A family favorite gets down to serious business underhood.
by Bob Storck
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Ever since the Park Avenue was introduced, it separated itself from the crop of U.S. luxury cars by its good packaging and attention to detail. While the division primarily appeals to traditional U.S. buyers, lots of import luxury car intenders would be wise to give it a look.
Park Avenue customers prize roominess, rich accommodations and a quiet, comfortable ride - as well as value. The most significant change in the last Park Avenue redesign involved adopting the body structure and chassis systems introduced in the Buick Riviera. Park Avenue is in fact a second-generation architectural design with a host of enhancements.
Park Avenue's robust architecture delivers a wealth of benefits: a quiet, solid ride for the life of the vehicle, superior road manners and responsive handling, safety-cage construction for outstanding crashworthiness and superior comfort. The Park Avenue is slightly larger than other near luxury competitors in practically all major interior and exterior dimensions. For example, the wheelbase was lengthened three inches to increase the room available for the driver and five passengers and improve the ride. Trunk utility is excellent because lift-over height is lower and the width of the opening is maximized with the use of diagonal cutlines for the decklid.
I especially applaud the seat-mounted safety belt system for front passengers, designed so the shoulder belt fits comfortably irrespective of seat position and occupant size. This is a safety feature initially introduced on upscale Mercedes sports cars, but deemed too expensive to install in most of their line. In the event of an airbag deployment, the doors automatically unlock in 15 seconds.
The car's engineers placed a strong emphasis on perfecting fundamental ride, quietness and comfort attributes. Engineers used state-of-the-art approaches such as torque-axis engine mounting and triple door seals to enhance comfort and quietness.
Supercharged Ultra power
Buick's successful 3800 Series II V-6s continue to power the Park Avenue. Except for oil and filter changes, both the normally aspirated and the supercharged powerplants are virtually 100,000-mile maintenance free. Park Avenue's naturally aspirated Series II delivers 205 horsepower at 5200 rpm while Park Avenue Ultra's supercharged Series II produces an impressive 240 horsepower at 5200 rpm.
Both benefit from a new TurboHydramatic 4T65E transaxle, which provides added capacity, more electronic control and a larger torque converter. These are the best automatic transmissions in the world, and are used by many upscale customers, including Volvo in their new luxury S80.
Customer benefits are enhanced driving smoothness and optimum fuel efficiency. Even though the new models are larger, projected fuel economy is unchanged from the previous models: 19 mpg city and 29 highway for Park Avenue and 18/27 for the supercharged Ultra. I've personally seen higher figures on three-hour interstate trips even while pushing the speed limits.
Park Avenue technical advancements include a higher-capacity four-wheel-disc anti-lock brake system, magnetic variable effort rack-and-pinion power steering, several aluminum suspension components, fixed-lens halogen headlamps and a more damage-resistant radio antenna embedded in the rear window.
An example of the robust design is a one-piece cast magnesium cross-car beam that serves as a body structural member as well as the primary instrument panel mounting support. Squeaks and rattles in the instrument panel are much less likely because the beam eliminates numerous individual brackets. (Magnesium is an exceptional material having high strength and stiffness with very low weight.)
Among other enhancements is a new multiplexing technology that reduces the number of wires that go into a door by 75 percent, which translates into reduced complexity, less bulk for ease of packaging and improved reliability. This was introduced by Lexus, and will become more common in the future.
The ComforTemp climate control system again has dual controls and adjustable rear seat vents. Comfortable 10-way power driver and front passenger seats are a split-frame design that allows the seat bottom to be adjusted independently of the backrest. Four-way lumbar support adjustment, standard on Ultra and optional on Park Avenue, is also power operated.
William L. Porter, who headed its exterior design, said the new Park Avenue's styling was "in part inspired by the silky, undulating surfaces of the Riviera." It includes crisp, sharp lines running from the top of the front fender, along the doors to the rear, similar to those on the Riviera, and conveying a jaunty, nautical hint.
Park Avenue continues to offer a long list of standard features such as dual airbags, anti-lock brakes, remote keyless entry and traction control (standard on Ultra).
A number of features which are standard on Ultra include: rain sensing windshield wipers; a tire inflation pressure monitoring system; highly visible head-up display yields speed, high-beam, turn signal and "check gauges" information; a special convenience console locates an illuminated writing surface, storage compartments; real wood interior trim with leather upholstery; and a Concert Sound III entertainment system.
Most of the comfort and convenience features mentioned above are standard Ultra equipment so its options list contains only a few items to suit specific tastes and applications. Most are available as options on the regular Park Avenue.
Recent refinements include an improved taillamp appearance, and enhanced sound system. Outside rearview mirrors were recently changed to fold if they contact something while parking. Also buyers will get a programmable passenger window lockout feature, automatic parallel park assist added to passenger outside mirror and a micron air filtration system.
To enhance safety, health and security, Park Avenue now includes next-generation airbags, front side bags and rear child seat tether anchors. On the Ultra, standard Michelin tires and the excellent Stabilitrak skid avoidance system will help keep buyers secure in the worst conditions. OnStar service was a dealer-installed option.
The new three-button OnStar driver assistance system is available for the 2000 model year, offering a hands-free link to person-to-person in-vehicle safety, security and information services from General Motors' 24-hour, seven-day-a-week OnStar Center. The new three-button system eliminates the need to buy separate cellular telephone service to access the OnStar system.
2000 Buick Park Avenue Base Price:
3.8-liter V-6, 205 hp; supercharged 3.8-liter V-6, 240 hp Transmission:
four-speed automatic Wheelbase:
113.8 in Length:
206.8 in Width:
74.7 in Height:
57.4 in Weight:
3778-3884 lb Fuel economy:
19 city/ 29 hwy (18/27 supercharged V-6) Major standard equipment:
Dual front and side airbags
AM/FM cassette player
Power windows, locks, and mirrors
Remote keyless entry
Micron air-filtration system