What's New for 2011
The 2011 Buick Lucerne receives only minor updates, including streamlined trim levels, new audio systems and standard stability control on all models.
The 2011 Buick Lucerne is an example of the old General Motors, where "good enough" unfortunately became the company's standard operating procedure. When the Lucerne was introduced for 2006, it barely nudged the bar upward from the car it replaced. Now, it's a proverbial fossil among premium or luxury full-size sedans. While Buick is currently reinventing itself, the Lucerne stands as a reminder to show just how far the brand has come with its new LaCrosse and Regal sedans.
Of course, some buyers may appreciate the Lucerne's old-school vibe. If you're partial to the grand Buick sedans of yesteryear like the Park Avenue and LeSabre, you'll feel right at home in the 2011 Buick Lucerne. Smooth and comfortable ride? Check. Controls that can be deciphered without first passing a computer literacy test? Check. Generous room for five or even six? Check. Stylized portholes on the front fenders? Yep. So far, so good.
But run a hand over the cabin materials or gaze at the dash design and you'll notice that the Lucerne is several steps behind the LaCrosse sitting a few feet away in the Buick dealership. Take a look at the spec sheet and you'll find a 227-horsepower V6 and a four-speed automatic in a segment where about 270 horses and six speeds is the norm. The available V8, with its 292 hp, is a virtual requirement. On the move, the Lucerne disappoints with slow steering, lifeless handling, a bargelike turning circle and barely adequate brakes.
As basic transportation, the 2011 Buick Lucerne is good enough. But with so many impressive full-size sedans and a pair of thoroughly modern Buicks now in the brand's lineup, why settle for just "good enough"? Other sedans like the Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, Hyundai Genesis and Toyota Avalon are all better choices.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Buick Lucerne is a full-size luxury sedan offered in four trim levels: CX, CXL, CXL Premium and top-of-the-line Super. Five-passenger seating is standard and six-passenger seating with a 40/20/40 front split bench seat is available on all trim levels except Super.
Model variations have been streamlined this year. The basic CX model starts off modestly with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps and foglamps, heated mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, cloth upholstery, six-way power front seats, leather-wrapped tilt-only steering wheel, air-conditioning, fully powered accessories, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, OnStar communications and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod/USB audio interface, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The Comfort and Convenience package includes dual-zone automatic climate control and Bluetooth.
Moving up to the CXL adds access to more options and includes leather upholstery, heated eight-way power front seats with power lumbar adjustments, driver's memory settings, a heated steering wheel and the Comfort and Convenience package. The Driver Confidence package adds remote ignition and rear parking sensors. The CXL Premium includes the Driver Confidence package, plus chromed alloy wheels, a driver auto-dimming mirror, a lane-departure warning system, a blind-spot warning system and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
Finally, the Super trim takes the Lucerne experience to another level with V8 power, 18-inch chrome alloy wheels, a sunroof (optional on CXL and CXL Premium), adaptive magnetic ride control, magnetic steering, perforated leather/faux-suede upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a touchscreen navigation system with real-time traffic. The navigation system is optional on the CXL Premium.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive Buick Lucerne offers two engines from which to choose. The CX and CXL models are equipped with a 3.9-liter V6 producing 227 hp and 237 pound-feet of torque. The heart of the Super model is a 4.6-liter V8 with 292 hp and 288 lb-ft of torque. Both are backed by a four-speed automatic transmission.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the V6 is 17 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. The V8 is understandably thirstier at 15/23/18.
Every 2011 Buick Lucerne is equipped with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds testing, a Lucerne came to a stop from 60 mph in 137 feet -- disappointing for a car of this type and price.
The Lucerne has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to the new 2011 tests)were a perfect five stars for front occupant protection in head-on collisions and four stars for front and rear side-impact protection.
In testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Lucerne earned a top rating of "Good" for frontal-offset collisions and an "Acceptable" score in side-impact testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Lucerne's roomy cabin is a comfortable place to spend time, particularly if you're not saddled with driving chores. The dashboard features legible gauges, intuitive controls and a simple, straightforward layout. The cloth upholstery on the base CX is definitely a step down from the soft leather trim in more expensive trims and the materials in general are bargain basement compared to those in newer Buicks.
Once underway, the Lucerne provides a serene atmosphere with very little road noise. In this environment, the optional Harman Kardon audio system shines. The seats are comfortable, with ample room front and back, and a Lucerne advantage is the ability to seat six if needed. The large trunk swallows up to 17 cubic feet of cargo, and a pass-through can accommodate longer items.
The 2011 Buick Lucerne is in its element cruising down the interstate mile after mile while treating occupants to a smooth ride and tranquil cabin. But sloppy handling and slow, vague steering plagues the CX and CXL models, while the Super's sophisticated adaptive suspension is useful but can only do so much. V6 performance is underwhelming, especially because of the outdated four-speed automatic transmission. The Super's V8 delivers more grunt, of course, but its performance (like the V6) is unimpressive considering the competition and the model's price.