1997 was the introduction year of the last American body style of one of the last true American boats. The Park Avenue was a geriatric front-wheel-drive beast of a machine that vowed to comfortably schlep retired upper-middle-class Americans to and from church and weekend Bingo.
(It's the one in the back)
The Park blends the new 'jellybean' style introduced with the Jaguar-inspired (don't laugh) 8th-generation Buick Riviera in 1995 with the crisp folds and edges of older land barges, as seen in the upper character line. Everything else is pretty typical FWD luxury car: lots of overhang, lots of hood, lots of trunk, and a surprisingly low belt line.
I got in the PA and started it up. A barely-perceptible exhaust note greeted me, and after so much time driving either the Murdersofa or a B5.5 Passat TDI I had to double-check to make sure I actually started the car. Vibration? What's that? Can't feel a damn thing from the engine.
CVT? Who needs them! The 4-speed slush-o-matic 4T65E in the Park Avenue segues from gear to gear with no loss in power or tremor in acceleration. The only indication the car has changed gears is the mechanically-actuated tachometer merrily dancing around. Does it hold gears? Does it hunt? Who gives a damn! You can't feel it working anyway, and when it does change it's so slow you might as well put on a pot of coffee!
Ride: DEAR GOD SMOOOOOOOOOTH
The ride quality in a car is usually measured by the NVH index. NVH stands for Noise, Vibration, and Harshness. There's probably some sort of scale or strict guidelines for measuring the NVH of a car, but if 0 is a slammed Honda Civic and 10 is a fluffy cloud of ecstasy then the 2nd-generation Buick Park Avenue is a solid 12 (Ha! Take that Spinal Tap!). Bumps? Ha! Speed humps? Don't make my laugh. Small children and beloved pets? I feel nothing physically or emotionally because the Buick Park Avenue has absorbed all unevenness in the road and my psyche with its pillowy-soft FE0 struts of Unforgiveness and Regret (and body roll).
Interior: The fake wood is smooth
I'll say this: It's a fair bit nicer in here than my LeSabre. Heated seats that remember their position, motorized headrest, more speakers, and everything is screwed together much better. The seats are comfortable. Soft, with a very VERY small amount of cup in them to keep you from violently sliding all over the place. The steering wheel is a spindly affair with buttons all over it and a giant airbag in the center taunting you. The gauge cluster is super easy to read, as are the error messages "LOW TIRE PRESSURE", "TRACTION CONTROL SYSTEM ACTIVATED", "FUEL LOW". It's meant to be non-confusing for older people, but honestly it's just damn nice to not have to decipher arbitrary iconography and error codes.
The transmission shifts smooth, the engine is smooth, you're whisked away at an adequate pace. Nothing more, nothing less.
Handling : Smooth and tilted
You're gonna roll around and wobble, and it will be hilarious. Captain's hat mandatory with purchase.
The brakes are large and adequate to haul this beast down from the 120mph you didn't even realize you were doing.
Endoplasmic Reticulum: Rough
No, wait. What? I just had nightmares about freshman Biology.
I have found Park Avenue Ultras, which have all of the above but far better (from a handling perspective) suspension and the 240-hp underrated L67 supercharged V6 on craigslist for as low as $1200. That's a luxury touring sedan bargain right there, and a sleeper to boot. How can you go wrong? Call your grandma or your friend's grandma who has a Park Avenue Ultra and go drive one. It's a new world. A smooth one.