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Sports rig adds pizazz to Olds Omega

The ES sports package, a $1,046 option, makes a whale of a difference on the Oldsmobile Omega, a General Motors X-car. What the option includes is a ride and handling suspension which gives the car an entirely different feel from the standard Omega, a high-output version of the V-6 engine, sport steering wheel, and a few appearance items that don't have any bearing on the way the car rides and performs.

The ''special edition'' option provides a level of driver response which less-performance-oriented cars lack.

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In appearance, the Olds Omega looks pretty much the way it did when it was introduced in the spring of 1979, yet it does include a few things that make it a better car. Not everything is a plus, however. The on-off headlamp toggle switch, for example, was hard to find because of its location on the dash. But to the more-familiar owner, I guess, it would be duck soup.

The floor-mounted shift lever also took a few days of driving before I was fairly comfortable in its use. It is bent at a peculiar angle, and I was still not thoroughly used to it by the time I turned back the car to the manufacturer. But there again, if you don't mind the learning and adjusting process, it may be no problem at all.

Despite all the criticisms of the GM X-cars over the years, I could find no big fault with the Omega. The highly publicized brake-lockup problem is apparently limited to earlier-model cars.

This Omega exhibited no brake-lockup difficulty, despite a few panic stops on the highway. The stops were quick, smooth, and straight-line.

About the best part of the car, in the opinion of this motorist, is the suspension and perky performance.

Too, the inside room was really quite sufficient.

Fuel economy was in the low 20s, but the midwinter driving conditions were hardly the best. On a dry Interstate in July, the mileage should go up handily.

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From a base price of $7,948, the list price of the test Omega ES was $10,531, including the ES package and $2,213 in options. Air conditioning alone is listed at $725; the destination charge, $270.

The Omega still has a couple of years to go before GM phases it out. Despite its problems over the years, the X-car has come a long way in the interim.

As for the ''special edition'' option, it's available on the Firenza GT, the high-performance Hurst-Olds, Cutlass Ciera ES, Cutlass Ciera Holiday Coupe, and Cutlass Supreme Special Edition.

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