I was recently caught in traffic behind a 1990s Buick Riviera, which was an interesting experience because I haven’t seen one of these things in years. I remember seeing a lot of them in the 1990s, then fewer in the 2000s, and now they’re just gone — a vehicle only to be remembered by photos and old car books.
But the one I saw brought back memories of this car, and I have to admit I was pretty taken with the design when seeing it from a modern perspective. In a world of cuts and gouges and sharp lines on every surface, the Riviera is surprisingly simple in its appearance, with clean lines and decent proportions. It’s refreshing.
With that said, the Riviera apparently wasn’t the most impressive vehicle to actually drive. Based on the same General Motors "G-body" platform that underpinned the Oldsmobile Aurora and the Buick Park Avenue, the Riviera was evidently a long coupe that drove like a boaty sedan. The Riviera was front-wheel drive, it weighed in around 3,800 pounds and it had two engine options: A 200-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 or a 240-horsepower supercharged version of the same engine.
In other words, it wasn’t really sporty enough to justify its coupe status, and it wasn’t coupey enough to justify its massive size. In an era when big coupes were starting to die off (think Ford Thunderbird and Cadillac Eldorado), the Riviera couldn’t go on. The car was cancelled after the 1999 model year, and Buick hasn’t returned to the coupe game since.
Still, it’s nice to know a few of these things are still around, even if only to spur a feeling of nostalgia whenever I happen to run across one.
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