It always brings me a special sort of miserable joy when I find a car for Meh Car Monday that nobody seems to remember. That’s the real mark of a true meh car, isn’t it? A complete and comprehensive forgetability, an almost supernatural amnesiac quality. The Buick Somerset has this in big, forgettable, damp piles. I bet even after reading this article about it, it’ll live in your mind for, at most, a few seconds before you forget it again. Because that’s the kind of car it is.
The Buick Somerset only existed for two years, between 1985 and 1987. It was originally launched as the Somerset Regal, in hopes of leveraging the Regal’s appeal, which Buick soon realized was pretty minimal, at best. So, in 1986, they dropped the Regal part and the car just became the Somerset, a move that elicited a collective yawn so great from the car-buying populace that the intake of air downed trees and overturned trailers across the country.
The Somerset was planned to replace the Skylark as a sort of personal almost-luxury coupe, or whatever the hell they called this segment, which, as far as I can tell, was targeted at yuppie-ish single people too uninterested in cars in any real sense to have the brains to buy a BMW or Honda Prelude or just about anything else.
The Somerset was built on GM’s N-platform, which somehow lumbered on from 1985 to 2005, shitting out a vast number of lackluster compact front-drivers like the Oldsmobile Achieva and the Pontiac Grand Am.
Perhaps the appeal of the Somerset is best explained via this dealer introduction video for the 1987 model, which was shot, on location, in the black void of nothingness that was the manifestation of everyones’ excitement about the car:
Even that new grille with wider bars wasn’t enough to make the exceedingly bland-looking car interesting. I mean, for the era, it wasn’t terrible looking, but there was really nothing to make it stand out, especially from GM’s other N-body cars, save for that all-digital dashboard and, um, a name that reminds you of the guy who wrote The Razor’s Edge.
There was some slightly better-looking variant with blacked-out grille and headlight bezels, which I think is most notable for inclusion in this ad with the tagline “Somerset me free.” Jeeezis.
The Somerset wasn’t particularly interesting to drive, even by the standards of the era. You could have it with a four-cylinder Iron Duke, the fuel injected version, making about 92 horsepower or so, and you could get it with a five-speed manual made by Isuzu, though almost nobody did, with most going for the soul-defeating three-speed auto.
If you were feeling especially saucy, you could order one with the 3-liter V6 for a ravenously tepid 125 hp, but only with the automatic, a sensible safeguard to keep anyone from actually enjoying driving this car.
Their own ads seemed to revel in the uninspiring performance, even:
What’s this ad saying about a “personal road car?” It doesn’t make you feel like you’ve been in a race? I guess that’s a roundabout way of saying it’s comfortable for people like that lawyer who, for some reason, had to get to the courthouse in 20 minutes?
Other ads attempted to force some sort of Somerset interest via maddeningly upbeat songs, outright lies (“car that breaks all the rules”), and a strange sub-plot where the Somerset owner is going to bone the ferry captain in his tiny pilothouse?
Eventually, GM got sick of even this half-assed level of trying and renamed the Somerset the Skylark and promptly forgot about the car entirely.
Just like you will in a few more seconds.