1992-1998 Oldsmobile Achieva
If there were ever an entirely inexplicable, odd, unusual and unexpected object of Car Lust, it would be . . .the Rampage! But a close second (third, fourth, or fifth, really, given the people around here) is my uncanny BLOARC* for the Oldsmobile Achieva.
No, I don't understand it. The car has no personal meaning to me; I never owned one, nobody I know ever owned one, and I'm not sure I'd ever really want to own one. By most measures it was neither a particularly good or bad car, certainly nothing that would make any normal person sit up and take notice. No major reliability issues, not an exceptional performer, but not an underpowered weenie-mobile either. It looked a little odd and the name is kinda flaky.
But I love it still. And that is no doubt due to its rather unique styling. "There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" as Francis Bacon said, and there is strangeness in the Achieva's looks. It doesn't really look like anything else and that appeals to me.
In a way, it's somewhat akin to the Honey Badger: You may not want one yourself, but they look interesting and you're just glad to know that such a creature exists.
* Bizarre Love Of A Random Car
The Achieva was part of Oldsmobile's early-1990s efforts to revamp its line and attempt to compete more head-to-head with the imports and also to get away from the boxy look of the rebadged J-body models that had taken Olds through the late '80s. The Achieva replaced the Calais in mid-year 1991 and came in both sedan and coupe versions. It was a pretty standard front-drive car and although classed as a compact, it pretty much pushed the limits of that class. The base engine was a 2.3-liter Quad-4 that developed anywhere between 115 and 190 horsepower, so it could be tricked out to a reasonable performer in that respect. After 1995 the Quad was redesigned as a 2.4-liter "Twin Cam" with about half of the architecture of the engine new. This was done to smooth out many of the rough spots in engine performance compared with the imports, notably the Honda Accord. Horsepower with the new engine never reached the heights of the old Quad, but it was much smoother and more in line with what customers wanted. Olds also made V-6s available for those requiring higher torque.
Reviews were generally positive, although in terms of fit and finish the Achieva suffered from the general "parts bin" mentality of GM in those years, resulting in cheaper-looking parts that didn't really fit in with the Oldsmobile style. It was supposed to go head-to-head with the Honda Accord but didn't really measure up.
Its looks set it apart, which is really where I start to take notice. It's two things really: The rounded split grill sitting above the flat bumper and the. . .yes, I am actually saying this. . .rear fender skirts. As I have noted before I've never been a big fan of fender skirts--they make most cars look ponderous to my eye rather than elegant--but in certain cases they work. Perhaps because those on the Achieva are a bit smaller, they seem to me to add that touch of strangeness in an otherwise unassuming little car that tickles my aesthetic fancy. Just enough to be quirky, but not enough to really put it over the top. Personally, I prefer the coupe as it seems a little better proportioned than the sedan but unfortunately, the skirts only seem to have been an option on the sedan version.
The Achieva didn't quite achieve its goal of model longevity, being replaced after 1998 with the Alero, which took its styling cues from the Aurora. And, well, we see what happened to Olds after that. I still see quite a few of these around and they always invite a turn of the head. Despite my protestations above, I could see me bombing around in one of the 190-horsepower coupes.
--Anthony J. Cagle