Buick Lucerne Test Drive

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Buick is in a pretty bad situation right now.
And it is mostly because the’ve been selling a lot of crappy cars for a long time. And people just got tired of getting screwed…

The Lucerne is for now, their top of the line model. Trying to get past Park Avenue owners back, and also get new customers into the brand. That is one tough job…

First, I have to say it is a pretty nice looking car. On pictures it seems a bit like the new Passat. But not so much in the flesh.
It looks much longer. It actually looks a bit too long, almost out of proportions.
The front still has a very traditional chromy grille. Something they might have to get rid of if they are serious about attracting a younger crowd.

The rest of the car is very clean and tasteful.

Inside, it looks like a Jaguar. Well, kind of…
Again, a very classy and simple look. Almost too simple. The center part of the dash almost looks empty. A bit too plain.

Plastics are not all soft, but they are of very good quality. The seats are just OK. The lower back has no support at all, and the headrests are “way back there”. But that might be another story with the optional leather.

All the switches and dials feel great and smooth.
One thing I noticed is the lightweight feel of the doors when you close them. They do feel thin and cheap. So does the trunk.
Unlike the Avalon or the Azera.
Pretty surprising in such a large car.

The iPod plug is a great feature. But where do you put the iPod?
The cup holder is way back past the shifter…

That auto shifter by the way, is pretty awkward. It feels too tall (or the console is too low) and is pretty rough to move around. At least it is where it should be…
But the interior is generally a very nice place to be. With a super roomy back seat, and also a huge flat trunk.

On the road, the car is very, very quiet .
The engine is fine most of the time. Although it is never as smooth as the Japanese competition. It also sounds really rough just when you start from a stop. I’ve noticed that before with the GM 3.8 Liter.. Seems like they can’t, or don’t want to, do anything about that.
There is enough power, but that’s about it. Nothing more.
At least it’s not too thirsty. On my daily commute (about 30% freeway), I averaged 21MPG of regular.
If you need more, get the V8.

The brakes feel great. And so does the steering. Very light but precise and never loose.
And unlike cars like the Maxima, it doesn’t feel like you are playing a Nintendo game.

The ride is very smooth without ever being too soft.

I really enjoyed driving this Buick for a few days.
It is a fine car until…
Well, until you check out the competition Mainly the Toyota Avalon and the Hyundai Azera.
Both cars have more power and a more refined engine. And the Azera feels does feel like a more expensive car.

That is GM”s main problem. Their cars are fine until you check out the competition. It seems that they live in their own bubble and don’t get out into the real world.

My “base” car was around $26 000. Maybe quite a bit less with rebates.
For that price you don’t get a remote or full power seat. It’s not that cheap.

The Avalon starts at $27 300 ($25 000 on carsdirect).
And the Azera starts at $25 000 ($22 800 on carsdirect)
Both cars have much more standard features than the Buick, and a much better engine. They also feel more expensive.
The Azera has one of the best made interiors out there.
If you get a V8 Lucerne and add options, then you fall into Lexus territory.

The Buick Lucerne is still a good choice for those looking to get a comfortable full size car.
It is good looking and very quiet. With a very comfortable ride.
But so is the competition.

I cannot really imagine anyone, with an open mind, choosing the Buick over the Toyota or the Hyundai.
Unless you are taken by the design, or must own a Buick…
It is, like most GM models, a car for those who do not want
to “shop around”…

Conversation 19 comments

  1. The interior does look cheap and dated, which is a shame. I had expected Lutz to have kicked some ass at all GM divisions. The back is very VW Phæton, but that is no bad thing. It looks less overstyled than the LaCrosse, and reasonably tidy. I guess objectively the Toyota and Hyundai trump it, but may I ask if the Buick has character? I know from my experience of Japanese cars, they do individual things very well, but the sum seldom feels complete.

  2. It doesn’t have much character per say.
    Just very quiet and smooth. Which is a character in its own way.
    it is a very relaxing and pleasant drive.

  3. Character and history are the things GM has over Toyota and Hyundai. A sexy looking RWD Buick Wildcat with stylized Buick styling, similar to the way the new Camaro has stylized classic Camaro styling, would win over a Hyundai Azuzu or whatever its called anyday. Theres no point for GM trying to beat its competitors on quality… go for the heart not the head, Lutzy…

  4. GM is on the right track for once and this car is basically a bridge to the future IMO. It is my hope that the Enclave is the car that really re-ignites Buick.

  5. I agree the center console is too simple and kinda cheap looking… Although I do like the wood- it’s kinda like the current Lexus ES.

    I wonder if anyone knows what’s the average age of Lucerne buyers compared to the Avalon or Azera buyers??? My guess is probably around 55 to 60 yrs old.

  6. Interesting, Vince—thank you. I suspected as much, reading between the lines of your original review. If Buick emphasizes quietness and smoothness, it will have quite a fight against the Asian brands. To me, this car might win against the Chrysler 300 and Ford Five Hundred if someone has to buy American and seeks comfort and ride above handling; it’s quite a big car, too. But that is a niche market—when it could be so much more by, as Anonymous (no. 1) indicated, emphasizing character and beating the rest.
       I just wonder if they should not have made it more sporting. Buicks, to me, have a useful potential niche as an American Lancia of sorts—decent, sporting sedans that could take on Jaguars if they had to. The last Regal always looked good on paper till you drove it; and I sense that the Lucerne might be in the same boat.
       I hear the four-porthole Lucerne CXS might be in the same boat as a big, comfortable sub-Cadillac—which I guess takes Buick back to the ’50s as “doctors’ cars” (only thing is, the doctors now buy imports).

  7. I was thinking, Vince, if they put a more powerful V8 under the hood and “Grand Nationalize” this car, they might have something pretty impressive …

  8. It is still a front wheel drive car, and I don’t think they can put more power through the front wheels.
    The current V8 is pretty much all it can take.

  9. A friend recently enlightened me on why people in this car’s target market (as anonymous 9:24 mentioned, let’s call them 55-60+) like simple dashes. It’s because they believe that the more switches and knobs there are, the more likely it is that one of them is going to fail. Technically, I’m sure this is the case, but it seems like such a trivial and bizarre concern to have. Nevertheless, that’s apparently their mindset, and presumably Buick knows this.

  10. It is very easy to praise Toyota products… But when you look underneath at the technology they use, you can have many surprises. Okay the overall result is impressive. But they use old (and reliable) technology most of the time for parts ordinary people don’t look at, like suspension and brakes. Okay sure the Avalon has a great engine. But the suspension is way too soft and the brakes, simply dangerous (from a test drive I saw on TV where it showed the worst result I have ever seen on that show). I love the interior of the Avalon though. From what I know, I think I would put the Buick and the Avalon on the same level on my list.

    You should try to get into an Avalon Vince and prove me wrong.

  11. To Anonymous before me,

    At least Avalon offers a Touring trim with much better handling. Buick does not.

  12. To anonymous before me :

    The Buick can be ordered with magnaride (I don’t know if the name is right) on the v8 version which is an amazing system that varies the stiffness of the suspension.

  13. to anonymous before me who consider the lucerne to be on par with the avalon: get real! THe lucerne costs about 10% of the development cost of the avalon, and the resale value is so bad, Buick has to offer rebates in order for people to buy it. I used to feel sorry for GM, but the put out such s#$%y products that they deserve to go out of business.

  14. To those who think the Avalon cost more to develop than the Lucerne – you’re joking.

    Avalon is an extended Camry, with Camry’s all-around (cheap) MacPherson struts.

    Lucerne rides on the same platform as the Cadillac DTS. Avalon does not compete with the fluidity of Lucerne’s chassis responses, and Lucerne’s flexibility only improves when MagnaRide is ordered.

    In every primary control you care to use – accelerator; brake, and steering – Lucerne is a more linear drive than the Avalon. Buick ride quality, without the expected wallow, is the icing on the cake. Add a level of quiet with which Avalon cannot compete, and it’s easy to see why Lucerne is outselling Avalon (just as the outgoing LeSabre outsold the old Avalon)

    Moreover: Buick has been top – or near-top – of the J.D. Power ratings since 1989, and above (in many years, well above) Toyota in Initial Quality; Dependability, and Customer Satisfaction (three J.D. Power measures).

    Additionally, the idea that this is Buick’s first good car in some time is ridiculous. A check of ’90s magazines – be they Car and Driver; Automobile, or any other reviewer you choose – will tell you that the 1991-1996 Park Avenue and 2000-2005 LeSabre were both highly praised. It was often said, in fact, that they were better than the equivalent Lexus –

    – just as Automobile Magazine has noted that the Lucerne is more fun to drive than is the Avalon.

    There’s no doubt that Buick carries some baggage – some, it’s own fault, and some more that of those who cannot (for whatever reason) form their own opinions through direct experience and research. Put simply, faulting a 2006 Buick for the domestics’ missteps in 1973 makes no sense.

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