2008 Buick Lucerne

Consumer Reviews
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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
July 22, 2008

Buying tip

If you're a traditional Buick Lucerne buyer, don't be afraid of the 3800 3.8-liter V-6 engine. It will get the job done and save you money up front and at the gas pump.

features & specs

4-Door Sedan Super
4-Door Sedan V6 CX
4-Door Sedan V6 CXL
15 city / 22 hwy
16 city / 25 hwy
16 city / 25 hwy

It rides like a classic Cadillac, but the 2008 Buick Lucerne has a slightly more modern spin on the full-size sedan.

TheCarConnection.com’s editors read the latest reviews on the new 2008 Buick Lucerne to write this comprehensive review. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove the Buick Lucerne and offer driving impressions and opinions where they help you make a better buying decision.

The 2008 Buick Lucerne full-size sedan is stately and traditional. It shares space at Buick dealerships with the LaCrosse mid-size sedan and the Enclave full-size crossover.

For Buick, 2008 is a carryover year, which with the Lucerne means that not much has changed since 2007. Here are the basics: In its base CX form, the Lucerne comes with the 3.8-liter V-6 engine. Anyone familiar with engine history at GM can tell you that the roots of the current 3.8-liter run deep, back to the late 1950s. On one hand, GM has had plenty of time to get this engine right, and this engine does have an excellent record of reliability and longevity. The engine is a cam-in-block design, and favors the production of torque over horsepower. Frankly, this is just fine for the kind of people who drive Buicks. On the other hand, compared to more modern engines, the venerable 3.8-liter V-6 sounds a bit coarse and gets noisy when pushed hard. (Buick drivers, however, aren't known for their hard driving.)

Should a buyer want his or her 2008 Buick Lucerne fitted with a thoroughly modern engine, they are available. A 279-horsepower version of Cadillac's 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 is standard on the CXL Special Edition. Both engines (V-6 and V-8) are matched to four-speed automatic transmissions, a feature that dates these powertrains.

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The Buick Lucerne Super, meanwhile, comes equipped with a version of the 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 that produces 292 horsepower. The Super also has an enhanced chassis with GM's magnetic ride control system and comes with four signature portholes in each fender (four per side signify a V-8 under the hood), a new bright chrome waterfall grille, new front and rear fascias, integrated dual exhaust tips, rocker panels, and a special Super badge on the decklid.

Inside the Lucerne Super is no less special, as this model features a leather-wrapped instrument panel, leather seats with perforated suede fabric inserts for the outboard seating positions, and suede door-trim inserts, as well as a heated steering wheel.

The interior of non-Super 2008 Lucerne models is still tastefully trimmed, and features wide, comfortable seats, large dials and switchgear, and rich-looking materials that are just right for the older crowd this car targets. The instrument panel and controls are especially clear, readable, and easy to operate, a character trait we recognized and appreciated straight away. The blue-green readouts of most displays provide excellent contrast and visibility in any light.

Six airbags come standard, including the industry's first dual-depth front-passenger airbag. Four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes and all-speed traction control are included across the line, and the CXS adds StabiliTrak stability control, Magnetic Ride Control, and brake assist. Five- and six-seat versions are offered.

Standard features also include rain-sensing windshield wipers, XM Satellite Radio, and the OnStar communications/safety system, while the options list offers heated windshield washers, heated and cooled leather seats, rear parking assist warnings, a satellite navigation system, and a remote starting function. A lane-departure warning system and a blind-spot alert are offered for 2008.

The front-wheel-drive chassis of the 2008 Buick Lucerne is tuned for comfort, not speed. You might expect this as the Lucerne is based on the Cadillac DeVille. In some cases, the ride is so smooth that you have absolutely no sensation of being connected to the road. We think this is fine for the traditional American luxury car buyers that Buick targets, but it's not our cup of tea. Handling in the manner that enthusiasts define the word isn't on the Lucerne's feature list, and with a turning circle of around 40 feet, parking lot maneuverability isn't very spry.

For Buick, 2008 offerings include only the Lucerne, LaCrosse (a mid-size sedan), and Enclave (full-size crossover).


2008 Buick Lucerne


The 2008 Buick Lucerne's portholes and grille don’t relieve its blahs, but it's pleasant enough inside.

The 2008 Buick Lucerne sports careful, familiar lines that look a little more clever on Super versions.

ConsumerGuide points out that the Buick Lucerne "shares its basic design with the Cadillac DTS," though the two cars have much different sheetmetal; the Cadilllac’s is more straight-edged, while the Lucerne’s lines are softer and more subtle. Cars.com describes the styling cues in more detail: "a waterfall-style grille that uses thin vertical vanes and includes a chrome Buick tri-shield emblem.” They also note “Chrome portholes--machined and set high in each front fender--are reminiscent of those on historic Buicks...models with V-6 power have three portholes on each side, while V-8 sedans get four portholes per side — a differentiating feature that reaches as far back as 1949." The V-8 version, dubbed the “Super,” gets a differently shaped grille that doesn’t impress Autoblog; it "comes to a point pretty far down the Lucerne's face. It looks like a beak to us, which takes away from the Lucerne's otherwise classy styling." Car and Driver is unimpressed, too: “Apart from the reinterpreted portholes, the wedgy shape seems familiar and tired, a repeat of a '90s Camry; only the big-eye look in front saves it from being a complete cliché.”

Edmunds says “the Lucerne's cabin is handsome and cleanly styled, and boasts simple, friendly controls.” Automobile describes the 2008 Buick Lucerne's interior as having "quiet taste and subtle style." Car and Driver says it’s “fresh and appealingly minimal” and “very luxurious, especially in Super form, which features niceties such as a leather-finished dashboard and a heated wood steering wheel.” Autoblog likes the Super version’s "interior wraps occupants in luxury including a leather-wrapped upper instrument panel with French-seam stitching, unique finish on the instrument panel center stack, leather seats with perforated suede fabric inserts for the outboard seating positions, and suede door trim inserts." The reviewer at the Washington Post declares that inside the Super, "taste and beauty also reign in a work of supple leather, suede and mahogany wood inserts."

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2008 Buick Lucerne


The 2008 Buick Lucerne takes a lax approach to acceleration and handling, and its four-speed transmission is simply outdated.

The 2008 Buick Lucerne has unexciting power in all but the Super version, and loose, comfort-oriented handling—again, in all but the Super version.

In its base CX form, the Lucerne comes with a 197-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 engine. A 279-horsepower version of Cadillac's 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 is standard on the CXL Special Edition. The Buick Lucerne Super, meanwhile, comes equipped with a version of the 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 that produces 292 horsepower. Even with the 275-horsepower V-8 engine, Edmunds finds power somewhat lacking: “Our test of a Lucerne with the 275-hp V8 yielded a 0-60-mph time of 7.7 seconds, which is slightly slower than some V6 competitors like the [Toyota] Avalon and [Hyundai] Azera.” However, they add “V8 models are more competitive.” ConsumerGuide finds that "All Lucerne engines provide adequate around-town power."

All Lucernes shift through a four-speed automatic. ConsumerGuide calls it “smooth-shifting,” but Edmunds notes that while the Buick Lucerne 2008 transmission "shifts smoothly enough," its "tall, widely spaced gear ratios hurt both performance and mileage"--which is "not a good thing in a class where competitors' transmissions offer five or even six forward gears."

Edmunds also notes "real-world fuel economy often falls well below the 20-mpg mark." This is true of in-town driving, although the Buick Lucerne does better on the open road. ConsumerGuide reports that "CXS models average 15.4 mpg in mostly city driving, 22.4 with more highway use, and just 14.5 in a test that included gas-eating performance runs," and remarks that while "V6 models use regular-grade gas, Buick recommends premium for the V8." The EPA rates the Lucerne at 16/25 mpg for the V-6 version, 15/23 mpg for the mid-line V-8 and 15/22 mpg for the Super.

Opinions on handling were varied. On one hand, Autoblog reports "an enhanced chassis with a specially tuned version of Lucerne's Magnetic Ride Control system, for a refined, premium ride that simultaneously enables crisp, responsive handling." Kelley Blue Book praises the Super edition’s "outstanding ride and handling," noting that "its magnetic power steering also struck us as a bit light and devoid of feel."

On the other hand, ConsumerGuide complains "unwanted body motions abound, including float at higher speeds and bobbing over broken surfaces around town" in other models. Edmunds reports that "handling is mediocre on the softly tuned Lucerne CX and CXL models, which exhibit considerable body roll during cornering," but acknowledges that "high-line CXS and Super models are somewhat firmer and more controlled, due largely to their magnetic shocks and 18-inch wheels." This source also contends that the 2008 Buick Lucerne's "steering is problematic...slow and wobbly on V6 models, yet overly quick on V8 models" and "brakes are disappointing...panic-stop distances are the longest of any full-size sedan in this price range."

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2008 Buick Lucerne

Comfort & Quality

Except for some cheap plastic, the 2008 Buick Lucerne's interior is worthy of its forebears.

The 2008 Buick Lucerne features the marque's traditional spaciousness and interior quality.

ConsumerGuide remarks that in the Buick Lucerne, "headroom and legroom are ample...the seats are comfortable and supportive, with the available cooling feature a pleasant surprise." According to Cars.com, "seating for either five or six occupants is available," depending on the style of front seat. Edmunds reports that "the Buick Lucerne comes standard with seats for five, but a split front bench seat can be ordered on the lower-level CX and CXL for six-passenger capacity...room is abundant in any position, though seat comfort is only average."

Cars.com states "the trunk holds 17 cubic feet of cargo." There are some faults however; ConsumerGuide notes that Buick Lucerne "[trunk] lid hinges intrude into the cargo area," and a "small rear-seat pass-through is a poor substitute for folding seatbacks." Meanwhile, the Lucerne’s "interior storage is subpar due to a small glovebox and door map pockets."

Complaints about interior materials and construction surface in reviews researched by TheCarConnection.com. Washington Post asserts "ergonomic common sense rules the interior." However, this luxurious interior is marred by the use of cheap plastics: ConsumerGuide contends that "a few lightweight plastic panels seem out of place given Lucerne's pricing," while Edmunds comments that "there are still a few low-grade plastic pieces thrown into the mix, and fit and finish needs improvement."

There are virtually no complaints about the Lucerne’s noise levels. Autoblog reports that all 2008 Buick Lucerne models are "are built with an exclusive engineering process called QuietTuning to reduce, block and absorb noise from entering the interior"; ConsumerGuide says that 2008 Buick Lucerne vehicles "were impressively quiet."

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2008 Buick Lucerne


The 2008 Buick Lucerne performs well in crash tests and provides all the right safety gear, though stability control is still an option.

The 2008 Buick Lucerne earns high marks for safety.

Most impressive about the Lucerne’s safety are the "good" and "acceptable" ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which performs more rigorous crash tests than the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), though the latter also awarded the Lucerne very good scores in its crash tests.

Cars.com reports "Six airbags are standard in all Buick Lucerne, including side-impact and side curtain airbags," along with "all-disc antilock brakes." The Buick Lucerne's "Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist and an electronic stability system are optional," however.

AutoWeek comments that the Buick Lucerne's "lane-departure warning and blind-spot detection systems" are "mildly useful." This source also notes "unlike the lane-departure system offered by Infiniti, the one Buick uses is not nearly as intrusive."


2008 Buick Lucerne


The 2008 Buick Lucerne gets satellite radio and lots of luxury features, but not the latest tech bits.

The 2008 Buick Lucerne offers a luxurious list of standard features, even if its options list isn’t as tech-savvy as some imports.

The Lucerne offers a great deal of standard equipment; according to Kelley Blue Book, "power driver's seat, windows, mirrors and door locks with remote keyless entry, six-speaker AM/FM/CD with auxiliary input jack, XM Satellite Radio, four-spoke tilt steering wheel with speed and audio controls [and] PASS-Key III theft-deterrent system" are just a few of the Buick Lucerne standard equipment offerings.

Options are also abundant; Cars.com details the options, including "rain-sensing windshield wipers and heated washer fluid [and] a touch-screen navigation system." Edmunds reports that the 2008 Buick Lucerne can also be equipped with "a CD changer [and] a sunroof," while the CX and CXL "can be equipped with a front bench seat that increases capacity to six people." Features such as navigation and Bluetooth remain unavailable.

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