Do rear-wheel-drive behemoths such as this really have a place in today's world?
Buick obviously thinks so, but it's hard to ignore the steadily thinning ranks of the traditional American full-size sedan. Big, heavy and ponderous cars like this are perceived as dinosaurs by some, while others reject them for not making the right fashion statement.
After all, to many, an important part of the new-car buying process is what the car is going to say about us.
Viewed from that perspective, the Roadmaster seems to be rooted firmly in a bygone era, with a collection of attributes that don't apply to 1995.
But let's take a harder look at that. What are some of the key elements of today's luxury cars? Power, of course. That's always near the top of the list. Lots of room inside. Lots of power-operated amenities.
A premium sound system. Smooth ride quality. Quiet operation. So far, we have a list that applies to the Buick Roadmaster.
True, it doesn't measure up to the handling standards of a big BMW or the Lexus LS 400, but think about this: You get all the other amenities for $20,000 less.
And if that's not quite enough to completely dispel your nagging image concerns, you can always get rid of the white sidewall tires.
Although its appearance has been updated by some tasteful de-chroming and flush-mounted aero headlamps, the Roadmaster still has that traditional look that some trendy buyers would characterize as old-fashioned. There's a fair amount of Buick extending beyond the front wheels, and even more of it thrusting out behind.
We also have to say that the semi-skirted rear wheels give the Roadmaster's going-away view a rather pudgy look.
On the other hand, we think there's still prestige and substance, the kind of appearance that we associate with country clubs and black-tie soirees.
Sheer size is also a classic luxury index, and the Roadmaster has plenty of it. Although it's a little smaller than battleships such as the Lincoln Town Car or Cadillac Fleetwood, it's not much smaller. And that big waterfall grille says Buick in unmistakable terms.
Buick offers two versions of its big sedan for 1995: the Roadmaster and Roadmaster Limited, plus the Roadmaster Estate Wagon.
All are powered by GM's LT1 V8 engine, essentially the same engine you'll find in the Chevrolet Corvette. Installed last year, this impressive torque-generator has done wonders for the power portion of the Roadmaster's prestige quotient. After all, it's difficult for the trendy to sneer at you when all they can see are your taillights.
The transmission is one of General Motors' excellent electronically controlled 4-speed automatics, as smooth as any, regardless of national origin.
Anti-lock brakes are standard equipment on all models. And our Roadmaster Limited test car was also equipped with an optional limited-slip differential, which ensures smooth power delivery to both rear wheels.
One small but significant exterior change for 1995 is the addition of bigger side mirrors. Our test car's side mirrors were heated, too.
There's also a new color - Platinum Gray Metallic - as well as a coach lamp in the rear roof pillar that says Roadmaster, in case you need reminding.
Buick redesigned the Roadmaster's dashboard for '94, and it helps bring the interior a little more up-to-date. The dash makes a clean sweep across the car, maintaining the traditional horizontal appearance of its predecessor but adding attractive analog gauges.
There are dual airbags, of course, and child-protection rear door locks.
Our test car had impressively comfortable leather-covered seats. Buick has applied computer-design science to its seating program, and the seats in '95 Limited models do a good job of distributing occupant body weight to eliminate any pressure points.
Control placement is simple, and it was easy for us to acclimate ourselves to the location of the various switches and levers - with one exception. The power-seat controls are split into two groups, one group on the armrest - with the window switches and mirror controls - and the other low on the outside of the seat. We'd prefer to see them rounded up into one area.
The Roadmaster has lots of glass, and driver sightlines are generally good. The large rear-roof pillar does take a small bite out of vision in the rear quarters, but the bigger side mirrors relieve this minor blind spot.
There's lots of room in every dimension, front and rear. Buick rates the Roadmaster as a 6-passenger car, but the front-center seating position includes a hump that covers the rear of the transmission, which means that the center passenger should have short legs. This is something that applies to all 6-passenger sedans, incidentally, rear- and front-drive alike.
The other pleasant plus of driving a Roadmaster is how quiet it is at any speed. The Lexus LS 400 is the industry leader in this respect, but the Roadmaster isn't far behind.
Like most of the other grand American sedan classics - the Lincoln Town Car, Cadillac Fleetwood, Chevy Caprice - the Roadmaster's handling recalls an era in automotive travel when hurrying around corners was unseemly. There's pronounced body roll to let you know you're being too hasty through that turn. And a hint of wallowing to let you know that slalom runs are beneath this car's dignity.
Things get a little more contemporary with the trailer-towing package - the Roadmaster and Roadmaster Estate Wagon can tow up to 5000 lb. with ease - but back-road athletics just aren't part of this car's act.
The power steering reinforces this impression. It's not as numb as the good old days of the '50s and '60s, but it's still over-assisted by current standards. This is helpful when you're finessing this big car around in parking lots, but it limits the driver's connection with the car on the open road.
The Roadmaster's velvet ride is a pleasure, especially when you've got a lot of miles of bumpy interstate to conquer.
But tramp on the gas pedal and the LT1 responds with will, providing a level of snappy acceleration that's amazing in a car this size.
The rap on big cars like this is that brisk acceleration is achieved at the expense of dismal fuel economy. Not true. We found the Roadmaster's EPA ratings - 17 mpg in city driving, 25 mpg on the highway - to be a trifle conservative, and our overall test came in at a combined 23 mpg.
That's better than virtually anything in the sport/utility realm, and better than several more expensive luxury cars with fancier pedigrees.
The Buick Roadmaster may be the embodiment of an older concept in motoring, but it's not an antique. There's nothing outdated about quiet operation, smooth ride quality, king-size roominess, vast trunk space and stimulating power.
And if old-fashioned body-on-frame construction yields high curb weights, it's also durable.
There's no overlooking the fact that this car's handling falls a bit short of contemporary standards. And then there's the image issue: The Roadmaster doesn't quite have the panache of some of those luxury imports, but in terms of what you get for your money it's an undeniable value.
Pricing starts well below the $30,000 luxury-car plateau, and a loaded Limited barely crawls close to that mark.
The Roadmaster may not be trendy, but it is a good deal.
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