What's New for 1999
The Park Avenue's taillamps are now similar to those found on the upscale Ultra model. Also new this year is an enhanced eight-speaker audio system dubbed Concert Sound III, a new hood-to-fender seal for improved appearance, an adjustable rubber bumper for the deck lid and four new exterior colors.
Just two years after Buick engineers adopted chassis structures and styling cues from the trend-setting Riviera coupe for a redesign of the Park Avenue sedan, just look at how the fortunes of these sister cars have differed. The Park Avenue, a traditional favorite of the retirement village set, racked up awards from several independent sources as it appealed to a much wider audience. The Riv, as one of the few large personal luxury sport coupe nameplates remaining on the planet, struggled on the sales front until GM finally pulled the plug, targeting only 2000 units for production in the 1999 model year.
While some auto analysts see a rebirth of the coupe segment on the horizon, nobody can argue with the viability of a well-executed, fully equipped large sedan in today's market. Clean design is the first thing you notice about the Park Avenue. It has a classy and dignified character without resorting to tacky chrome add-ons or exaggerated styling themes. Sure, a coupe this big would look downright silly (did somebody say Riviera?), but a sedan body looks right at home on this massive platform.
Ever think that redesigning a car to have larger exterior dimensions could cause some key interior dimensions to shrink? Well, such is the case with the Park Avenue. With that curvy body it gained in 1997 came the loss of a little front legroom and a whole cubic foot of cargo capacity. To compensate, Buick increased head, rear leg and hip room, while improving the lift-over into the trunk. The result is that many folks trading up to the newer Park Avenue think the car is more spacious than the old model.
Powertrains remain unchanged, 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, which, when fully loaded, tips the scales at a hefty two tons.
There are two trim levels available, the well-equipped Park Avenue and upscale Ultra model. Ultras carry all the bells and whistles, including magnetic variable-assist steering that the dealership can reprogram for higher or lower steering effort. A variety of goodies are standard or optional on either, such as 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. In either case, you owe it to yourself to consider the Gran Touring Package, which adds the programmable-effort steering, a beefier suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels riding on 225/60 blackwalls and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Last year, the exterior mirrors were revised to fold in toward the body to avoid breakage, while heating and electrochromic dimming functions and a handy parallel parking feature (that powers the mirrors down for curbside viewing) was made standard on Ultra and optional on Park Avenue. This year, an inside electrochromic self-dimming rearview mirror with built-in compass is now standard on Ultra and optional on Park Avenue, which now gets the Ultra's heavy duty battery standard. Other than that, there are four new colors added to the paint choices for '99: Sterling Silver Metallic, Gold Firemist, Dark Bronzemist and Titanium Blue Metallic (Bright White Diamond was available in late 1998.). Oh, and the Park's instrument panel and door plates display a new Elite walnut trim.
As on many premium GM models, buyers can opt for the dealer-installed OnStar mobile communications system that not only can be used for summoning all kinds of assistance, but also for automatic notification of airbag deployment, theft detection and stolen vehicle tracking.
Don't fix it if it ain't broke. Buick adhered to that wisdom for 1998 and again this year by making only minor modifications to the Park Avenue. Fact is the Park Avenue is a quiet automobile, with solid build quality and interior ergonomics. It's no surprise to us that it garners high praise as a good value from auto reviewers, especially when compared to the sky-high price tag of some imported luxury sedans.