Buick Park Avenue
A four-door luxury sedan built by General Motors, the Buick Park Avenue was a survivor from the big-boat era, and very popular with the mature car buyer. Constructed on old-school American luxury, the Park Avenue was for the discerning buyer who craved soft, pillowed seats and an ultra quite ride. Sold by GM's Buick division, the Park Avenue nameplate was first used in 1977 as the Buick Electra's luxurious trim level offering 1970's extras like plush carpeting and velour headliner. Next the Park Avenue was used as a sub-model in 1985 before becoming a solo model in 1991 and the replacement for the Electra. Invoking memories of a posh suburb, the nameplate is actually derived from the wealthy NYC Boulevard, Park Avenue. Until 2005 two generations of the Park Avenue were produced in the U.S. In 2007 the nameplate was used on a large Buick sedan for the Chinese market built by Shanghai GM.
The first Park Avenue was the front wheel drive sub-model of the 1985-1990 Buick Electra. As the super-posh trim level for the Electra, the early Park Avenue models came with incredibly thick velour upholstery filled with faux wood trim interior and plenty of chrome on the outside. In 1966 the Electra Park Avenue was downsized slightly but still remained a large vehicle with a hefty V8. Midway through the 1980s the car was downsized again, but this time to a much shorter and lighter model with a slimmed-down, squared-off body. The Electra Park Avenue adopted front-wheel drive and used fuel-efficient V6 power. The rear wheel drive Electra continued in production, while the front wheel drive Electra Park Avenue continued into the 1990s as the Park Avenue.
For 1985 no rear wheel drive Electra sedan was available though it didn't include a rear wheel drive Electra Estate Wagon. 1985 brought with it in a brand new platform for the front wheel drive Electra and several available versions including Electra 300, Electra 380, Electra 430, Park Avenue and Park Avenue Ultra in both coupe and sedan form. The Electra 300 was powered by the 3.0L engine, the 380 and Park Avenue/Ultra featured the 3.8L engine, while the 430 was powered by the Oldsmobile 4.3L diesel. The base version was the front wheel drive, while everything else was an option to that model. All of the sub-models were discontinued between 1986 and 1990.
Also carrying the Park Avenue nameplate was the Buick Park Avenue Essence concept debuted in 1989 to showcase new styling and innovative technology for GM. Appearing in a light green metallic color at first, the Essence eventually appeared in while at various auto show circuits. The interior of the concept car featured an incredibly vast instrument panel that held many innovative features and a prototype Delco Navicar navigation system. Powering the concept car was n 185 hp version of Buick's 3800 OHV V6 engine.
Replacing the Electra, the big luxurious Park Avenue arrived in 1991 with GM's new 3800 V6 engine along with a new front-wheel drive chassis that made the sedan actually easier to steer. The base and Ultra trims were available throughout the Park Avenue's lifespan. The upscale Ultra was designed with the younger consumer in mind and had more emphasis on performance. The first generation Park Avenue introduced in 1990 rode on GM C platform through 1997 when the C-body was dropped. A little bit bigger than the square 80's version, the new Park Avenue was all soft curves and elegant lines and featured nice luxury features like dual-zone climate controls. Taking many styling cues from the '89 Park Avenue Essence, the Park Avenue was incredibly eye-catching with a sleek silhouette that was compared often to the then-current Jaguar. The rounded lines, full-width tail lamps and large 'dollar-grin' grille were used in the styling of other 1990 Buick models. The Ultra received 20 more horsepower in 1994 and the option of heated seats. The base model received a power boost the following year, which brought it to 205 horsepower.
Powering the Park Avenue Ultra was a supercharged version of the 3.8-liter V6 that produced 240 hp, to the base model's 3.8 L 3800 Series I V6 engine producing 205 hp. Only a very limited few Ultra models were equipped with this supercharged engine and many considered the version to be a 'sleeper' because of its impressive acceleration, despite its huge size. Equipped with a 4-speed automatic transmission, the front-drive Buick featured ABS and front and side airbags. The base model featured plush velour on the inside with an available upgrade option to leather. The Ultra featured a standard leather interior.
From 1991 through 1996 the base Park Avenue model was sold in the Europe. Differing from the U.S. version, the European model sported a wider number-plate bezel, truncated taillamps with separate amber turn signals and red brake lamps, rear red fog lamps, different lens pattern headlamps, amber front turn signal indicators, side turn signal repeaters, white front side running markers, 'flagpole' external rear-view mirrors, 'softer' air bags, metric speedometer and gauges and solider seat belt and anchors. All of these adaptations were in compliance with strict safety standards with the European regulatory.
The first generation Park Avenue would be the last Buick officially marketed by GM in Europe. In an attempt to de-clutter the Buick range in Europe, Buick was no longer offered to European consumers. Cadillac and Chevrolet would be the only GM North American brands sold in Europe after 1996.
In 1997 the second generation Park Avenue was launched in 1997, now constructed on GM's G platform, though GM continued to call it the C platform. Growing even more polished by 1997, the Park Avenue was a plush ride with good handling. Gaining a few extra inches in wheelbase, the second generation was an even sturdier drive. Only Ultra models were supercharged. Powering this new generation were updated Series II variants of the 3800.
Buicks flagship large sedan, the Park Avenue could seat up to six passengers with the front bench seat. A hood ornament adorned the front of the base trim model while the Ultra featured a subtle tri-shied inset on the upper edge of the grille. The base model no longer offered velour interior and instead featured leather trim. Buick wanted its Park Avenue customers to feel incredibly pampered, and the plush leather seats and numerous power features did this easily. The adjustable seat, mirror and wheel settings could all be easily accessed remotely before ever entering the vehicle. In 1998 the Park Avenue received available OnStar, stability controls in 2000, and available park assist in 2001. The 2003 Ultra received a new grille, 17-inch chrome wheels and fender 'portholes'.
Not many changes were in store for 2003 except for the return of characteristic Buick ventiports and a flashy grille that held a bigger monochromatic tri-shield badge in the center. The base model in 2004 would be the final USDM Buick to sport a factory hood ornament. The final model year was 2005 and the base model received the new grille and the once-exclusively Ultra ventiports. Another change for this year was a revised rear end with a new chrome bar and embossed Park Avenue script above the license plate holder along with amber turn signal flashers. The final 3,000 Park Avenue models sported Special Edition badging with a silhouette of the New York City Skyline and the classic Park Avenue script underneath. 300 of these 3,000 models were done in a special two-tone black-on-platinum finish.
Though they tried to appeal to younger drivers, the Park Avenue remained a reliable 'older' car despite the Ultra engine options. On June 18, 2004 Buick Park Avenue production ended as part of Buick's rebranding push and was replaced by the Lucerne V8 in 2006, also effectively replacing the LeSabre.
General Motors launched a luxury sedan in China in 2007 using the Park Avenue nameplate that was replacing the Buick Royaum. Assembled by Shanghai GM from CKD kits, the Park Avenue was based on the Australian-built Holden Caprice and was available in three trim levels; Comfort, Elite and Flagship. Powered by Australian-built version of the GM High feature engine, the standard engine is 2.8 L LP1 while an optional 3.6 L LY7 is available for the Elite and Flagship models. A Bosch E77 32-bit ECM processor is the engine control unit used. Now powertrains were introduced in 2010, the 3 L SIDI and 3.6 L SIDI displaced the previous 2.8 V6 and 3.6 V6. This model wasn't available for sale in the U.S. or Canada.
By Jessica Donaldson
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