1992 Buick Skylark

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1992 Buick Skylark
Available in 4 styles:  Skylark 2dr Coupe shown
Asking Price Range
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Estimated MPG

19–23 city / 29–31 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 4
1992 Buick Skylark
$ -
February 12, 1992

In their halcyon days, American cars carried more colors than Sherwin-Williams. The 1955 DeSoto Fireflite Coronado was actually layered in yummy blackberry, duck-egg blue and whipping cream. Dodge's 1966 La Femme was doubly sexist in two-tone lavender.

Wind tunnels, of course, were for airplanes and the birds. That allowed automobile designers and stylists to show every shape short of cardboard boxes--although the '61 Checker Marathon came awkwardly close to a packing crate.

So there were fins and fastbacks, portholes and toothy grilles, headlights with eyebrows, fuselage fenders, spinner wheel covers, bullet lenses, mammillate bumpers and phallic taillights.

Which brings us to the 1992 Buick Skylark, in particular the delightful Gran Sport coupe.

For the florid among us, this completely redesigned compact is available in aquamarine metallic over gunmetal gray. If that suggests summer oceans and happy sailboats then you know what you like in art. The front is a triangular prow or Cyrano's nez showing a definite hint of the sharpened radiators and vertical grille bars of the 1939 Buick.

So cheer General Motors and Buick for risking departure from today's aero, jellybean norms, then adding to the distinction by offering a two-tone in a monochromatic marketplace. And by keeping the colors subtle, by using the Skylark's body strips and stripes to accent its wedge profile, a bright new look has been achieved without turning the car into a clown.

The nifty shape has even survived restructuring from coupe to sedan, where there's a touch of black tie in the traditional radiator to recognize Buick's historical place as a banker's car. In contrast, the raked front and bobtail trunk are truly laid-back lines of the '90s.

And the styling remains radical enough to keep Skylark far removed from the new Oldsmobile Achieva and Pontiac Grand Am, the GM brethren that share its front-drive chassis.

As a shape, all Skylarks are entertaining. As a performer, the peppier Gran Sport will impress everyone. As value in a mechanical package, the line won't disappoint.

Example: Base price of the GS price is $15,555.

With that comes a3.3-liter V-6 delivering 160 horsepower. Also anti-lock brakes, three-way adjustable suspension, 16-inch cast-aluminum wheels, leather-trimmed bucket seats and remote releases for trunk and refueling.

A $3,000 option package brings air conditioning, power windows, cruise control, remote keyless entry, that designer paint job, even a compact disc player. And the car is still less than $20,000--the affordable neighborhood of Toyota's Camry and Ford's Taurus.

One major omission: Air bags won't be offered until 1994.

At $13,560, a starter Skylark costs much less than the Gran Sport. However, it is equipped with the standard power plant, a single cam, eight-valve, in-line four that is best suited to Hertz rentals and Ful ler Brush sales teams. It simply doesn't have enough oomph to effectively and comfortably move a car weighing almost 2 tons in and around 65 m.p.h. freeway streams.

Spending the extra $2,000 on the 160-horsepower V-6 invests in the security of an energetic, smoothly efficient engine and a power package that thankfully seems well on its way to becoming a mainstay among entry-level cars.

Although some consumer publications have criticized the Skylark's instrument cluster--claiming it spreads too wide, until the outer dials are hidden by the steering wheel--this is not a major irritant.

Seats are comfortable, with six-way power settings that will suit the oddest angles and lumps of the worst wrigglers. The dashboard lines have a certain abstract swoop, and the glove compartment is the width of the dash, therefore more of a storage box. Heating-cooling vents are in all shapes and sizes; the effect is pure "Star Trek." And the softly padded dash is a pleasa t touch.

But the sporty Skylark's unsporty steering wheel is a styling disaster, seemingly pulled straight off a Saturn. It should have been fatter, with sportier spokes.

There are other interior criticisms:

* Windshield wiper controls are on a stalk set too close to the steering wheel. Fingers are constantly brushing the knob while maneuvering. Turn. Thwack-thwack, there go the wipers again.

* An automatic door-locking system is activated when the transmission shifts from park to drive. All well and good and safe. But the doors stay locked after the car has been parked and shut down; the undersized manual release switch in the flat of the door disappears in the dark. It's a blasted nuisance.

Unless mugging statistics prove otherwise, automatic door opening keyed to when the ignition is switched off might be more convenient.

* The automatic gearshift--no manual transmission is offered--has the standard P-R-N-D pattern alongside the lever. But it's a faux display, with the actual gear selected shown remotely on the dash as part of the instrument cluster.

Disconcerting. And probably much more expensive to produce than leaving the gear indicator on the console-mounted shift in front of God and everyone.

Such flaws fade, however, once the Skylark is under way; it lives up to the freedom and friskiness its name implies.

Although not remarkably quick from rest--the four-cylinder Saturn coupe and lumbering great Ford Crown Victoria accelerate faster--Skylark is memorable by its handling.

It makes no matter if the adjustable suspension is set on soft, automatic or firm. The ride is never too choppy, never too floppy, and thanks to a more rigid chassis, the car clips flat through tight corners, as if tweaked by Lotus.

Such qualities are useful, approaching the pleasurable, in any car that scoots this well in its mid- to upper-performance ranges.

Despite a near-Gothic brake system--front discs and rear drums--there always seemed far more stopping power than the daily emergency demanded. The steering is direct and quite precise. Combine all of this with a set of Eagle GA Touring tires and the Skylark GS becomes a maneuvering, handling fool that, frankly, is superior to any small American car ever.

It's a thoroughly entertaining vehicle, a motorcar of colorful and attractive livery that could be improved only by digging a little deeper into the paint boxes of the '50s.

Remember the 1956 Buick Special Riviera?

Can you see the Skylark in salmon mousse and oatmeal?

1992 Buick Skylark GS

The Good Distinctive styling, daring paint. Gymnastic handling and performance. Well-equipped, high-value car. Good mileage.

The Bad Automatic door latching. Gear indicator. Wiper switch.

The Ugly Cinderella steering wheel.

Cost Base: $15,555 As t ested, $19,362 (including air conditioning, leather-trimmed seats, cruise control, anti-lock brakes, power windows, power driver's seat, designer paint and CD sound system).

Engine 3.3-liter V-6 developing 160 horsepower.

Type Front-engine, front-drive, four-seat compact coupe.

Performance 0-60 m.p.h., as tested, 10.3 seconds. Top speed, estimated, 125 m.p.h. Fuel economy, EPA city and highway, 19 and 29 m.p.g.

Curb Weight 2,782 pounds.

    Expert Reviews 2 of 4

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