The 1997 Buick LeSabre Limited is an old folks' car. It's big and roomy. When it moves, it galumphs -- bounding along highways in a self-satisfied, triumphant manner. It's filled with old stuff, like the awkward, chrome-plated, power-seat controls mounted on the left interior front-door panel. The controls include little linear buttons and a small disc, which are used to operate the lateral and vertical motion of the driver's seat. As presented, they make absolutely no sense. But they're pretty. The LeSabre Limited's seats are wide, with a 55/45 split bench up front and a long bench in the rear. That means you can carry six people, instead of the usual five able to fit in the passenger cabins of most of today's cars. Those big seats also mean you don't have to diet, or bump your head to get into the LeSabre. Let's see, there's so much more, such as "theater dimming" interior lighting. It's sort of like going to an opera inside of your automobile. You take your seat before the performance, which involves starting the engine in this case. The interior lights fade to black. Kinda neat. Some of you, by now, think that I'm being cutesy, cynical, maybe engaging in aput-down of old folks. T'aint nothin' farther from the truth. The LeSabre is what the LeSabre is, a big 'ol front-wheel-drive family sedan, and a lot of people like it that way. I count myself among them. I'm 49. This car is beginning to appeal to me. Background: A significant measure of a car is the way it runs in the marketplace, where the LeSabre had been running well -- the best-selling full-size sedan in the United States -- for four years straight. The LeSabre held on to that title in 1996, even though its sales dropped 7.1 percent, to 131,316 cars, from 141,410 sold in 1955. By comparison, the comparable Ford Crown Victoria tallied 108,789 in 1996, and the Mercury Grand Marquis garnered 99,770, according to the latest available figures from J.D. Power and Associates, a consumer market research firm in Agoura Hills, Calif. Oh, I know that the rear-wheel-drive Crown Vic and Grand Marquis are mechanically the same cars. But, hey, the auto industry counts product sales by model names, not vehicle platforms. Anyway, the LeSabre came out on top, and it's easy to understand why. Despite oddities -- its old-fashioned, bulging, chromed exterior door handles come to mind -- it is an extremely well-made car. Buick did little to revamp the LeSabre for 1997. But what was done -- a reshaping of the front grille and a reworking of the headlamps -- gave the car a more cosmopolitan appearance than its somewhat dowdy-faced predecessor. Functional changes include new electronic controls that seem to have eliminated any hint of transmission downshifting during acceleration. Structural upgrades include improved side-impact barrier protection in crashes. The LeSabre is offered in two trim levels, the Custom and the more expensive Limited. The standard engine for both cars is General Motors Corp.'s 3.8-liter Series II V-6, which is rated 205 horsepower at 5,200 rpm with torque rated 230 pound-feet at 4,000 rpm. It's a traditional push rod engine -- which means its overhead valves are opened and closed by a tubular device. Detractors call that arrangement archaic and inefficient. But the darned thing runs smoothly. An electronically controlled, four-speed automatic transmission is standard in the LeSabre, as are dual front air bags and antilock brakes. All and all, the LeSabre is one of the best retirement homes on wheels available in the U.S. auto market. 1997 Buick LeSabre Limited Complaint: I literally hate the power seat controls in this car. I really do. Praise: GM's Delco Electronics group produces the best remote door-lock-entry systems in the business. I am absolutely convinced of this after conducting this experiment: I stood on the fifth floor of my newspaper building and aimed t e key fob -- the signaling device -- at the LeSabre, parked downstairs a couple of hundred yards away. The car's horn sounded and its lights flashed at each push of the button, indicating that it was responding to the signal. By comparison, the remote entry systems on cars such as the Mercedes-Benz E420 are duds. You've practically got to get on top of the E420's doors in order for its electronic key fob to have any effect. Head-turning quotient: You can use all of the Grecian Formula you want, but if you're running around in this car, everybody's gonna know that you already have, or you're waiting for, grandkids. Ride, acceleration and handling: Soft to moderately hard ride. Quite decent handling in curves and emergency maneuvers. Enough acceleration to get you a ticket on anybody's highway. Excellent braking. Mileage: Considering that this is a full-size car, an impressive 25 miles per gallon (18-gallon fuel tank, estimated 425-mile range on usable volume of regular unleaded), running driver only and mostly highway with light cargo (17-cubic feet luggage capacity). Price: Base price on the tested Limited sedan is $25,565. Dealer invoice is $23,392. Price as tested is $26,779, including$609 in options and a $605 destination charge. Purse-strings note: Excellent value for the dollar. Compare with Toyota Avalon, Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, Oldsmobile 88 and Pontiac Bonneville.
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||February 14, 1997|
|Richard Truett||Orlando Sentinel||May 30, 1996|
|Larry Printz||The Morning Call and Mcall.com||May 18, 1996|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||April 3, 1996|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||March 17, 1996|
|George Moore||IndyStar.com||December 17, 1995|
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