I expected an old school feel from this 1994 Buick Roadmaster, but it actually is old school. For the folks who’ve never had the chance to drive domestic steel prior to 1978, let me make this live for you. Sit on your legs for a half hour while pounding 10 shots of Johnnie Walker Black on an empty stomach, then stand up, turn your head sideways and try to walk in the general direction of South America. This is what I encountered the first time I intentionally got the Beast a bit squirrelly, and it’s not like a $200 pair of track shoes will help. I’m not a contender for the next round of Formula Drift, but neither am I a stranger to opposite lock; let’s just say I won’t be doing that again outside of a controlled environment, where I can attempt to learn how to speak Beast.
These are exciting times for the Buick brand, ladies and gentlemen
Sometimes, I’m reminded all too clearly just how non-performance oriented the Roadmaster really is. This car is riding on truck tires for crying out loud, and it has enough body roll to be a platform for a Jackass stunt. It doesn’t even have a rear sway bar, but when I romp the gas I remember that many 60’s muscle cars didn’t have sway bars either, and look how much fun they were to drive. That’s been my main lesson from this pivotal getting-to-know-you phase of used car ownership—this will never be a nimble corner carver with a fun powerband, despite a host of handling upgrades available from the Impala/9C1 Caprice enthusiast community. No, it’s a muscle car hidden inside a bathtub, and to make it into anything other than a straight-line fun machine just doesn’t fit the character of this particular Roadmaster.
At this point, some of you might be wondering why a Roadmaster owner would seek out Impala SS enthusiasts for help. Still more of you might be wrestling with the idea of a Buick Roadmaster being anything other than a numb, bloated, long-distance cruiser. It’s true that this car is very much the antithesis of Winding Road, but it does have a rather notable saving grace. Pop the hood, and nestled between the wheel wells sits the same engine that powered the 1994-1996 Impala SS, not to mention the Camaros, Corvettes, and Caprice cop cars of the day. I’m speaking of the 350 cubic-inch LT1 V-8, producing 260 horsepower and enough torque to fog entire neighborhoods with 150-foot burnouts, and that’s without brake-torquing.
We always get a bit excited when we find out that a European car is being rebadged for American consumption. That feeling of excitement quickly dissipates, though, when we look back on the actual history of cars from foreign markets being rebadged in the States. Stories of the Renault/AMC Alliance, Cadillac Catera, and Ford Contour stream back to our consciousness, causing us to drop to our knees and pray that history won’t repeat itself. We had a similar moment when we heard that the Vauxhall/Opel Insignia, the 2009 European Car of the Year, was coming stateside. Thankfully, our fears were unfounded as the Insignia, using the resurrected Regal nameplate, is a homerun for Buick.
Here’s the part where I really, really like my job, because in the end, we’re all just a crazy bunch of gearheads looking to satisfy our automotive cravings, and I’m now asking for your help. The only thing better than shopping for a car is bringing all your car-loving friends along to shop with you, and since this series began, it has become very clear just how passionate Winding Road readers are regarding this little adventure.
A lot of photons have been shot at General Motors over the past 20 months or so, which I suppose comes with the territory when you run around with government bailout financiers. Beyond the cheap shots and ridiculously impractical advice, two themes seem to stand out and at least resonate a bit:
1. GM needs to build better cars
2. Ford is doing a better job
The Buick LaCrosse is not a driver’s car. If you are looking to tackle your favorite backroads with any measure of enthusiasm, definitely look elsewhere than this car, especially with the four-pot engine. It was not designed with this sort of driving in mind.