The Oldsmobile Toronado tried time and time again to break the molds of what it meant to be the most premium offering in the middle of the General Motors Hierarchy. Where it initially channeled the elegant grand touring ethos of the Cord 810 upon introduction, it became an off the rack designer clone of the Cadillac Eldorado for its 2nd Generation. That tradition continued through its 3rd Generation as well.
As the automotive landscape changed and the definition of personal luxury shifted once again, it seemed the original thesis statement of the Toronado seemed relevant once again. Up against more budget constraints, the 4th Generation Toro found itself a compromised return to its roots.
Gone was an Oldsmobile Specific V8 engine. Through the years ever refined versions of the corporate Buick 3.8 Liter V6, tracing roots further back than the Toronado itself found itself under the hood of all examples. From a marginal 140 horsepower in 1986, by the time of the end of the 4th generation’s there was a decently healthy 170 horses and 220 lb-ft of torque transmitted through perhaps one of the most refined 4 speed automatics of the early 1990’s, GM’s 4T60-E.
Alongside the refinements, similar to the first generation models, there was also a sportier model available. Where the 1st Generation cars had the W-34/GT models with extra oomph to the already potent punch of the base car, Olds sought to outfit the latest Toronados with an elan that eluded most recent American Personal Coupes.
Enter the Trofeo. By 1992, it featured a dechromed exterior, similar to the Ninety Eight Touring Sedan, specific lower profile alloy wheels and tires and a shorter final drive ratio. With eyes on the Acura Legend, and more optimistically the BMW 3 Series Coupe and Mercedes 300 Series CE models, it was a march in the right direction, if not an exact winner.
Performance got a mild boost with the Trofeo model, with 0-60 chiming in in just over 9 seconds, versus closer to 10 seconds for the base car. A sporty exhaust not complemented the stiffer FE-3 suspension tuning that made this most premium of Oldsmobile coupes actually something of a pleasure to fiddle through twisty terrain.
Of course, there was the questions of styling. The original 4th Generation Toronado got plenty of flack for its shrunken presence that was smaller than no less than 4 other coupes in the Oldsmobile stable.
Notably, most traditional dads in Oldsmobile showrooms that marketing back in Lansing sought to distance themselves from chose the highly traditional G-Body Cutlass Supreme coupe that was a throwback bargain to the 1970’s over the new fangled Toro, nevermind the Trofeo.
Additional length was added, as all of the sheetmetal minus the hood was massaged, stretching a foot more in length. Now at over 200 inches long versus the nearly N-Body sized 187 inch forebearer, you got a lot of coupe for your investment. Of course, as with size mattering more than actual use, the interior accommodations prioritized driver and one passenger up front, with some indiginities suffered by anyone else that needed to ride along. Most of the lengthening went to give a more volumptous butt to the Toronado, which upset its long standing long hood, short deck proportions for something more akin to the standard sized hardtop coupes of the 1950’s and 60’s. In an odd way, it was a tribute to the buxom B-Body Starfire in that fashion.
Of course, in all of the mixed messaging and lack of confidence in coupes inside and out of Oldsmobile meant dark days for the Toro. From the highs of the Generation 3 cars, the Gen 4 cars were always middling sellers. A slight downtick from the last year sales to 5,197 for our 1992 subject car make it a rapidly happening rarity on today’s streets 25 years after it sought its original mission.
Not as stealth in teal, maybe the impossibility and improbability of its success provides it with one rich story nonetheless.