The 1991–96 Buick Park Avenue was the essence of ’90s American luxury

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It’s unfortunate there’s only one Buick sedan (the Regal) available these days, but there was a time when a Buick sedan commanded utmost respect, busted brand perceptions, and turned heads. The 1992 Park Avenue Ultra was probably the high-water mark: A supercharged, decadently appointed luxury sedan with a reasonably controlled suspension worthy of taming its force-fed engine. All 1991 to 1996 Park Avenues, in fact, were so full of surprise and delight that, to this day, they are a credible alternative to other luxury sedans of the era.

1989 Buick Essence concept01
Buick

There’s always been chatter that the Park Avenue’s style was influenced by the positively angular Jaguar XJ (XJ40), which makes little sense aside from, possibly, the grille shape. In fact, the Park Avenue was inspired by the elongated, organic yet muscular Essence concept car (1989), which looks nothing like a production Jag of the era. Still, rumors never die on the Internet.

Let’s add our own Park Avenue styling conspiracy: Squint really hard and it looks like a four-door rip-off of a 1996 Jaguar XK8 coupe. It’s an entirely logical scenario, if Buick possessed time machine technology. Perhaps Buick did, and perhaps a rogue Buick employee used it to ensure that future co-workers would kill the electric car so he or she could make a mint on Tesla’s IPO. Did I just blow your mind?

Speaking of mind-blowing, check out Motorweek‘s Retro Road Test of the Supercharged Park Avenue Ultra. Those beefy aluminum wheels with low(er)-profile blackwall tires make the Buick look like it can hold the road like a pro. (Or, at least, like a semi-pro.) The sheer volume of flush glass is stunning—and so is the “floating” A-pillar. The big grille and twin bumperettes look shockingly timeless for an American luxury brand, while the door handles highlight how this platform dove less into the parts-bin bits than the previous Buick Electra did.

Inside, the Park Avenue Ultra sports pillow-topped seating, dual-zone climate control, and a full complement of gauges. There’s space for six, abundant room for four, and probably enough luggage space for eight. While an 8.4-second run to 60 mph isn’t impressive by today’s standards, there’s no doubt the twin-screw supercharger’s torque still appeals to anyone’s right foot.

After watching the video and reminiscing on my times with (rental) Park Avenues, it’s easy to lament the decline of this model. The second-generation (1997–2005) lacked the crisp styling, deleted much of its abundant chrome (even on the back of the hood!), and wiped out unique interior textures (especially on the doors) to lower production costs.

Perhaps there’s a reason why Buick eventually gave up on flagship sedan production, but you’ll see no indication of this in any first-generation Buick Park Avenue, especially the Supercharged Ultra. As 1990s cars get hotter and hotter in the market, this could be the Buick to get.

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