What's New for 2006
Replacing the aging LeSabre and Park Avenue is a new full-size sedan called the Buick Lucerne. Based on the Cadillac DTS platform, the Lucerne seats up to six and can be equipped with GM's Northstar V8.
So long, LeSabre and Park Avenue. Hello, Lucerne. Named after the elegant Swiss town, the Buick Lucerne is all-new for 2006. It's Buick's biggest car and can comfortably seat five adults. And though it lacks the grand name recognition of the now discontinued LeSabre and Park Avenue, the Lucerne is a welcome improvement in just about every other regard.
This newest Buick car is built at the same General Motors plant that produces the '06 Cadillac DTS, an updated version of the outgoing DeVille. The cars ride on the same length wheelbase, though the Buick Lucerne is about 4 inches shorter overall. The Lucerne's association with the DTS proves particularly beneficial in terms of powertrain. After about a decade-long drought, a V8 engine finds its way back into the Buick lineup. Available on the CXL trim and standard on the CXS, the 4.6-liter Northstar DOHC V8 cranks out 275 and 290 lb-ft of torque. As a base engine for the CX and CXL, Buick offers General Motors' tried-and-true 3.8-liter OHV V6. In this application, it's rated at 197 hp and 227 lb-ft of torque.
The Buick Lucerne also shares a couple other features with the DTS, including the Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) suspension. This is an automatically adjustable suspension damping system that's standard equipment on the CXS trim. MRC can quickly react to road conditions and driving style by altering the firmness of the shock damping. For normal driving the damping is kept soft for a comfortable ride. MRC reacts to sportier driving with firmer damping.
Buick styled the Lucerne to have a clean and attractive look. It's nothing too exciting, though the rear fascia resembles that of the 2006 Passat while front-fender portholes provide a subtle link to Buick cars of decades past (V6 models have three portholes, V8s have four). On the move, the Buick Lucerne is very quiet thanks to its "QuietTuning" initiative, which features dedicated engineering adjustments that reduce road, engine and wind noise. Ride quality is plush, while handling is unexpectedly agile for a large Buick car. The Lucerne does come up short in a few unexpected areas, however. Though standard features are plenty, common near luxury items like full one-touch windows, a split fold-down rear seat and either a telescoping steering wheel or power-adjustable pedals aren't available. Nor are HID headlights, adaptive cruise control or Bluetooth wireless capability.
Overall, the 2006 Buick Lucerne is a capable package and fares well when compared to similarly priced competitors. It doesn't match the refinement and polish of the Toyotas or the Volkswagen, nor is it a performance equal of the rear-drive Chrysler 300C, but the Buick Lucerne counters with likable driving dynamics, an exceptionally serene cabin, and a less expensive price. We recommend that shoppers looking for a large sedan in 2006 take a look at Buick's latest big car offering.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The full-size Buick Lucerne sedan is available in three trim levels: CX, CXL and CXS. The CX comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, a six-way power driver seat, a CD player and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. The CXL adds 17-inch wheels, heated outside mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery, a power passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control and an MP3-capable stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. This trim also provides access to additional optional equipment like heated and cooled seats and heated windshield washer fluid. The top-line CXS has all the CXL luxuries along with driver-seat memory, a 280-watt Harman Kardon audio system, satellite radio, 18-inch wheels and a Magnetic Ride Control suspension. Options on all Lucernes include an in-dash CD changer, a remote vehicle-start feature and rear park assist. A navigation system will be available midyear.
Powertrains and Performance
Two engines are available for the Buick Lucerne. The CX trim comes with a 3.8-liter V6 that provides 197 horsepower and 227 lb-ft of torque. Available on the CXL and standard on the CXS is a 4.6-liter V8. It's rated at 275 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. Both engines send their power to the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission.
Standard safety equipment includes OnStar, antilock four-wheel disc brakes, traction control, front side-impact airbags and head-protecting side curtain airbags for all outboard passengers. Stability control and BrakeAssist are standard on the CXS, optional for V8-equipped CXL models and not available on V6-equipped models. Lucernes with the front bench seat have a two-point belt for the center position. In NHTSA crash tests, the Buick Lucerne received a five-star rating (out of a possible five) for its protection of the driver and front passenger in frontal impacts. A four-star rating was given for side-impact protection of front and rear occupants.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Lucerne's interior is cleanly styled, and the control layout is simple and organized. The leather upholstery is soft, and designers took care to match the grain patterns of the vinyls and plastics used on the dash and doors. Unfortunately, there are still a few low-grade materials thrown into the mix and build quality is inconsistent. Front seating is typically for two but a 40/20/40-split bench seat can be ordered for the CX and CXL. So done, the Lucerne can seat six. Cushioning and legroom are abundant whether you're seated in the front or back. The trunk holds up to 17 cubic feet of cargo. In addition to the folding rear seats, there is a ski pass-through.
A plush, serene ride is the top priority for the 2006 Buick Lucerne. Handling is not a strength of the softly tuned CX and CXL styles, which exhibit considerable body roll during cornering. The high-line CXS model is fairly nimble through turns, though thanks to its Magnetic Ride Control suspension. The steering feels wobbly on-center in CX and V6-equipped CXL models, so upgrading to the variable-assist Magnasteer setup available on the CXL V8 and CXS is a good idea if you can afford it. The brakes are the weakest aspect of the Lucerne's driving dynamics. Pedal feel is fine in everyday traffic, but in emergency situations, stopping distances are the longest of any full-size sedan in this price range. The base V6 engine delivers adequate acceleration but is down on horsepower for this class. The V8 provides brisk response and gets the Lucerne to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds. This is a respectable time, though V6-equipped competitors like the Avalon and Azera are quicker still.