable not being rushed around turns. In fact, cruising is what the LSS does best. Give it a highway and it’ll eat miles in absolute comfort.
Sure, it’s not as comfortable as my Volkswagen Phaeton, but it won’t bankrupt you to fix it, either. Plus, this aesthetic is just perfect for an event like Radwood.
It won’t be all fun with the LSS. We’ve already started repair work on two areas of the car’s body where the paint came off in literal sheets.
Automakers struggled with paint in the mid-1990s and it seems everyone had issues with paint coming off in chunks. It’ll just have to be one of those things that we fix as necessary.
We also plan to save it from the scourge of road salt by keeping it off of the road in winter. This is a clean, rust-free southern car and we intend on keeping it that way.
I came away from driving the LSS pretty impressed. I expected a mushy mess, but instead I was reminded of what American luxury used to. Forget sport bucket seats and hard suspensions, give me a La-Z-Boy on wheels.