What's New for 1998
Exterior mirrors can be folded away, a new optional feature tilts the exterior mirrors down for curb viewing during reversing, dealers can install an OnStar Communications system and new colors are available inside and out. Second-generation airbags are made standard.
Just look at what the Riviera has done. Two years after its ballyhooed debut, engineers adopted chassis structures and styling themes from the trend-setting coupe for the complete redesign of the 1997 Park Avenue. With these two models, Buick has obviously narrowed its focus. Forget what you think you know about the Park Avenue, a traditional favorite of the retirement village set. The current Park appeals to a much wider audience.
Strong design is the first thing you notice about the Park Avenue. It has a classy and dignified look. The Park has character without resorting to tacky chrome add-ons or questionable styling themes. Massive is the word to describe the car, not surprising since it's longer, wider and taller than it has been in years. But, is it attractive? That's for the consumer to decide.
Despite larger dimensions, a couple key dimensions inside shrank last year. Front legroom was marginally cut, and the trunk lost a cubic foot of capacity. To compensate, head, rear leg and hip room were increased, resulting in a cabin that feels more spacious than older models. Lift-over into the trunk was also improved.
Interior sound levels were reduced by 33 percent, according to Buick. Structural improvements resulted in less shake, rattle and roll, as well as improved build quality. Interior ergonomics were improved with the addition of larger analog gauges, seat-mounted safety belts, metaphoric power seat switches and more accessible radio and climate controls.
Park Avenue is available in a standard model, and upscale Ultra trim. Ultra's are equipped with magnetic variable-assist steering that the dealership can reprogram for higher or lower steering effort. A variety of goodies are either standard or optional, including rain-sensing windshield wipers and a head-up display that projects speed, turn signals, high beams and idiot lights onto the lower portion of the windshield.
Powertrains were carried over from the old car, and that's not a bad thing. Buick's 3800 Series II engine provides V8 power in a fuel-efficient V6 package. The supercharged edition of this engine is an absolute joy. Fortunately, it comes standard on the Ultra. That fully loaded model tips the scales at a hefty two tons.
Don't fix it if it ain't broke. Buick adhered to this wisdom for 1998 by making minor modifications to the Park Avenue. Four new exterior colors and one new interior color are available. The exterior mirrors get new features. For 1998 they fold in toward the body to avoid breakage in parking lots. Optional is a handy parallel parking feature that powers the mirrors down for curbside viewing. Buyers can have the dealer install OnStar, a mobile communications system that will allow occupants to call up for directions to the local Claim Jumper steakhouse, an oral Triptik for that cruise across an unfamiliar town or help in the event that they're being chased by goons in an unmarked van.
With the redesigned Park Avenue, Buick aims to retain traditional buyers, while going after baby boomers. The message here is uncompromised comfort, according to marketing folks. All indications say Buick has a winner on its hands with the Park Avenue.