SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 39,800 Price As Tested $ 40,020 Engine Type OHV 12-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/PFI* Engine Size 231 cid/3791 cc Horsepower 240 @ 5200 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 280 @ 3600 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 113.8"/74.7"/206.8" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 3905 pounds Fuel Capacity 18.5 gallons Tires (F/R) P225/60R16 touring blackwall tires Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content 90 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 18/27/23 0-60 MPH 7.7 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 15.8 seconds @ 90 mph Top speed 105 mph * Port fuel injection
Last year, Bob and Matt Hagin evaluated the Buick Park Avenue sedan and agreed that it could use more power. The 2000 Park Avenue they tried this week is the Ultra version with more horses and other goodies.)
MATT - The '99 Park Avenue that we had was a very nice car, but its performance was weak, especially if the driver was into "spirited" motoring. I'm glad we had the milder model before we got this Ultra version. They're both powered by the ubiquitous 3.8 liter V6 engine that's been a staple in the General Motors vehicles powerplant arsenal for a long time, but the extra 100 pounds of supercharger hardware makes a big difference. Although the top speed hasn't increased, the Ultra has considerably more get-up-and-go from a traffic light, and in highway driving, its 30 to 70 MPH times are noticeably shorter. It has 240 horsepower and the pulling power has been increased too. It puts out 280 pound/feet of torque, which is an increase of about 20 percent over the same unit without the blower. Both the block and cylinder heads are cast iron and it lacks the sophisticated valve train of some of the other cars in the G.M. stable, but the missing technology isn't obvious from the driver's seat.
BOB - The Ultra has several other items as standard equipment that puts it a few notches above the unsupercharged version. The front seats are heated and it has a neat traction control system that the company calls "StabiliTrak." This device intervenes if the driver is getting into trouble when making a turn at an inappropriate speed or if the car is losing traction on slippery roads. It will apply braking power to one of the front brakes individually in order to bring the car back under control. If the car is beginning to wash out and understeer, it applies pressure to the inside front brake to straighten it out, and if the rear end starts to come around, it applies pressure to the outside front brake to bring it back into shape. I wish we'd been able to try this system on a controlled skid-pad to get the effect first-hand. The way it's described, it's a really great safety feature.
MATT - Last year, we described the standard Park Avenue as being a typical company car for conservative mid-management types who are in the market for a car with lots of creature-comforts at a relatively low price. But with the addition of the supercharger on the Ultra, the Park Avenue will appeal the corporate types who still need the conservative image, but want to whip through mountain roads when the spirit moves them. There's enough space in the trunk for luggage for a family of four and if the family has some ski buffs, it has a rear seat pass-though that can accommodate a couple of sets of long skis.
BOB - Like the engine, the suspension system on both of the Park Avenues is pretty conventional with MacPherson struts up front and trailing links in back, but tuned a little tighter in the Ultra than the standard model. The rear also has a load-leveling system to keep the car on an even keel if it's carrying a heavy load. I appreciated the fact that the door locks are automatically unlocked within 15 second of an air-bag deployment. If the bags go off in a collision, the OnStar cellular phone option automatically calls 911 at the same time. The OnStar system operates from a global positioning system that uses satellites to pinpoint the exact location of the car. It's also handy if the car is stolen because it tracks its location the same way. OnStar also provides a map for getting around in unfamiliar territory.
MATT - The interior features seating that is typically Buick-plush but not mushy, and the driver's seat can be adjusted in almost every position. The driver gets a clear view of the necessary instruments through the upper half of the steering wheel, but it takes some time to get comfortable with the global positioning device. You almost need a navigator in the passenger's seat to keep track of things but if it's used correctly, it makes it almost impossible to get lost.
BOB - As I get older, Matt, I find that a gadget that keeps me from having to stop to ask directions is lots more useful than extra horsepower and special hot-rod tires.