New Car Review


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1996 BUICK PARK AVENUE

by Tom/Bob Hagin

SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 28,205
     Price As Tested                                    $ 32 796
     Engine Type                             3.8 Liter V6 w/PFI*
     Engine Size                                 231 cid\3791 cc
     Horsepower                                   205 @ 5200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               230 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  110.8"/74.1"/205.2"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3536 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P205/70R15
     Brakes (F/R)                              Disc-ABS/drum-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                            19/29/23          
     0-60 MPH                                        8.9 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17.1 seconds @ 83 mph
     Top Speed (Est.)                                        N/A

     * Port fuel injection

(Buick engineers had a definite market niche in mind when they developed the plush V6-powered Park Avenue and Park Avenue Ultra sedans. Not quite geriatric in design, they nonetheless appeal to a "mature" clientele. Tom Hagin admits that he is beginning to enjoy "mature" vehicles, a comment that makes his father Bob feel older.)

TOM - Dad, I'm beginning to understand why older drivers enjoy driving big, comfortable cars like the Park Avenue. It cruises so well over the most disreputable roads, those inside never feel more than a jiggle. It's no ball of performance fire, but in this kind of a car you don't really care. There's no "macho" image involved.

BOB - I know the feeling, Tom, but it makes me feel pretty old to have my son tell me that. You're right about the comfort factor of this big Buick, but I'd like to see more side support in the seats. When you toss the car around, it's hard to stay straight in the saddle. I know it's somewhat iconoclastic to be powering a Park Avenue through sweeping turns but the temptation was too much. If we do another Park Avenue any time soon, let's see if we can get them to give us one with the Gran Touring Package and the supercharger. That might really be a "road sleeper." Using a supercharger, the engine is boosted to 240 horsepower and it can be had with traction control as well.

TOM - That's called the "Ultra" model, Dad, and it's considerably faster than the standard version. In fact, it's faster in the quarter mile than a half-dozen highly touted performance cars on the market now. But other than the extra power, it's pretty much the same, comfortable car as the one we had. And one of the nice Park Avenue touches is that the rear seat has a center armrest that can be pulled down which makes long-distance cruising lots more comfortable for back seat passengers. There's one up front, too, but it limits the front and rear seating.

BOB - And if a driver likes electrical gadgets, the Park Avenue is just the ticket. There's a "battery rundown" gizmo that shuts down the system if something like an interior or trunk light is left on for more than 10 minutes. Also, the power door locks won't work if the key is shut off and if the driver leaves the key in the ignition, it's impossible to lock them inside the car. And if someone tries to steal the thing, its Pass-Key II anti-theft system will disable the ignition and fuel delivery so the car won't start. Then there's the usual standard comfort items - cruise control, power everything, extendible sunvisors and air conditioning. I really liked the optional twin temperature controls, too. That way I could "ice down" my side while your mother could blast the heat to the passenger side. She's always telling me to turn the A/C off, but I just get too hot.

TOM - Maintenance on the Park Avenue is simple enough. The new-type coolant is good for five years, the first recommended engine service is due at 100,000 miles and the transmission fluid never has to be replaced. And after all these years, the Buick V6 engine has proven itself to be almost bullet-proof. It first appeared in 1962 and has been in the Buick lineup ever since - save for a hiatus from '67 to '75. But the fuel shortages of that era forced Buick to go back to its little V6. Over the years though, it's grown from 198 cubic inches to the current 231-inch version and has had its performance improved by the addition of typical "hot-rod" tricks like fuel injection, roller cams and high compression, as well as turbos and superchargers.

BOB - But it's stayed faithful to the old pushrod-type overhead valve system that's been used by Buick since 1904, except for a couple of versions in the early days. And it still hasn't gone to multi-valves per cylinder, like many modern engines. But the electronically- controlled four-speed transaxle is modern enough and the shifts are smooth, but on a car this sophisticated, I was surprised to find that the rear brakes are drums. Actually, I'm something of a Buick fan.

TOM - So when are you going to rebuild that '37 Buick Special you have in the garage.

BOB - That's a project I'm saving for my old age, Tom.

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