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Evolution of the Riviera 1996-1999

by Ed Gunyo #101

Originally published in The Riview Vol. 23, No. 6 November/December 2007

95 Riviera interior image

The 1996 Riviera continued the redesigned platform as a premium luxury coupe. Changes were minimal so as to retain the classic styling and appointments. New items included personal choice features activated by the remote keyless entry. The remote transmitter could automatically adjust the driver’s seat, outside mirrors, automatic door locks, lighting and other accessories in one setting. Also standard on the Riviera and all other Buicks was the new OBD (on-board diagnostics) II system.

Interior changes were also minimal. A new Delco radio included a built-in CD players; previously, the CD player was separate. The console was also updated with real burl walnut inserts.

Mechanically, the standard power train remained the Series II 3800 V-6. Optional was the revised supercharged Series II 3800 V-6 , now rated at 240 hp vs. 225 hp in 1995. New platinum-tipped spark plugs in both engines were designed to last 100,000 miles. The Riviera transmission continued with the electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. New optional equipment included chrome-plated 16-inch aluminum wheels.

Recalls were minimal. NHTSA recalls were: 10/23/95, components: electrical system; ignition: anti-theft controller. 07/01/96, components: fuel system, gasoline; fuel injection system.

Overall, the Riviera continued the proud tradition of excellence along with great performance. 18,036 units were made, at a base cost of $29,475. All Buicks in 1996 were delivered with long-life (five years / 100,000 mile) engine coolant and lifetime transmission fluid.

In 1997 Riviera styling remained the same, but mechanically the Riviera received further fine-tuning. New standard equipment included flash-to-pass, Pass-Key II theft deterrent system, daytime running lights, retained accessory power, and an auxiliary power outlet added to the convenience plus features. Memory power

seats and twilight sentinel, which were previously options, were now standard equipment. The interior did not change except for a new Wyndham cloth used for the headliner and other applications.

Significant mechanical changes to the 1997 improved the car’s handling and riding. Engineers retuned the fully independent suspension for much tighter, more responsive ride and handling. Upgrades featured revalved MacPherson struts up front and refined tuning of the struts in the back. Control arms, knuckles and related hardware were now aluminum, reducing the flowing mass of the chassis. Production increased to 18,199 cars, at a base price of $30,110. Better riding, handling and now-standard comfort items put the 1997 Riviera in a class to contend with the best.

For 1998, Buick dropped the standard 205-horsepower motor and made the supercharged motor standard. Also dropped was the front bench seat. Production dropped in ’98 to only 10,953.

In 1999 Buick included as standard many items that were optional in the past, including full-range traction control, remote power outside heated rearview mirrors, automatic programmable memory door locks and a 125-amp alternator. Four new colors were also made available. Options included OnStar as a dealer-installed option, chrome plated wheels and power lumbar control for the passenger. There were only 1,956 Rivieras made in 1999. In addition, 200 were Silver Arrow models that sported distinctive Silver paint, leather interior and identifying emblems.

The Silver Arrow came as noted, with distinctive Silver paint, Silver Arrow logos on the side and inlaid into the headrest of the front and rear seats, inlaid carpet savers, numbered dash plates and logo along with key fob and other special features that makes this car truly an end of a new, exciting line.

What is next? Only Buick knows, but the proud tradition of the Riviera will continue on with collectors all over the globe.



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Notice: BUICK and RIVIERA are trademarks of GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION used with permission. The Riviera Owners Association is independent and not affiliated with GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION or its BUICK MOTORS DIVISION    —Copyright 2007 Riviera Owners Association—