Ace of Base Redux: 1995 Buick Riviera

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
ace of base redux 1995 buick riviera

Let’s play a game: I’ll name a few cars and you tell me if you think they’ll ever be found plying the roads of their real life namesake. Ready? Sebring. Ha! Corsica. Pfft. Monaco. Nope. Colorado. Wait, hang on; that one actually works.

You know another one that works? The Buick Riviera, especially in its first and final iterations. Not unlike the stunning Avista concept unveiled back in January, the 1995 Riv dropped jaws with its curvaceous sheetmetal when it debuted at auto shows in the mid-90s. Unlike the Avista, though, they actually built the Riviera. The gamble paid off because once in production, it piled up first-year sales like cordwood.

After a year’s hiatus from the Tri-Shield lineup, this redesigned version of Buick’s luxury coupe went on sale early in 1994 as a 1995 model. The new Riviera was nine inches longer, almost two inches wider, and a couple of hundred pounds heavier than its stodgy predecessor.

Base price in 1995 was $27,632, which is a shade over $40,000 in 2016 dollars. There were no trim levels, only option boxes to select. Foremost among those boxes was the option for GM workers to slap a supercharger on top of the 205 horsepower 3.8-liter V6 engine for an extra eleven hundred Simoleans. It was only good for an extra 20 horses, but torque increased substantially to 275 lb-ft.

No matter the option set, buyers got one of the best-looking interiors GM had to offer during that era. Yes, I know, that’s like saying your three-legged dog is the best runner in the school for three-legged dogs, but the styling effort put forth by the Riviera team in the mid-90s is nothing short of remarkable. Yes, their design efforts were largely scuppered by flinty-eyed accountants and poor build quality, but the sweeping dashboard and Flying Bridge theme still look good today. Replace the stereo and ventilation controls with a touchscreen Jumbotron infotainment system and the upper half of this interior wouldn’t look too out of place in a modern vehicle. Arcane trivia: a cloth bench seat was standard equipment until 1998. Many opted for the let-them-eat-cake Sierra Grain leather bucket seats, naturally, though I find the concept of a Dark Ruby Red bench in a base-model Riv to be massively appealing.

The onslaught of SUVs, which still shows no sign of abating, took its toll on the sales of big coupes and claimed the life of the Riviera. After selling more than 41,000 copies in 1995, total deliveries were cut in half during the next twelve months. GM put it to sleep after the 1999 model year, when fewer than 2,000 of the big coupes left the showroom floor.

Having poked fun at the absurdity of finding a Corsica in Corsica, I still prefer these monikers to the alphanumeric soup currently polluting the automotive landscape. Namesake appropriateness be damned; cars are better with real names. As for the 1995 Riv, barring the price of its supercharger option, the voluptuous exterior and xxx interior are enough for me to include this personal luxury coupe in the Ace of Base series.

Older metal from years past which looked good in base form? They help make automotive history a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate this selection.

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  • MRF 95 T-Bird MRF 95 T-Bird on Dec 01, 2016

    The 3800 makes these worthwhile over a Northstar or Shortstar. Interesting factoid: These Rivera's came with a standard bench seat and a column shifter in 96-97 but most people upgraded to the buckets and floor shifter. The supercharged 3800 became standard in 98-99. As a MN12 T-Bird owner I am obviously quite partial to the MN12 Mark VIII over one of these. The Mark VIII suspension as 28 Cars notes is a issue but easily remedied with the $500 coil kit. Last year I replaced the rear shocks on my MN-12 with a pair of KYB's and it handles quite fine.

  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Dec 01, 2016

    LOL I love all the constant carping about GM's lousy interior build quality on this site despite that fact that many manufacturers suffered the same thing and it is still alive and well today. We looked at a total of 10 new cars the past few weekends and out of those 10 8 had misaligned interior or exterior bits including a 60K Mercedes, a 24K Honda Civic who's side lower window belt moldings were so misaligned you could spot it 30 feet away, several brand new Lincoln's with poor carpet and dash to door panel fits plus a new Sonata Limited that had a lower chrome strip on one side of the car but not the other! And these were all brand new 2017 models with plastic still on the touch screens and floors! Yes the materials are far better but the fits and build quality is still off on many makes today.

    • See 1 previous
    • Xcalibur255 Xcalibur255 on Dec 01, 2016

      The digs are pretty justified. The interior of the Riv was Fischer Price bad. Acres of plastic and it all has a cheap looking sheen/finish. EVERYTHING squeaks and creaks when touched and it all rattles despite the cushy ride. Somehow, though, in this particular car it just doesn't seem like a big deal. The car has personality, which is rare for a GM vehicle of this era, and things about this car that would have annoyed me if it were any other car just......... didn't somehow. Rivs have this weird quality that makes them easy to love.

  • Theflyersfan They might not be convertible friendly, but if they work on getting the last of the winter crud off of the car during the first spring wash, it's worth its weight in gold. So many of the self-serve car washes seem to have some kind of mechanical problem with one of the nozzles, or out of some chemicals - want to do that at home.
  • Bill Wade It's worked perfectly for me. Google maps is quite good and music streaming is flawless.
  • TheEndlessEnigma How much is TTAC getting from the Amazon referral links? Once again, nice ads camouflaged as an article.
  • Prabirmehta Great review! Brought back memories of my 2005 Z4 - loved it! I recently drove the 2023 Z4 and it felt similar in many ways to my 2005 (despite the much nicer and updated interior). Now your review has me rethinking whether to buy another one? :)
  • Haruhi Where’s this exact location