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2006 Buick Lucerne review

January 1, 2006 12:30 PM EST | Buick , Sedans | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

Click to View large imageIt can't match the feature content of Toyota's Avalon nor the rear-drive performance of Chrysler's 300C, but Buick's Lucerne is worth a look if you're shopping a roomy and quiet large sedan with a powerful V8.

Pros
Extremely quiet and comfortable ride, nimble handling for a large sedan, available V8 engine, supportive front seats, huge backseat.

Cons
Needs a five-speed automatic, missing some expected convenience and luxury features, can't get stability control with V6.

What's New for 2006
Buick replaces the aging LeSabre and Park Avenue with a new full-size sedan called the Lucerne. Based on the Cadillac DTS platform, the Lucerne seats up to six and can be equipped with GM's Northstar V8.

Introduction:
So long, LeSabre and Park Avenue. Hello, Lucerne. Named after the elegant Swiss town, the Lucerne is all-new for 2006. It's Buick's biggest car and can comfortably seat five adults. And though it lacks the grand name recognition of the now discontinued LeSabre and Park Avenue, the Lucerne is a welcome improvement in just about every other regard.

This newest Buick is built at the same General Motors plant that produces the '06 Cadillac DTS, an updated version of the outgoing DeVille. The cars ride on the same length wheelbase, though the Lucerne is about 4 inches shorter overall. The Lucerne's association with the DTS proves particularly beneficial in terms of powertrain. After about a decade-long drought, a V8 engine finds its way back into the Buick lineup. Available on the CXL trim and standard on the CXS, the 4.6-liter Northstar DOHC V8 cranks out 275 and 290 lb-ft of torque. As a base engine for the CX and CXL, Buick offers General Motors' tried-and-true 3.8-liter OHV V6. In this application, it's rated at 197 hp and 227 lb-ft of torque.

The Lucerne also shares a couple other features with the DTS, including the Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) suspension. This is an automatically adjustable suspension damping system that's standard equipment on the CXS trim. MRC can quickly react to road conditions and driving style by altering the firmness of the shock damping. For normal driving the damping is kept soft for a comfortable ride. MRC reacts to sportier driving with firmer damping.

Buick styled the Lucerne to have a clean and attractive look. It's nothing too exciting, though the rear fascia resembles that of the 2006 VW Passat while front-fender portholes provide a subtle link to Buicks of decades past (V6 models have three portholes, V8s have four). On the move, the Lucerne is very quiet thanks to Buick's "QuietTuning" initiative, which features dedicated engineering adjustments that reduce road, engine and wind noise. Ride quality is plush, while handling is unexpectedly agile for a large Buick sedan. The Lucerne does come up short in a few unexpected areas, however. Though standard features are plenty, common near luxury items like full one-touch windows, a split fold-down rear seat and either a telescoping steering wheel or power-adjustable pedals aren't available. Nor are HID headlights, adaptive cruise control or Bluetooth wireless capability.

Overall, the Lucerne is a capable package and fares well when compared to similarly priced competitors like the Chrysler 300, Hyundai Azera, Lexus ES 330, Mercury Montego and Grand Marquis, Toyota Avalon and Volkswagen Passat. It doesn't match the refinement and polish of the Toyotas or the Volkswagen, nor is it a performance equal of the rear-drive Chrysler 300C, but the Buick counters with likable driving dynamics, an exceptionally serene cabin, and a less expensive price. We recommend that shoppers looking for a large sedan in 2006 take a look at Buick's latest big car offering.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The full-size Buick Lucerne sedan is available in three trim levels: CX, CXL and CXS. The CX comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, a six-way power driver seat, a CD player and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. The CXL adds 17-inch wheels, heated outside mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery, a power passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control and an MP3-capable stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. This trim also provides access to additional optional equipment like heated and cooled seats and heated windshield washer fluid. The top-line CXS has all the CXL luxuries along with driver-seat memory, a 280-watt Harman Kardon audio system, satellite radio, 18-inch wheels and a Magnetic Ride Control suspension. Options on all Lucernes include an in-dash CD changer, a remote vehicle-start feature and rear park assist. A navigation system will be available midyear.

Powertrains and Performance:
Two engines are available for the Lucerne. The CX trim comes with a 3.8-liter V6 that provides 197 horsepower and 227 lb-ft of torque. Available on the CXL and standard on the CXS is a 4.6-liter V8. It's rated at 275 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. Both engines send their power to the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission.

Safety:
Standard safety equipment includes OnStar, antilock four-wheel disc brakes, traction control, front side-impact airbags and head-protecting side curtain airbags for all outboard passengers. The Lucerne also features a front-passenger airbag that deploys at two different depths depending on the occupant. Stability control and BrakeAssist are standard on the CXS and optional for V8-equipped CXL models. Lucernes with the front bench seat have a two-point belt for the center position.

Interior Design and Special Features:
The Lucerne's interior is cleanly styled, and the control layout is simple and organized. Front seating is typically for two but a 40/20/40-split bench seat can be ordered for the CX and CXL. So done, the Lucerne can seat six. The trunk holds up to 17 cubic feet of cargo, which is a big but there is a ski pass-through.

Driving Impressions:
Although a plush, serene ride is the top priority for the Lucerne, those expecting the soggy suspension response typical of older Buicks will be pleasantly surprised by the nimble handling of this large sedan. Softer-tuned CX and CXL models still exhibit a fair amount of body roll around corners, but they feel predictable overall. The CXS is most impressive as its Magnetic Ride Control suspension greatly improves its balance through the turns without detracting from ride quality. The steering is a bit wobbly on-center in CX and V6-equipped CXL models, but the variable-assist Magnasteer setup on the CXL V8 and CXS provides a nice, firm feel at speed. Acceleration is fully adequate with the V6, while the V8 provides brisk response, though we'd like to see Buick upgrade to a five-speed automatic.

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