From the August 1994 difficulty of Automobile and Driver.
“Picture is every thing.” So says media magnet and tennis star Andre Agassi, and so it’s with luxurious coupes. Had been it not for the necessity to persuade your friends that you’re nonetheless important and classy regardless of the arrival of middle-aged affluence, there could be little purpose to drive a Riviera, Eldorado, Mark VIII, BMW 8-series, or Lexus SC as an alternative of the sedan equivalents of these vehicles. With a full understanding of this automotive truism, Buick has given its new Riviera a form that stands clearly aside from the hordes of standard folks movers.
It is an adventurous design in each profile and element. The general form is relentlessly curvaceous, with hardly a flat panel to be discovered. Each ends of the physique are strongly tapered, significantly in entrance the place you’ll be able to see simply as a lot of the nostril of the automotive from the facet as you’ll be able to from head on. The rear finish additionally tucks in, although considerably extra modestly, to firmly grasp the full-width taillight meeting.
From the facet, the Riviera appears to have a contact of cab-forward design, with the greenhouse set considerably ahead on the physique. It additionally has the downward curving trunk line that Buick employs on the LeSabre/Park Avenue and that seems in additional exaggerated kind on the Infiniti J30 and several other different fashions.
The lengthy, easy curves of the Riviera’s physique are unusually freed from lower traces and extraneous chrome trim. There’s some brightwork across the grille, the taillights, and the facet home windows, however in any other case, there’s solely a neat body-colored rubstrip set into the perimeters. The complete size character line that runs atop the fender breaks up the graceful flanks properly.
The editorial eye definitely admires the boldness and coherence of the Riviera’s design, however the form in some way would not make our hearts flutter immediately. However neither did we tire of it rapidly, for there is a wealth of visible element that was regularly revealed to us as we frolicked with the automotive.
Buick designers continued on the identical adventurous path after they styled the Riviera’s inside. The one conventional contact is the big cowl that extends from door to door and overhangs your entire instrument panel.
Then again, the new-look dashboard is flat, easy, and embellished far lower than every other Buick’s. Visible curiosity facilities on the big, spherical, white-on-black instrument dials, the spherical warning-light clusters, and the spherical air vents. In reality, the theme makes use of 16 such round components.
Apart from a slight offset between the steering column and the primary instrument cluster, the structure is symmetrical and coherent. The local weather controls and the stereo system are simply reached within the heart of the sprint and every thing is properly accessible and straightforward to see.
Among the huge, plastic surfaces could appear uninviting in a premium automotive, however Buick has utilized plush supplies judiciously the place they work to the most effective impact. For instance, because the dashboard wraps into the doorways, the going through materials switches from arduous to tender plastic, and the panels close to your elbows are luxuriously padded.
The seats supply related proof of clever design. Their padding and form have been developed after intensive analysis into seating-pressure distribution, the purpose being to keep away from the stress factors that may trigger discomfort throughout lengthy drives. The leather-covered buckets (a fabric-upholstered break up bench is commonplace) do not supply a lot lateral help, however the big selection of physiques in our workplace discovered them very snug.
The again seat is snug and decently roomy for a two-door automotive. Two adults will discover ample legroom and sufficient headroom within the outboard seating positions, whereas the middle place is finest reserved for small fry. This rear seat is definitely nearly as good as any provided by its opponents.
A spacious inside should not be stunning, nonetheless, as a result of the Riviera isn’t a small automotive. It is 207.2 inches lengthy and 75 inches huge, and it weighs 3762 kilos—matching the category heavyweights, the Lincoln Mark VIII and the Cadillac Eldorado.
That is not sudden for the reason that Riviera shares GM’s new G-body front-drive platform with the brand new Olds Aurora, one other full-sized package deal. This platform comes with a number of benefits. It is extremely inflexible, with a claimed 25 hz pure frequency of vibration, and that places it in Mercedes E-class territory. The suspension makes use of struts in entrance, and semi-trailing arms enhanced with toe-control hyperlinks within the rear. Each setups are coil-sprung and mounted to rubber-isolated subframes. The ability steering makes use of the identical revolutionary electromagnetic variable power-assist design.
Buick has chosen shock absorbers and suspension bushings to offer a softer, extra supple really feel than Olds did with the Aurora. The Riviera properly smothers small, harsh cracks and ridges within the pavement, but it stays composed over extreme bumps and clips. You must be hustling significantly over undulating two-lanes earlier than the Riv begins to really feel free.
We discover a lot to love in its steering, too. With the calibration within the Riviera, effort will increase properly with velocity and cornering tempo. It by no means will get too heavy and it has a good sense of on-center.
Absolute cornering grip is an unremarkable 0.78 g, however you should utilize all of it with out feeling as if you’re whipping the Riv inside an inch of its life. Physique roll stays average, and the Riv by no means feels—or sounds—prefer it’s grinding up its 225/60R-16 Goodyear Eagle GA entrance tires.
Attaining this mixture of journey and dealing with is not any small feat, as a result of the Riviera is a slightly highly effective front-drive automotive. With the newest model of Buick’s supercharged 3800 V-6 creating 225 horsepower, this massive coupe can blast to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds and canopy the quarter-mile in 15.6 seconds at 90 mph. These instances put it inside a half-second of the rear-drive Lexus SC400 and the Lincoln Mark VIII, which price from 10 to twenty grand greater than a supercharged Riviera.
The blown V-6 would not generate the delightfully refined snarl of these 32-valve V-8s when wound out, however its word is suitably distant and unobtrusive. Because of the supercharger, there’s additionally loads of grunt away from relaxation, and the four-speed automated’s shift schedule and the smoothness with which shifts are completed appear past reproach. In reality, the one driveline abruptness we discovered occurred at 109 mph, when the governor shut off the thrust. We doubt many house owners have a propensity to find this nonlinearity.
Some might object, nonetheless, to the considerably inconvenient trunk. Capability is a wonderful 17 cubic toes, however the opening is slim and the liftover is kind of excessive. We seen the identical issues with the Aurora, which means that GM’s platform engineers have been unwilling to sacrifice stiffness by slicing giant openings within the physique. Homeowners will discover this compromise in the event that they spend a lot time hefting golf golf equipment out and in of the trunk.
Then again, they may even get pleasure from the advantages of the inflexible construction. Whereas the Riviera nonetheless would not fairly duplicate the carved-from-a-billet sensation of premium German iron, it feels excellent. There are not any quivers or shakes, even over probably the most vicious mixtures that Michigan’s winter-ravaged pavement dishes out, and the assorted trim elements appear bolted solidly in place.
All of which makes for a luxurious chariot that does a terrific many issues very properly, particularly contemplating its $30,000 worth. However the factor it does finest is stand out within the automotive crowd. When you’re keen about the Riviera’s head-turning new look; we’re certain you may like every thing else in regards to the automotive.
I stare on the Riviera the best way many individuals stare at a passing hearth truck or Sinead O’Connor’s head: not with approval or disapproval, however with curiosity. Perhaps that is what Buick exterior design chief William Porter refers to when he claims the Riviera’s design “has some thriller to it.” Porter additionally hopes it’s a design that “everybody would immediately like.” This automotive’s simply too daring for that, however on the similar time there’s sufficient proper stuff on this automotive to make it a advantageous selection for the style-conscious iconoclast. Now excuse me whereas I’m going and stare at it some extra. —Don Schroeder
Highs: The supercharged V-6 places out huge and instantaneous energy. The NVH braintrust has eradicated a lot of the thrashing noise discovered on this form of massive automotive. The journey has been firmed up, and so have the seats. Again seats are roomy. The flat journey at freeway speeds is first-rate.
Lows: The styling issues heart on the heel-like tail and the jut-jawed entrance bumper, each of which appear unfinished. Martha Stewart will view it as fats. The stereo system is undistinguished.
Judgment Day: A superior freeway cruiser that doesn’t appear like the results of GM committee-think. One thumb up. —Steve Spence
As styling turns into more and more homogeneous, I extra readily settle for shapes which can be completely different solely for the sake of being completely different. So I can overlook the 16 golfball-size gauges and vents and the six-inch grey ledge that hangs over the IP, by no means thoughts the world’s largest odo reset button. And we will argue all day in regards to the Riv’s tail remedy. I do not care. What zings me is one styling cue: that swish crease erupting above the headlights, sweeping again to turn into a fragile ledge underneath the facet glass, then gently fading on the lip of the trunk. Ever examine the silhouette of a Jaguar’s backbone? —John Phillips
Driving a Styling Curler Coaster
The Riviera identify first appeared on a particular 1949 Roadmaster that made the historical past books as the primary hardtop coupe, offering an open greenhouse with no B-pillar. Nonetheless, most old-car followers contemplate the Riviera to have been born in 1963.
The all-new Riviera was designed to compete within the scorching new “private luxurious” phase launched by the 1958 Ford Thunderbird four-seater. These highly effective, intimate, well-appointed vehicles have been promoting properly—92,798 T-Birds in 1960, an enormous soar over the 21,380 two-seaters offered in 1957. Fashion and aptitude offered vehicles on this market, so Buick design chief Invoice Mitchell specified a “Ferrari-Rolls-Royce” look with a protracted hood and a brief deck-aggressive, but elegant.
The ensuing 1963-65 Riviera design grew to become an prompt basic, with crisp traces accenting sensuous shapes. The low heart of gravity and well-developed chassis (for its day) mixed with a selection of 401- or 425-cubic-inch V-8s to offer the brand new Riv a degree of efficiency and dealing with unmatched in different luxurious vehicles.
The 1966-70 Rivieras have been redesigned to share a platform with the brand new front-drive Olds Toronado however remained rear-drive. The Riv grew longer and heavier within the course of and traded its 4 bucket seats for five- or six-passenger seating. Energy was elevated, however the Riviera had clearly begun to metamorphose from a grand tourer right into a luxo barge. A vinyl high was non-obligatory, and 1970 fashions even provided fender skirts.
Essentially the most controversial Riviera was the 1971-73 boattail, penned by none apart from Jerry Hirshberg (now of Infiniti J30 fame). The design reused the roofline of the 1963-67 Corvette on the encouragement of Invoice Mitchell. Bumper and emissions regs bloated curb weight to 4500 kilos and choked the 455-cubic-inch V-8 to simply 225 to 260 hp. This power-to-weight handicap conspired with the novel appears to slash gross sales.
From 1974 to ’78, the Riviera grew to become a conservatively restyled, shortened LeSabre two-door—and nonetheless offered poorly. The front-drive 1979-85 Rivs revived a particular, hippish look that helped set the all-time Riviera gross sales document of 65,305 vehicles in 1985. Then a 1986 redesign (keep in mind the TV-screen sprint?) despatched gross sales into one other tailspin that the rounded rear-end redo of 1989 barely reversed. —Frank Markus
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