Buick Riviera returns with all-new style, power and pizzazz
Date Posted: 5/10/2005
Riviera, the word, invokes images of beautiful coastal vistas, sun-tinged coves and a teeny bikini or two.
Riviera, the car, represents beautiful vistas on wheels in a personal luxury coupe whose distinctive extended prow and dramatic exterior lines have set styling trends in automotive circles dating back to the first edition of 1963.
Riviera, the Buick, became the vanguard of progressive images for this General Motors division where some lesser models over the past three decades earned descriptions in the mainstream marketplace like stodgy, even stale.
Riviera, the 1993 edition by Buick, died quietly at the end of its term, eclipsed by advanced sport and luxury coupe competitors bearing such brand names as Cadillac (Eldorado), Lexus (SC 400) and Lincoln (Mark VIII).
Riviera, the 1995 Buick personal luxury coupe, returns like the Phoenix rising from its own ash as a revolutionary inspiration by General Motors to entice us with its stunning oval silhouette, sumptuously luxurious passenger compartment and surprisingly agile road manners.
Remember Riviera: It's the most beautiful machine on wheels this year.
And, in a canny marketing ploy, Riviera's prices run in an attainable range for several thousands of dollars on either side of $30,000. Figures begin at $28,250.
My first chance to drive the new Riviera occurred -- perhaps appropriately, considering the image of this Phoenix -- at Arizona's Phoenix International Raceway. But several months prior to that fast-paced experience behind the wheel, I witnessed Riviera's debut for the Kansas City Auto Show as central attraction set among priceless antiques of an exclusive and private automobile collection.
Positioned prominently among vintage Buicks, Lincolns and Ferraris, Riviera with its sensuously smooth lines stood out like some wondercar whisked from the future.
During my initial walk-around inspection in Kansas City, I came around the long nose to confront the new design face to face. That's when I first detected Riviera's most unusual styling feature: The "fault line" (as Buick's designers have tagged it), a crisp notch of a canted plane several inches wide separating each side fender from the front hood. With so many smoothed and sanded curves to this car, these two straight lines cut into the design to accent those teardrop headlamps and thin oval grille.
What a stunning piece of automotive art.
It's so smooth and glossy, in fact, that I found myself reaching out to touch the new forms, to run my fingers over those undulating contours.
Later in Phoenix I discovered Riviera's exterior beauty was only the most obvious of its many allures.
This is an entirely new car from General Motors.
It received a new chassis and independent suspension (shared with the upcoming Oldsmobile Aurora sedan), rigid new safety cage structure surrounding the passenger cabin, plush new interior layout with a host of luxury perks, and bold horsepower extracted from enhanced V6 engines.
The Riviera rumor carried to Phoenix, circulating in my circle of auto writers, was that Buick's error with Riviera, a massive full-size car weighing upwards of 3,800 pounds, occurred when its designers fostered two revamped V6 powerplants borrowed from the past, rather than install some big new V8 like Aurora carries.
Don Miles, GM Powertrain Division's chief engineer for V6 engines, defended Riviera's plants in Phoenix, explaining that the design improves airflow and thereby extends the band of horsepower to a higher rpm range while expanding mid-range torque and, importantly, conserving fuel.
Riviera's base 3800-series 3.8-liter V6 produces 205 hp at 5200 rpm and 230 lbs/ft of engine torque at 4000 rpm. Even so, fuel economy numbers reach as high as 29 mpg for highway driving -- and you can pump the less expensive regular unleaded gasoline into this tank.
A supercharged edition, available optionally early in 1995, will boost performance to 225 hp.
Either engine links exclusively to a 4-speed automatic transmission with electronically-controlled shift sequences for inobtrusive transitions.
My tests, using both base and supercharged Rivieras, occurred on a 6-mile loop course which included a half-mile straight stretch, numerous twisted convolutions to simulate hard-cornering canyon turns, plus most of the high-speed oval track at Phoenix International Raceway.
With my first stomp on the accelerator, Riviera immediately dispelled the tepid horsepower rumor: I experienced crisp, quick acceleration to 95-mph in the first straightway before setting anti-lock brakes to prepare for a hairpin turn.
Despite its mass as the largest coupe on the market, the car felt remarkably stable in curves like the chicane which forced me to whip Riviera's lively steering wheel back and forth.
At intense speeds, it was amazingly quiet.
Exterior streamlining and special sound-deadening insulation result in a feeling of luxurious isolation.
Throughout these tests I felt decidedly coddled by the trappings for comfort piled inside.
The base Riviera has a 3-person split bench in front and notched bench in back -- so you could conceivably transport up to six people. However, my test vehicles came with optional front buckets covered in plush leather and separated by a console.
All kinds of luxury items were installed.
Also, the latest hardware in safety systems, from dual airbags and anti-lock brakes to a safety cage and special crash barriers imbedded in doors, appear on the base model.
Overall, I concluded that this is a feel-good kind of car from every angle -- exterior beauty, interior comforts, under-the-hood power, concealed safety systems, lively handling equipment and economy-oriented operation.
But despite Riviera's active compliance in acrobatics at the Arizona track, I don't want to imply that this is a sport coupe because that's not its mission.
The tilt favors luxury and elegance due to preferences of Riviera's intended buyers. The fact that the car also performs in an agile manner when called upon simply becomes a bonus in the package of assets.
1995 BUICK RIVIERA
| Vehicle Specifications:
| 1995 BUICK RIVIERA Specs
| Model Options:
| Overall Length:
| Engine Size:
||OHV 3.8-L V6
OHV 3.8-L V6 Supercharged
| Gas Mileage:
||$ 28,250 to $ 32,750