Premium compact car; Built in USA
  • 2-door coupe
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,000 – $1,800*


1991 Buick Riveria


1991 Buick Riviera


1990 Buick Riviera interior


1993 Buick Riviera w/Gran Touring Package


1991 Buick Riviera engine

Pros:
  • Acceleration (1991-93)
  • Antilock brakes
  • Quietness
Cons:
  • Fuel economy
  • Rear-seat room
  • Rear visibility
  • Ride (Gran Touring suspension)

Despite its enhanced appearance, the early ’90s Riviera does nothing exceptional and doesn’t stand high on our older luxury-coupe shopping list. Though far beyond earlier Rivs in acceleration, handling, and stability, this version simply doesn’t offer quite as much as we’d expect for its still-lofty price.

Overview

To put a spark in painfully sluggish sales, Buick added 11 inches to the long-lived Riv’s length for 1989. Buick also dumped the touch-screen climate and audio controls. A driver-side airbag now was standard, but antilock braking remained an option until ’91. GM’s Pass-Key antitheft system was standard. Only one powertrain went into Rivieras: a 3.8-liter V6 with automatic. A Gran Touring suspension with wider tires and quicker-ratio power steering was optional. The Riviera’s basic design was shared with the Cadillac Eldorado and Oldsmobile Toronado.

Yearly Updates

1991 Riviera
Antilock braking was now standard. Also, Riv got a new grille, a more responsive 4-speed automatic transmission, five more horsepower, and a new steering gear.
1992 Riviera
Solar-control glass became standard on Rivieras. Larger rotors and calipers went into the standard antilock braking system. Otherwise, little change was evident.
1993 Riviera
Apart from bigger (16-inch) aluminum wheels and tires for the Gran Touring Package, not much was new for ’93 coupes. No 1994 Rivieras went on sale, but a completely different Riv arrived for 1995.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Rated at 165 horsepower, the 3.8-liter V6 of the early ’90s had sequential fuel injection and drove a 4-speed overdrive automatic transmission. The engine gained five horsepower for ’91.

ohv V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.8/231
Engine HP 165-170
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 210-220
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic

19/28

17.0

Road Test

Adding those 11 inches to the Riviera’s length for 1989 did not increase interior room. All told, the quiet-running coupe was not as roomy as its exterior dimensions suggest. Sure, you do get plenty of luxury and convenience features in the plush interior; but space is adequate for only four people and their luggage. Climbing into the back also demands maneuvering around the seatbelts and squeezing through a narrow opening. Over-the-shoulder visibility is obscured by wide rear pillars, while the large, heavy doors need a lot of room to open.

Acceleration from the Riv’s 3.8-liter engine ranges from adequate to peppy and spirited, depending on the circumstances. The early (1990) automatic transmission didn’t always respond quickly to the throttle. An improved automatic for ’91 yielded passing response that was consistently prompt. The gutsy engine and improved automatic transmission combine for brisk acceleration and smooth power delivery. Fuel-economy tests of a 1990 model averaged 17 mpg: 20 mpg on suburban expressways, but less than 15 in the city.

Ride and handling are competent, and the Riviera is quite agile as well, with good high-speed stability. The soft base suspension puts ride comfort over handling ability. A Gran Touring package with its wider tires and stiffer suspension improves handling and yields a more controlled feel, at some cost in ride comfort.

Antilock braking produces sure, stable stops, even under slippery conditions. Instruments and controls are far more logical than in earlier Rivieras. Positioning of climate and stereo controls, high on the dash within easy reach of the driver, is another “plus.” The Riviera’s wide trunk has a flat floor, but isn’t very deep, or shaped to hold more than a couple of large suitcases.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1993 Buick Riviera

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 6
60%
Fuel Economy - 4
40%
Ride Quality - 6
60%
Steering/Handling - 6
60%
Quietness - 5
50%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Front - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
30%
Cargo Room - 4
40%

Other

Value - 4
40%

Total: 48

Specifications

2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
108.0 198.2 73.1 52.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.4 18.8 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.8 37.8 42.7 35.6
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1993 Riviera 2-door coupe

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Front Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 67
Injury 59
Theft 40

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: 4T60E transmissions may drop out of drive while cruising, shift erratically, or have no second, third, or fourth gear, because of a bad ground connection for the shift solenoids. (1991-93)
Automatic transmission
Description: Model 440-T4 or 700-R4 automatic transmissions may shift late or not upshift at all. The problem is a stuck throttle valve inside the transmission. (1990-93)
Coolant leak
Description: Coolant loss via plastic intake manifold is corrected by installing upgraded manifold and gaskets plus new PCV kit. (199
Engine knock
Description: Bearing knock was common on many 3.3- and 3.8-liter engines due to too much clearance on the number one main bearing. (1992-93)
Engine noise
Description: An intermittent rattling noise at start up is often caused by automatic-transmission pump starvation or cavitation, or a sticking pressure-regulator valve. (1991-93)
Engine stalling
Description: Cars with 3800 engines may stall when decelerating or be hard to start due to a faulty idle air control, which must be replaced. (1990)
Oil consumption
Description: Models with the 3.8-liter engine are prone to excessive oil consumption often accompanied by spark knock during normal driving conditions due to failure of the valve-stem seals. (1993)
Oil consumption
Description: Oil leaks may be due to a defect in the oil pan and gasket, and the display may report a false low oil level due to a defective oil-level sensor and/or deformed oil pan. (1990)
Oil consumption
Description: The oil-pressure gauge may display an intermittent high reading due to a faulty oil-pressure sensor. (1990)
Transaxle leak
Description: The right front axle seal at the automatic transaxle is prone to leak and GM issued a revised seal to correct the problem. (1992-93)
Water leak
Description: A leak in the left fender well and firewall area causes water to collect on the left front floor. (1990)

Recall History

1990
Description: Cable may disengage from transaxle’s floor-shift control so driver might be unable to determine which gear is engaged, possibly resulting in unexpected vehicle movement.
1990
Description: Misaligned rear seatbelt shoulder retractor assemblies could cause pendulum interference, causing belt to remain in locked position or to travel freely without locking, increasing likelihood of injury in panic stop or accident.
1990
Description: Brake indicator light may not operate when ignition is “on,” parking brake is applied, and gear selector is in “Park” or “Neutral.”
1990-93
Description: Front outer shoulder belt web can become stuck in its retractor.
1992
Description: Intermediate shaft to steering rack lower coupling pinch bolt may be missing on some cars.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.