2006 Buick Lucerne Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Eric Peters Eric Peters Editor
November 11, 2005




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Buick is hoping to become the American Lexus — and the '06 Lucerne is the model Buick hopes will change buyer's hearts and minds. Or at the very least, get them to give Buick a shot at their business before they buy their next Lexus.

Based on the car itself, they should. The Lucerne, which replaces the Park Avenue as Buick's top model, stands a good chance of changing their image dynamic and of doing so without completely alienating the current buyer pool.

This is a handsome ride, for starters, smooth and purposeful. The Lucerne has a steeply sloped windshield, a crisp beltline and minimalist ornamentation save for a nicely done reinterpretation of the classic Buick porthole motif on each front fender (four for V-8 versions; three for those equipped with the V-6 engine) and the classic Buick waterfall grille up front. The Lucerne 's shape and presence is entirely modern, yet very much in keeping with the Buick tradition of subtlety and good taste.

The car rides on a platform shared with the Cadillac DTS, so it's a big (five- to six-passenger) front-wheel-drive sedan with a limousine-like 115.6-inch wheelbase — which happens to be a significantly longer wheelbase, incidentally, than both the Lexus ES330 (107.1 inches) and GS300 (112 inches) and even slightly longer than the wheelbase of the top-of-the-line LS430 (115.2 inches), a car that costs roughly twice the base price of the Lucerne CX ($26,990).

2006 Buick Lucerne

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A taste of Europe-and Detroit

2006 Buick Lucerne

2006 Buick Lucerne

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Of course, size isn't everything, and bigger isn't necessarily better. It certainly wouldn't matter if the Lucerne were just another big cruiser with old-school Detroit driving dynamics. But it’s clearly been to finishing school. The DTS underpinnings, like the car's exterior styling, are fully up-to-date including hydroformed frame rails (for more solid construction), a double-isolated engine/transaxle cradle for quietness and damped-out vibration, and the extensive use of GM's propriety "quiet steel" laminates to keep drivetrain and road noise from intruding into the passenger cabin. Lightweight structural foam is injected into hollow portions of the stampings to add strength and quiet without adding weight.

It’s all very clever, and very effective. The car feels billet-steel solid — every bit as good as the import competition which I sampled back to back during a press presentation in the Northern Virginia countryside. It doesn't jostle, and it doesn't float, either. This is probably the first Buick since the '80s-era Regal Grand National that doesn't fear curves like Dracula fears garlic.

Other enhancements include laminated side windows, which further cut down on wind noise and also make it harder for "smash and grab" thieves to bust into your vehicle. And there are six standard airbags, including a segment first "dual depth" front seat passenger airbag that can deploy in two different shapes (and pressures), depending on crash severity as well as occupant position and whether or not they are wearing a seat belt. Few cars anywhere near the Lucerne's opening price point of $26,990 (for the V-6 CX) offer such equipment — or such size and comfort, either.

Handling and hardware

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2006 Buick Lucerne

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Like its DTS cousin, the Lucerne offers some pretty impressive ride and handling technology to complement the basic soundness of its chassis, including the same Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) system that first appeared on the XLR roadster and then the Corvette. This system is light years beyond conventional gas-charged shocks, which are inherently limited in their ability to respond quickly to changing road conditions and can only vary so far from the kidney-killing extreme of a sporty car, and the spongy detachment of a traditional luxury car. MRC is essentially an infinitely variable damping system; instead of fluid (or gas-filled) shocks and a simple check valve (the same ancient technology that's been in use for decades), MRC uses magnetically charged particles held in suspension to deal with changing road conditions, weight transfer in a corner, and so on.

2006 Buick Lucerne

2006 Buick Lucerne

Enlarge Photo
MRC is packaged with GM's StabiliTrak traction/stability control system on the top-of-the-line, sport-oriented Lucerne CXS, which carries a starting price of $35,990. This version of the Lucerne also comes standard with a 275-hp version of GM's Northstar V-8 in place of the 197-hp, 3.8 liter V-6 that's the standard powerplant in the base trim level CX. Buyers can also get the V-8 in the $30,990 CXL, a luxury-trim level that includes rain-sensing wipers, leather seats and heated outside mirrors. Heated and cooled seats are available, as is Park Assist, heated windshield washer fluid jar and keyless entry with remote start.

The CXL V-8 is arguably one of the best power-for-the-dollar deals in the entry luxury segment you might lay your hands on at the moment. For comparison, the smaller Lexus ES330 costs a lot more — $32,300 to start and doesn't even offer a V-8. The Lucerne's only glaring flaw is the absence of a navigation system, a feature that is becoming more widely available on cars of this price.

Still, this new Buick is a definite player in the entry-luxury segment and beyond. If, that is, buyers will give Buick another chance. Part of the reason Lexus (and imports generally) have eaten GM's lunch so effectively over the past decade is consistently excellent product. The Lucerne 's got that pretty much covered. But the other part of the equation is consistently excellent customer service. GM still needs to rehabilitate itself in this area. While Lexus stores are famous for being clean and high-end looking, some GM stores (including Buick stores) date from the '50s and look it. And while there are plenty of top-drawer GM dealers, there are still a few that seem to think customers owe them their business.

Buick spokesmen promise all this is being addressed — and point to such things as the Lucerne's four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and ever-rising J.D. Power customer satisfaction scores as evidence of a renewed commitment to being as good as anyone else when it comes to making buyers happy they bought one of their cars. On the face of it, this seems credible. The car certainly gives a good account of itself.



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GET Kelley Blue Book Pricing for this vehicle

2006 Buick Lucerne CXS
Base price:
$35,990; price as tested: $36,490
Engine: 4.6-liter V-8, 275 hp/295 lb-ft
Transmission: Four-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 203.2 x 73.8 x 58 in
Wheelbase: 115.6 in
Curb weight: 4013 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 17/25 mpg (V-8)
Safety equipment: Dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist, traction and stability control
Major standard features: Dual-zone climate control; leather and wood trim; heated seats and outside rearview mirrors; OnStar; power windows/locks/mirrors; electric rear defroster; 18-inch wheels with 245/50R-18 all-season tires; premium audio w/MP3 capability, 9 speakers, and a 280-watt amplifier
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles


The Bottom Line:

Lucerne — especially the very appealing V-8 CXL and CXS — should not be overlooked by anyone considering an import entry luxury sedan.

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