New Car/Review


Buick Park Avenue Ultra (2001)

SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 37,450
     Price As Tested                                    $ 39,330
     Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     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                                     4059 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                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                 90 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            18/27/22
     0-60 MPH                                        9.0 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          16.5 seconds @ 88.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           105 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

The Buick Park Avenue and Park Avenue Ultra are constantly being overshadowed by G.M's SUVs and pickups. But if there ever was an underrated vehicle in the GM line, the Park Avenue Buicks are it.

For 2001, the Buick Park Avenue Ultra can be had with a limited- production package that adds exclusive paint, two-tone upholstery and unique walnut wood trim inserts on the dash and door panels.

OUTSIDE - Redesigned totally in 1997, the large shell of the Park Avenue Ultra gives a broad-shouldered, muscular and firmly-planted appearance. Save for the chrome grille, the car is devoid of the acres of brightwork that adorned previous models. This latest version uses only a thin bright strip that surrounds the car at knee-level and another that wraps all but the bottom edges of the side windows. The rest of the car, bumper caps, outside mirrors, door handles, etc. are all painted body-color. Its overall look is rounder and more contemporary than the model it replaced, though the lopped-off tail treatment is conterpoint to the protruding nose piece. The standard tire/wheel combination includes a set of 16-inch alloy wheels and grippy all-weather tires. Our test car came with optional polished wheels.

INSIDE - The Park Avenue Ultra is all about comfort and space, and can carry six people with ease. The front bench seat offers a fold-down center armrest and 10-way power adjustments for both the driver and front passenger. Add to this standard heating elements, four-way power lumbar adjustments and front safety belts that are built into the seats and you'll understand why up-front is the best seat in the house. Supple leather upholstery is everywhere, and the padding doesn't give that sinking-in feeling we used to get on the older Park Avenue models. Also, the easy-to-use power switches on the door panels are much like the latest expensive European sedans. Also simple to reach are the climate control and audio knobs, which are well-marked and seemingly in the right places. New for 2001 is an optional Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist system that senses objects behind while parking. Standard Ultra features include dual zone air conditioning with a filtration system, cruise control, power door locks, windows and outside mirrors, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo, rain-sensing variable-speed intermittent wipers, OnStar system, Personal Choice remote memory feature, three-button universal transmitter and eletrochromic mirrors.

ON THE ROAD - Ultra models are powered by the same 3.8-liter V6 engine as the standard Park Avenue model, but boosted by a supercharger that bumps up the horsepower to 240, 35 more than the standard version. This Series II 3800 engine has proven to be a powerful, reliable workhorse for many years and new this year is a more efficient exhaust system, self-cleaning spark plugs and special plug wires, and an improved intake system. Mated to this is GM's smooth-shifting four-speed automatic transmission and full-range traction control. Additionally, StabiliTrak, a system that helps the driver maintain control in a skid or a slide, is standard.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The Park Avenue's unibody construction is stiff and rigid. Suspension components include MacPherson struts up front, and a semi-trailing arm system in back. Both ends use soft coil springs and thick anti-roll bars, with the overall ride being a good balance of firm versus soft. Handling is above average for a front-wheel drive car this big, with only moderate plowing during hard slalom-like maneuvers. Our test car's optional Gran Touring Package added programmable magnetic variable-effort rack-and-pinion steering, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and special Goodyear Eagle blackwall touring tires. It was hard to tell if that made much difference, but the extra equipment looked great. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard, as is a four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS).

SAFETY - Dual dashboard and side-impact airbags, ABS, traction control, StabiliTrak, side-impact door beams and child seat tethers are standard.

OPTIONS - Chromed wheels, $735; Gran Touring Package, $200.


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