What's New for 2000
Buick's LeSabre has been totally redesigned for the 2000 model year. Though it looks a lot like a '99, this car has undergone a remarkable transformation, riding on a new platform with mildly tweaked sheet metal and an entirely reworked cabin. Better ride, steering and seats, plus side airbags and integrated seatbelts, make it an even better value than before.
Evolutionary in style outside, and revolutionary in style inside, the 2000 Buick LeSabre appears to have met its designers' goals -- keep the good stuff and improve the rest. Give Buick credit for acting on customer input and coming up with a surprisingly competent overall package. Though this big, front-drive sedan is about an inch narrower than its predecessor, much of its shape and many of its dimensions are little-changed from last year. Its new platform allows for moving the wheels farther out to the corners, making for an extra 1.4 inches of wheelbase to 112.2 inches, which is nearly as long as the so-called "cab-forward" designed Chrysler Concorde.
Sure, Buick's traditional "waterfall" chrome grille is still there, but this new LeSabre also has fresher, cleaner-looking front and rear fascias, setting off clear-lens headlamps and bigger tail lamps. Flush, body-colored door handles replace the chrome pulls, and even the bodyside moldings have an integrated look.
The big news is inside, where that old, horizontal dashboard with small gauges has been replaced by a stylish, modern housing that delivers driving information in an easier-to-read format. Better still, the seats - long a sore spot with our testers - are comfy, yet supportive.
Interior storage and safety is also improved. In addition to incorporating side airbags, the front seats have built-in "self-aligning" head restraints, reducing the risk of whiplash. Front seatbelts are now integrated into the seat frames, and all five seating positions come equipped with shoulder and lap belts. The LeSabre's interior meets the government's new head-impact requirements ahead of the federal deadline.
Rear headroom is as good as in the Ford Crown Victoria or Mercury Grand Marquis, and though legroom back there has been slightly reduced, it is still comfortable. Larger rear-door glass lowers nearly all the way down into the doors for better ventilation. And trunk room has grown a full foot to 18 cubic feet, now bettering the 17 cubic feet found in the Concorde.
The new LeSabre platform makes for a stiffer, quieter body. While the front suspension remains MacPherson strut with coil springs, the rear's semi-trailing arm / coil-spring setup makes for a more-controlled ride. We'd opt for the LeSabre Limited with the Gran Touring Package, despite the fact that the top-of-the-line P255/60R-16 Firestones are not super handlers. Antilock brakes are standard, with the rear drums being upgraded to discs for better stopping power.
The only available powertrain in both the Custom and Limited models remains the trusty 3.8-liter Series II V6, mated to a smooth four-speed automatic transmission. While this motor still makes a healthy 205 horsepower at 5,200 rpm, its 230 foot-pounds of torque now peak at a more useable 3,700 rpm instead of up at 4,000. While the 4.6-liter V8 in the Grand Marquis boasts 275 foot-pounds of torque way down at 3,000 rpm, it has only 200 horses and its fuel economy is lower. What's more, GM's V6 meets federal 2001 low-emission vehicle (LEV) standards.
LeSabres have consistently ranked better than average in owner trouble complaints over the years, and the 2000 model should even improve on that score. While the median age of most LeSabre buyers has long been in the 60s, this new-and-improved version is likely to draw younger, more family-oriented buyers into Buick showrooms. That will not only do much to help the brand shake some of its fuddy-duddy image, but also keep LeSabre among the best sellers.