What's New for 2001
The best-selling U.S. full-size car for eight straight years, Buick's LeSabre has been mildly updated after being totally redesigned last year. Changes include dual-stage airbags, standard OnStar in-vehicle safety, security and information service and the engine oil change interval has been increased to 10,000 miles.
Evolutionary in style outside, and revolutionary in style inside, the Buick LeSabre, redesigned last year, 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 the previous generation. Buick's signature "waterfall" chrome grille is still there, and the clean-looking front and rear fascias set off the clear-lens headlamps and large tail lamps. Flush, body-colored door handles add a clean look to the LeSabre, and even the bodyside moldings have an integrated look.
Interior storage and safety has also been a Buick hallmark and the 2001 LeSabre doesn't disappoint. In addition to incorporating side airbags, the comfortable and supportive 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. The big news for 2001 is standard dual stage front airbags.
Rear headroom is as good as in the Ford Crown Victoria or Mercury Grand Marquis, and though legroom back there isn't best-in-class, it is still comfortable. Large rear-door glass lowers nearly all the way down into the doors for better ventilation. Trunk room is a decent 18 cubic feet, bettering the 17 cubic feet found in the Chrysler Concorde.
The LeSabre's platform makes for a stiffer, quieter body than its predecessor. While the front suspension features MacPherson struts 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 touring radials 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. This motor makes a healthy 205 horsepower at 5,200 rpm, with 230 foot-pounds of torque peaking at a useable 4,000 rpm. 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 2001 model should improve that score further. While the median age of most LeSabre buyers has long been in the 60s, more family-oriented buyers are finding themselves in 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.