The Buick Park Avenue is one of the poshest American Cars made, short of the pure luxury makes of Cadillac and Lincoln. It's smooth ride, generous size, conservative yet elegant styling, and abundance of luxury touches makes it a favorite of moderately well-off senior citizens. In its present form, the Park Avenue is a large front wheel drive automobile that is slightly over 17 feet long, and weighs in at 3778 pounds for the base Park Avenue and 3884 pounds for the Park Avenue Ultra.
The name Park Avenue
was first applied to the Buick Electra
in the early 1980's
as the Electra Park Avenue. The Electra name dates back to the 1960's, and like the Park Avenue
was one of the biggest land yacht
s of its time built by General Motors
, excluding motorhome
s. In the 60's, the Electra was nearly 19 feet long and had a 455 cubic inch engine to move its nearly 5,000 pounds of mass down the highway. By the early 1980's, the Electra was a shadow of its former self. A victim of increasing regulations, it was downsized in size and performance at the altar of emissions controls
and fuel efficiency
standards. The rear wheel drive version of the Electra Park Avenue held on until about the 1987
model year, when the rear wheel drive layout was scrapped for a new front drive chassis, and the Electra name was dropped. The new chassis was also shared by other large GM models, such as the Pontiac Bonneville
and the Oldsmobile 98
. Unlike the fuel thirsty and clumsy Electra of the 60's, the new Park Avenue
kept the roomy interior and cushy ride of the old Electra, but gained desirable attributes of at least passable handling and easier parking than the old Electra. The front drive Park Avenue
even got reasonable fuel economy, up to 30 miles per gallon when driven leisurely down the highway, with a fuel efficient 3.8 liter fuel injected V-6 under the hood.
I have had a chance to drive both a first generation Park Avenue , a 1992, and the current generation, a 2000 model, both owned by my parents. Although both cars are designed for a demographic 15 or 20 years my senior, I can say that I like the current model much better. The biggest knock I have on the first generation was the pretentiousness of the interior, lots of tufted velour, an electronic dash heavy on digital readouts, fake woodgrain trim, and a cheesy badge that said Dynaride. The 92 performed well, but the ride was a bit too mushy for my tastes, with lots of body roll on cornering and wallowing on uneven pavement. The car served my parents well, and they got a decent price for it when they got their 2000 model. The 2000 model is a bit more powerful, but also larger. One major disappointment for my parents was it was too large to fit on a dolly they used to tow their old Park Avenue behind their motorhome. Because of the design of the transmission, they could not tow it flat. Other than that, the new model is superior in just about every other way. Gone is the gee-whiz digital dash, as well as the fake woodgrain, replaced by a sleek new dash sporting analog gauges. Leather seating surfaces replaced the tufted velour, and the handling is much improved. Finally, I like some of the new styling touches, especially the waterfall grille, but I think the chrome-lined fender holes on the 2003 model are a little over the top.
The 2003 Buick Park Avenue comes in two trim levels, Standard and Ultra. In Standard trim, the Park Avenue comes with a fuel injected 3.8 liter V-6 capable of 205 horsepower at 5,200 RPM. The Ultra model comes with a supercharged 3.8 liter V-6 which is good for 240 horsepower. 4 wheel antilock disk brakes are standard on both models, and traction control is standard on the Ultra, and available as an option on the Standard model. Other neat options are heated 10 way power seats, a heads up display, Satellite Navigation System, and On-Star.
Park Avenue Base Price: $35,295 MSRP
Park Avenue Ultra Base Price: $40,395 MSRP