How Buick Works

Buick Skylark

The compact Buick Skylark was an X-body for 1981-85, an N-body thereafter. For all the recalls and attendant bad publicity that plagued GM's X-cars in these years, the Skylark sold well. Buick built over a quarter-million of the '81s and more than 100,000 a year for 1982-84.

The '85s ended the line at around 93,000. Changes in styling, engineering, and models were strictly evolutionary. There were always 2.5 four and 2.8 V-6 coupes and sedans (except '85, sedans only) in base/Custom and Limited trim.

Sport versions through '82 and the two-door 1983-85 T Type could be had with a high-output V-6 (port-injected for '85) and came with distinctive exteriors and Buick's firmer "Gran Touring" suspension package. In all, this Skylark served Buick well.

The compact N-body Skylark was much less important to Buick in the early '90s than it was in the '80s. Indeed, sales declined most every model year even as Pontiac's similar Grand Am steadily drew up to four times as many buyers. Skylark's 1992 redesign didn't help, with a flashy, sharp-lined exterior and an oddly drawn dash worthy of Salvador Dali.

Skylark offered coupes and sedans in base and Gran Sport trim for '92, then in Custom, Limited, and GS guise, through '95. GS models always had a standard V-6: a Buick 3.3 through '93, then a Chevy-built 3.1. Either was preferable to the otherwise-standard Quad-4, which remained a rough-and-rowdy runner despite GM's best efforts to civilize it (including the belated addition of twin balance shafts for '95, when it was prosaically retitled Twin Cam).

A three-speed automatic was still the lone transmission and thus quite passé even for a compact. An optional four-speed unit arrived for '94, when all Skylarks gained a driver-side airbag as well as standard air conditioning, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, power windows, and automatic power door locks.

By that point, Skylark had added special "value-priced" models in the hotly contested $14,000-$18,000 bracket. Yet despite such tactics and worthy interim changes, this was still one of those cars that seemed to aim more at Hertz and Avis than Joe and Jane America.

Buick tried bolstering Skylark's showroom appeal with a 1996 facelift featuring a toned-down exterior and a more orthodox dashboard with standard passenger's airbag. At the same time, the base four was enlarged to 2.4 liters, mostly for better low-speed torque (horsepower was unchanged), and was teamed with the four-speed automatic like the V-6. And all models boasted standard traction control.

But none of this helped sales, which actually declined to the 50,000-unit level. With that and a new cost-cutting push by GM managers, Buick exited the compact field after 1997.

For more on the amazing Buick, old and new, see:

  • Buick New Car Reviews and Prices
  • Buick Used Car Reviews and Prices
  • 2008 Buick Lacrosse
  • 2008 Buick Lucerne