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2006 Lucerne

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San Francisco: Buick has been busy lately introducing new models with new names. GM is working hard to retain the loyal, but mostly geriatric customer base while expanding into areas currently served by the likes of Lexus and Infiniti. It's a huge task, and the Lucerne, as the flagship sedan, has a lot riding on it.

Buick has played the heritage card by reintroducing the famous cruiserline ventiports. Now, the fender holes are cast in a single piece, and they are slim shadows of their former chrome plated glory from the 1950s. While the ventiports evoke the past, the Lucerne's overall proportions are handsome 21st century modern, and Buick has shelved the wall-to-wall taillamps that have been a brand identifier for decades.

The Lucerne replaces the venerable Park Avenue. The name goes with the recently introduced LaCrosse, which took over for the Regal and the Century. The Lucerne model has a nearly two-inch-longer wheelbase than the Park Avenue, yet it's 3.5 inches shorter nose to tail. That helps to create more modern (read European) proportions, while guaranteeing rear seat occupants generous legroom.

Inside, comfort abounds, with softly upholstered seating and padded, curving surfaces in a clean, tasteful arrangement that breaks no new ground. As part of GM's overall interior improvement project, the surfaces and materials are nicer, panel gaps are tightened up, and the overall impression is pleasant and substantial. The effect is still a few steps below Lexus or Audi, but it is a big move forward. Nothing squeaks, buzzes, or rattles, and with Buick's QuietTuning program, it's blissfully quiet in there.

QuietTuning attacks sound where it is normally generated in a car. First, the body structure is stiffened, and then the body gaps are minimized. Wind sealing gets rid of annoying whistles and air rushes, and even the rear view mirrors have been sculpted to banish noise. The engine uses a double isolated mounting system; laminated steel is employed, and extra sound insulation is strategically placed. My Platinum Metallic tester flew down the road like a rocket while sounding more like a cloud.

You can finally get a V8 in a Buick again, news that would impress my late grandfather, who believed in eight cylinders in his Buick’s. The big powerplant is 4.6 liter, 32-valve dual overhead cam smoothie, displacing 275 horsepower. However, with the price of (regular) gas approaching $3.15 at this writing, you may want to opt for the venerable 3800 V6 engine, which puts out 197 horsepower. The V8 has EPA ratings of 17 City, 25 Highway, while the V6 betters that by 2 mpg. My tester, with the V8, averaged 14.6 mpg.

All Lucerne’s come with GM's rugged four speed automatic. You shouldn't have any trouble with it, but in this age of five- and six speed automatics, that seems a little ratio deprived.

Buick offers three models: the CX, the more luxurious CXL, and the sportier CXS. The CX and CXL get the V6 standard, but you can order the V8 in the CXL as an option, as in my test car. The CXS gets the V8 exclusively.

The model levels are distinguished by, among other things, their different suspensions. The CX has the standard suspension with 16-inch wheels. The CXL models get a boost to 17-inchers and a more finely calibrated suspension. The CXL V8 models get firmer damping and GM's magnetic assist steering system. The CXS, as the sporty brother, has blingable 18-inch alloys and Magnetic Ride Control.

Magnetic Ride Control uses magnetically charged particles suspended in a synthetic fluid in the suspension system. This arrangement can respond nearly instantly to changes to the road surface, which banishes the floaty, land yacht feeling of earlier models for good.

It wouldn't be a Buick without luxury appointments, and there are all the usual ones here. There was still room for $3,995 worth of options on my car, including heated and cooled 8 way power seats, stability control, and heated windshield washer fluid. The $795 Entertainment Package upgraded the audio to Harmon/Kardon, and dropped in XM Radio. This sharp, clear broadcast system is always welcome for its variety and superb sound quality.  The 36 audio presets in my tester could be mixed and matched in any order from AM to FM to XM.

Rest assured you're safe in the Lucerne. Six airbags come standard, including front and rear curtain airbags for maximum head protection in a crash. The new passenger side airbag can deploy in two different shapes and pressures depending on the crash impact, seat position, and whether you were smart and used your seatbelt.

The car's body structure is ready to absorb impacts, and the anti-lock brakes are set to work with traction control to help avoid accidents in the first place. In case of an emergency, GM's OnStar system is ready to receive your distress call. If it doesn't get a response after the airbags are activated, the system will dispatch help to your location automatically.

Prices for the CX start at a reasonable $25,990. The CXL moves up $2,000, and the CXS comes in at $34,990. Including options and $725 for delivery, my tester rang in at $33,945. There are some other luxury cars in that range, but few if any can match the Lucerne's size for the price.

The fate of Buick may be in the hands of the new Lucerne.  By Steve Schaefer   © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

Buick Home Page

Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name: 
 The fate of Buick may be in the hands of the new Lucerne
  The 2006 Buick Lucerne
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 The 2006 Buick Lucerne
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Buick Internet Media
Series #:   2006 - 22

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