2003 Buick Park Avenue Ultra Auto Review

7 Nov 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on 2003 Buick Park Avenue Ultra Auto Review
Buick Park Avenue

2003 Buick Park Avenue Ultra

Cushy motoring in the Buick tradition

James M. Flammang on 09.01.2002

In cars as well as fashions, tastes change. What fell out of favor long ago just might make a comeback at some later date.

After disappearing completely in the early 1980s, portholes have turned up again on the fender-tops of the supercharged 2003 Park Avenue Ultra-Buick’s most posh model. They’re not just decorations, either. Three chrome-plated portholes on each fender permit additional air to flow through the engine compartment.

That’s not the only styling touch-up for 2003. A new chrome vertical-bar grille features Buick’s monochromatic tri-shield emblem, which also appears on the trunk lid. Buick says the grille is a modern interpretation of the one used on the 1938 Y-Job, created by Harley Earl, GM’s first design chief.

Often considered the first concept car, the Y-Job was one of the most striking designs ever developed by General Motors.

Lower-profile tires are mounted on 17-inch chromed wheels. Front door openings gain bright aluminum sill plates, and Buick’s logo is embroidered on all outboard seats. Burled walnut woodgrain decorates the doors, steering wheel, and instrument panel-which features new gauge cluster graphics.

Reaching beyond appearance, a specially tuned Gran Touring suspension, with rear stabilizer bar, goes on the Park Avenue Ultra to tighten its handling talents. Outside mirrors now incorporate turn-signal indicators. Dual chromed exhaust tips are visible at the rear.

As before, a supercharged 3.8-liter V-6 engine propels the Ultra sedan, with 240 horsepower feeding its four-speed automatic transmission. On the highway, at least, the Ultra is reasonably frugal, too. The EPA’s gas-mileage estimate is 18 mpg in city driving, but 28 mpg out on the open highway.

Premium fuel is required.

Although the Ultra is getting most of the attention this season, Buick continues to offer a standard Park Avenue, with a non-supercharged V-6 that produces 205 horsepower. It might lack a few plush fittings, but the ordinary Park Avenue is a lot of car for the money. Park Avenues come in a choice of 10 body colors, including three that are new for 2003.

Buick Park Avenue

With its tauter Gran Touring suspension, the Ultra doesn’t ride quite as gently as earlier models-or as a regular Park Avenue sedan. Occupants might be tossed around a bit more than expected when the pavement turns rough. On the plus side, the extra tautness pays a welcome benefit in control.

Ride quality is a relatively minor issue, however, when you consider the Park Avenue Ultra’s ongoing talents as a traditional-style road machine-one that can make a person recall the bonuses of past Buicks. Smooth and easy performance, sufficiently vigorous even without the supercharged engine, is especially reminiscent of the days when Buicks had Dynaflow transmissions and cushiony springing. Most of the time on the highway, in any case, the ride is almost guaranteed to be satisfying.

Although the Ultra accelerates energetically, there’s little evidence of the presence of a supercharger on its engine. Most likely, some owners aren’t even aware of its existence. They just like the immediate response the stronger V-6 delivers when pushing on the gas pedal.

Abundant head and leg space is another bonus. Seats are plush and satisfying, even if they fall short of modern snugness and support. As expected, too, the Ultra is loaded with comforts and conveniences to suit its likely customers.

Naturally, younger shoppers who don’t remember when Buick stood high in the marketplace aren’t likely to fall for a Park Avenue. Despite its many highway-traveling merits, the Park Avenue suffers from an image as an older person’s automobile, at a time when most automakers struggle constantly to attract a younger audience.

No doubt, image is a large part of the reason that the Park Avenue is Buick’s slowest-moving model, with only 36,454 sold during 2001-a drop of more than 23 percent from the previous year. Price is another factor, since the Park Avenue starts about $9,000 higher than the similar-sized LeSabre, and the supercharged Ultra hovers near $40,000. (www.buick.com)

Buick Park Avenue
Buick Park Avenue

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