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Remember the 1990s Buick Riviera?

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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10 COMMENTS

  1. A teacher of mine in high school had one of these brand new back in 1996 and I always loved it because it was the coupe version of the Oldsmobile Aurora that I also loved so much.

  2. My cousin had one in high school and I loved getting to drive it while my Grand Prix was in the shop. Love those boats. 

  3. Ah yes, the Aurora Coupe with worse engine options. Why did they not make this thing standard with the 4.0L?

    Aurora was the better car regardless. The Riv’s interior wasn’t done up as nice as the Aurora. 
    Still a cool car though!
  4. I had never seen the interior of one of these cars before, holy Circles!  Doug, you would go nuts with the number of things they stuck inside of circles in this thing.

    Also, the seat appears to be perfectly flat and a mile wide, there is zero ‘sport’ in this thing even with the supercharged engine Hoovey seems to love in his FWD Buick.

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More

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