Hanging on for what likely will be its final year in production, the 2011 Buick Lucerne returns with a choice of V-6 or V-8 engines, plus a few minor upgrades meant to tide it over while General Motors finds a suitable replacement--and cranks up production of the 2011 Chevrolt Volt at the same factory that builds the Lucerne and the Cadillac DTS.
The Lucerne is old-style luxury, American-style. A large front-wheel-drive sedan, the Lucerne emphasizes classic, if dated, shapes and details inside and out. The quiet, conservatively good-looking exterior is touched with abundant chrome accents, and the optional polished alloy wheels blend more bling into the recipe. The Lucerne's interior is even more restrained: it wears walnut trim and nicely stitched leather seats, with sueded door panel trim in the more upscale versions.
Four different Lucerne sedans are offered. Three of them--the CX, CXL, and CXL Premium are powered by a 3.9-liter V-6 with 227 horsepower. The Lucerne Super swaps in a 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 rated at 292 horsepower--it's GM's final use of the Northstar V-8 that once catapulted Cadillac back into the global luxury segment. Both the V-6 and the V-8 have ample low-end torque, with surprising fuel economy, and either can crack off acceptable acceleration.
A stock independent suspension adds on magnetic ride control in the Super; that system uses magneto-rheological shocks that automatically adjust to minimize body roll while delivering cushy ride. Steering is pretty lifeless and there's plenty of body roll, but of course, the Lucerne tames bumps big and small even in base trim--just as a big domestic sedan should.
The hallmarks of the Lucerne's interior are large seats and a quiet cabin. The traditional-looking Lucerne has vast interior space compared to pricier Japanese luxury sedans, and there's ample storage space in the cabin and trunk. The seats are wide and flat; a six-passenger model, the CX, is the only one with bench seating across the front and back, and it's the only one with cloth upholstery.