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Buick revived the Roadmaster nameplate in 1991, the automaker tapped into nostalgia for the fullthrottle, road-hogging prowess of the original Roadinaster that Buick retired in 1958. But the '91 Roadmaster Estate Wagon's 5-liter, 170-hp V8 engine-small for a 4,400-pound vehicle only kindled a sentimental yeaming for the engine muscle of the original.
We applaud Buick's decision to put a more powerful engine into the '94 Roadmaster Estate Wagon, giving this venerate nameplate the punch it deserves: Its 5.7-liter, 260-hp V8 engine, in a 4,572-pound wagon, evoked memories of cruising the main drag in dad's big 1960 Olds right after he had the bands tightened.
Our test wagon carried a base MSRP of $25,599 and had a $2,144 option package that included air conditioning, electronic climate and cruise control, heated outside mirrors, six-way power seats with armrests, programmable door locks, remote keyless entry, a cassette player and other amenities. Additional option items such as leather/vinyl front seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and the trailer-towing package brought the MSRP to $29,468.
Aside from its power improvement over earlier versions, the modified engine features a new power-train control module that opens the fuel injectos sequentially to smooth out the idle and beef up performance. The result was a thrust-happy but luxurious ride, with acceleration comparable to a 250-pound linebacker who runs the 100-yard dash in 10 seconds.
When we hit the expressway, the Estate Wagon zoomed from 50 to 70 mph with velvety ease and still felt as though it had much more to give. Although the speedometer topped out at 120 mph, we felt this beast could hit a lot higher with minimal strain.
The Estate Wagon's standard heavy-duty suspension had us floating, even at high speeds. When we took a big S curve at 40 mph, the suspension grabbed the road confidently. Our test model had the optional, and highly recommended, limited-slip differential. At only $100, it delivered extra traction on icy roads.
New for '94 was the variable-assist steering previously available only on the Roadmaster Sedan. We darted in and out of traffic at 45 mph using only fingertip pressure, while at higher speeds, the steering tightened up accordingly. And just one finger was needed for a parallel-parking maneuver, during which the wagon's expansive windows afforded superior visibility.
Hitting the brakes while traveling at 65 mph, we could feel the weight, torque and engine muscle, but we also felt confident that the standard antilock brakes were more than capable of bringing this massive vehicle to a controlled stop.
The Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon is a big, comfy throwback to the days when wagons were wagons, when gasoline was 35 cents a gallon and when carmakers didn't let a little thing like gas mileage keep them from bulking up a vehicle with generous amounts of chrome and weight. That's not to say the Roadmaster is a gas hog. For a wagon, the mileage is a respectable 17 mph in the city and 25 mph on the highway.
Stylish and well-appointed, the Roadmaster Estate Wagon will be a pleasure to drive, especially for everyone who remembers those carefree, energy-rich days.
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