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1990 Buick LeSabre

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1990 Buick LeSabre 4.3 3
$ 714-1,702
March 15, 1990

Before I spent a week behind the wheel of a 1990 Buick LeSabre Limited, I never imagined myself in a Buick sedan. After all, that's an old man's car, isn't it? You know, column shifter and all.

Now, I'd buy one in a heartbeat.

I've driven scads of cars, and rarely have I been won over so quickly. Halfway around the block, I knew this car was a keeper. You feel the LeSabre's quality in the way it's built and in the way it handles; you see it in the paint job and you notice it the way the interior parts fit together neatly.

The blueprint for General Motors' revival is built into the Buick LeSabre. If all of GM's cars had the uniform quality of the LeSabre, the world's largest automaker could easily put the brakes to its declining market share.

There is no one thing that stands out about the LeSabre. The styling is conservative. The performance is adequate, and the interior is tasteful, stylish and comfortable. It's the car as a whole that's impressive.

To start with, the ride has a nearly perfect balance of softness and firmness. The suspension easily dispenses with speed bumps, minor potholes and other inconsistencies in the pavement without transmitting much of the noise and vibration to the interior.

For a car weighing 3,297 pounds, the LeSabre Limited has a very athletic feel. It can take a sharp corner on short notice with little trauma. The LeSabre just goes where you point it effortlessly.

The test car had power adjustable light gray leather seats that were comfortable, though not supportive in the thigh and lumbar areas. The rear seats also were comfortable, and there was ample foot and head room.

The 165-horsepower fuel-injected 3.8-liter V-6 is the essence of smooth. So is the four-speed overdrive transmission that drives the front wheels. The car is geared so that at 65 mph, the engine is turning only at about 1,800 rpm. That computes, Buick says, to 28 miles per gallon on the highway. With the air conditioning running, I got slightly less, about 26.5 mpg. In Central Florida's stop and start city driving, the LeSabre returned 18 mpg.

The LeSabre Limited comes with a long list of standard items: anti-lock brakes, leather seats, AM/FM stereo with cassette player, electric antenna, rear window defroster and power everything. But I especially liked Buick's automatic climate control system.

A digital readout on the dash lets you choose the temperature. With the fan and temperature on ''auto,'' the system does the rest. Or you can set the fan speed and temperature manually. Either way, it's a simple, efficient and easy-to-use system.

After the rebates, trades and obligatory haggling, the admission price on a LeSabre Limited is about $19,000, according to a local dealer.

For that price you get a trunk large enough for several sets of golf clubs or pieces of luggage, and enough room for six adults to travel comfortably in a car that is built well from the ground up.

Since a survey last year of new car owners placed the LeSabre at No. 2 on the list of the world's most trouble free cars and No. 1 among domestic cars, LeSabre sales have skyrocketed. It's a success that is well-deserved.

If you are considering a midsize car, take a hard look at the LeSabre. Take it for a ride. You'll probably end up taking it home after you compare the LeSabre with the imports. It's an excellent value for the money.

- UPDATE: At the Detroit Auto Show in January I tested the 1990 Buick Reatta convertible, with the same 3.8-liter V-6 as the LeSabre Limited. I liked the car's styling but was stunned by its anemic performance. It turns out there was something wrong with the car, said Buick's Gary Witzenburg. The Reatta convertible I drove had been flogged around Detroit by automotive journalists for three days. Witzenburg said technicians examined the car after the show and found the throttle linkage had worked loose, preventing the engine from per orming properly. According to several magazine road tests, Buick's 3.8-liter 165-horsepower V-6 is a smooth, powerful engine that can motivate the Reatta convertible from 0-60 in under 10 seconds.

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