Northwest NEWS

February 19, 2001


TEST DRIVE 2001 Buick Park Avenue Ultra


There is no denying that luxury cars are heavenly to drive. The 2001 Buick Park Avenue Ultra is no exception. With the smart sophisticated styling to the adjustable seats and comfort inside, the Ultra is made for the person who wants plenty of style, room, comfort and ease of driving. With the snow and cold, that's me. I was particularly appreciative of the heated seats.
   And with the OnStar driver assistance and navigation system a standard feature on the Ultra, you are just a push button away from calling a real person and getting information. This 24-hour on-demand system comes with one year of free safety and security service. And the OnStar comes in handy if you lock yourself out of your car as happened to my son-in-law two weeks ago. With OnStar you call and they can remotely unlock your car.
   The Ultra is powered by a supercharged 3800 Series II V-6 engine with 240-horsepower at 5200 rpm and 280 lb-ft of torque at 3600 rpm. My test model came with the 4-speed electronic automatic transmission with overdrive.
   In a dark polo green with gray leather, this four-door roomy car is very classy. I had adjustable front bucket seats and a storage armrest.
   The information center in the Ultra includes tire inflation monitor, trip computer and reminder lights for low fuel, low oil, low washer fluid and trunk and door ajar. Also available is a display of basic information such as speed, turn signals, high-beam and check gauges warning.
   There are lots of standard features including delayed entry and exit lighting, theater dimming, flash-to-pass control, battery rundown protection, lockout protection, delayed locking, auxiliary power outlet, retained accessory power, theft-deterrent system and daytime running lamps. Cruise control and power windows and door locks are also standard.
   The leather-wrapped steering wheel includes controls for the radio, CD and cassette player.
   A Stabili Trak system, which became standard on the Ultra in 2000, helps the driver maintain control in a skid or slide by slowing down and stabilizing the car and provides full-range traction control.
   I didn't have the Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist system on my test model but it is available. This option provides a warning for any unseen objects you may encounter as you are backing up. An ultrasonic beam from four sensors mounted in the rear bumper detects unseen objects and triggers both an audio and visual warning. Three light-emitting diodes (LEDs) installed in the rear headliner flash and the driver hears audio chimes. The LEDs can be seen through the rear-view mirror. An "echo" of the signal when it bounces off an obstacle is sent to the onboard computer which calculates the relative distance to the object based on elapsed time between the outgoing signal and its returning echo. The system operates at up to 3 miles per hour in reverse; at higher speeds the driver receives a flashing red LED warning that the system is non-operational. The system views an area from 10 inches above the ground to the top of the trunk lid, allowing the driver to maneuver into parking spaces using information on the closeness of other cars and signs. With the car in reverse, one amber LED is lighted and a single chime sounds to signify an object from 5 to 3.3' away. From 3.3' to 20", two amber LEDs are lighted. At a distance of 20" to 1', two amber LEDs and a red LED are displayed and the chime becomes continuous. At a distance of less than 1', all three LEDs begin flashing and the chime remains continuous.
   On the Ultra are two individually programmable key fobs that control security feedback, perimeter lighting, delayed locking and memory settings for door locks, climate control, radio presets, seat adjustments and outside mirror adjustments
   The Ultra has recommended oil change interval every 10,000 miles.