SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 31,130 Price As Tested $ 33,463 Engine Type OHV 12-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SPFI* Engine Size 231 cid/3791 cc Horsepower 205 @ 5200 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 230 @ 4000 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 113.8"/74.7"/206.8" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 3787 pounds Fuel Capacity 18.5 gallons Tires (F/R) P225/60R16 touring Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Six-passenger/four-door Domestic Content N/A Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 19/28/23 0-60 MPH 8.0 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 16.5 seconds @ 87.0 mph Top-speed 105 mph * Sequential port fuel injection
(Buick ranks high in the G.M. luxo car lineup and Matt Hagin understands why after spending time behind the wheel of a '99 Park Avenue. His father Bob remarks that the ranking goes back a long way.)
BOB - The Buick luxury image started back in 1908 when Billy Durant formed General Motors with Buick as its lynchpin. Cadillac was in the mix as the premium machine, but Buick was just one notch down and very popular. Matt, I'm sure you remember the '37 Buick we owned years ago and how big its straight-eight engine was.
MATT - The engines in the Buicks of today are considerably lighter than the ones used back then, Dad, and considerably more efficient. The Park Avenue that we tested is very refined, even though its V6 engine is antiquated with pushrod-operated overhead valves and only two valves per cylinder. It's been in use since the early '80s, so G.M. has had a lot of time to refine it. G.M. likes this engine so much it uses it in a lot of its different G.M. brands. It has a cast iron block and heads, just like the V8s of the old days. And unlike many more modern V6s, the 3.8 liter G.M. engine has a 90-degree angle between the cylinder banks.
BOB - All Park Avenues come with this 3800 V6, but the Park Avenue Ultra version has a positive-displacement supercharger strapped on top to give it an extra 35 horses. The only transmission available for any of the Park Avenues, or any Buick for that matter, is an electronically controlled four-speed automatic. It's a predictable choice for a car like this. It's a car built for comfort and reliability and one of its strong points is that it comes with a large number of comfort and convenience items.
MATT - Dad, the Ultra has a lot of goodies as standard equipment that are optional on the unsupercharged version. It has heated front seats, full-range traction control and genuine wood interior accents. All Park Avenues roll on P225/R16 tires, but the tires on the Ultra version are gripper Touring tires. They all use 16-inch aluminum rims with chrome plating as an option. The Park Avenue is targeted towards conservative mid-management types who are in the market for a vehicle that has lots of creature-comforts at a relatively low price. I was able to stuff six big pieces of luggage into the cavernous trunk and this was partly due to the width of the opening between the taillights. I also tried out the rear seat pass-though by running a couple of sets of skis through it.
BOB - There's several other items that make life easy in a Park Avenue like the Eyecue system that displays the instrument panel on the base of the windshield, and the Driver Information Center which lets the driver monitor such functions as miles-to-empty, the amount of fuel used and other information. I liked the fact that the door locks are automatically unlocked within 15-seconds of an air-bag deployment. If they go off in a collision, the On-Star cellular phone option automatically calls 911 at the same time. The On-Star system operates off of a global position system using satellites to pinpoint the exact location of the car. It's also handy if the Park Avenue is stolen because it tracks the location of the car same way. It also provides a map for getting around in unfamiliar territory.
MATT - The Environmental Protection Agency classifies it as a large car and it has seating capacity is six adults, but the center passenger both front and rear are cramped for long runs. It's much better used as a double-date machine for "mature" couples. The Park Avenue uses power pack-and-pinion steering and is supported by pretty conventional front MacPherson struts. The rear suspension uses semi-trailing lateral links. It also utilizes a neat electronically-controlled leveling system that operates through the shock absorbers. The Park Avenue is no light-weight, tipping the scales at close to two tons, and it's mammoth, too, at a little over 17 feet in length.
BOB - Buicks have never been lightweights, Matt, and it was a problem with some of those old clunked we had. If they stalled, it was major task to just get them off to the side of the road.