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Buick Lucerne

2006 Buick Lucerne Review

by Martha Hindes

Buick Lucerne
Buick Lucerne Interior

Seems that Buick has always been the General Motors brand that was a bit more upscale than most of its brethren. Smooth, supple. Whisper quiet. A step on the way to attainment. A counterbalance to the snobbish European nameplates that careened around corners with
Teutonic bluster. Now, as it replaces the aging staple, Park Avenue, Buick comes out with the fresh, trendy and tightly-aligned all new Lucerne for 2006, with a stop-in-the-tracks demeanor guaranteed to earn a second glance. This is one good looking automobile, with a more polished presence than Buicks we remember from the past. It also brings to Buick the same performance-enhancing responsibility that CTS so successfully brought to Cadillac.

A subtle, but noticeable change in Buickdom is found close to road level, where the largish gap between tire and fender lip found on many GM vehicles is simply gone. Designers won a long-fought battle with engineers to be more daring in design for a sculptured, Autobahn-capable appearance where rubber meets the road. The change also lends a taut look to the strikingly uncluttered exterior. You sense luxury, speed and handling combined into one package.

There's still a reminder of Buick's noble past. A stylized chrome porthole badge sits on either side, with three indentions indicating a six-cyl version, and four-indention plaque designation for the V-8 powerplant, returning after a long auto absence. Powering this full-size, front-drive sedan for five or six, is the staple 3.8-liter, 3800 Series III V-6, generating 197-HP. The available 4.6-liter Northstar V-8 (standard for CXS) churns out 275-HP. Both use newly-adopted industry horsepower standards. Underneath, paired with other stability controls, is the first use of GM's Magnetic Ride Control on a Buick that instantly changes from supple to firmer controlled ride as conditions demand. The segment-first dual depth front airbags customize crash protection along with a side curtain system.

Inside there are sensuous stretches of dappled wood trim, perforated leather for breathability and flashes of chrome melding into a luxurious backdrop for driver and passengers. Buick's traditional hush-hush quiet can be broken quite nicely by the available nine-speaker, 280-watt Harman Kardon sound system with XM Satellite radio, MP3, front-mounted jack and hands-free capability. Factory remote start, heated and cooled seats, DVD navigation, rain sensing wipers, heated washer fluid system (a Buick first), and rear parking assist confirm its upscale status. In three, well-trimmed versions (with a price range from the mid-20s to mid-30s), Lucerne suggests a trip into primetime territory that could give its European competitors a rush.