The full-size Lucerne shows how Buick has changed. It is as quiet as a church on Monday, big enough to carry five and has a refined and elegant interior.
The Lucerne is the top-of-the-line Buick. Its styling is clean and uncluttered, and some of the lines are reminiscent of those from competitors. The nose carries a variation of the traditional Buick oval grille.
The classy interior, lack of noise and room for five or six people are key reasons why the Lucerne is a serious competitor to cars such as the Toyota Avalon, Pontiac Bonneville and Ford Five Hundred.
The Lucerne is available with either a 3.8-liter V-6 or a 4.6-liter V-8. Prices start at $25,265 for the CX and $34,545 for the top CXS.
The test car was the top CXS powered by the 4.6-liter Northstar V-8. This 32-valve, all-aluminum engine cranks out 275 horsepower and is extremely smooth and well-mannered.
The transmission is a four-speed automatic, whereas many competitors have a five-speed or a six-speed automatic. The Buick's shifts are very smooth, however.
The Lucerne's 115.6-inch wheelbase gives it plenty of room inside for up to six people if you get the 40/20/40 front bench seat. It rides on the same chassis as the Cadillac DTS.
The Lucerne is one of the quietest cars in all of GM, thanks to careful attention to sound deadening. Engineers used a laminated steel firewall, laminated side glass in all four doors, baffles in the roof pillars and a "double-isolated" mounting system for the engine and transmission. Even the shape of the windshield wipers has been changed to eliminate wind noise.
The result is a cabin in which you can talk in low-to-normal voice at highway speeds and still be heard easily. The lack of noise also results in less fatigue on a long trip.
Lack of noise is only one element of the Lucerne's appeal. The interior wears GM's new interior design, and it can best be described as elegant simplicity. The instrument panel has soft textures, few seams and woodgrain trim. The gauges have dark backgrounds and light gray numerals, but they were hard to read in the daytime unless the headlights were on. The temperature buttons on the center stack were also hard for me to read unless the headlights were on. It would be simple to have the gauges and center stack lit permanently.
The CXS test car was equipped with heated and cooled front seats, remote start, rear parking assist, rain-sensing wipers, Harman Kardon audio system with six-disc changer and a navigation system.
The test car also had GM's Magnetic Ride Control, a system that adjusts the suspension in real time as it hits bumps. The resulting ride is soft for comfort yet firm for responsive handling at higher speeds. The 18-inch wheels telegraphed small bumps through the steering wheel, and the larger wheels mean the turning circle is nearly as large as a full-size pickup's.
Safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes, traction control, StabiliTrak vehicle stability control, rear air suspension and brake assist. All models have six airbags, including a side-curtain airbag and a dual-depth front passenger airbag.
The base price of the test CSX was $34,545. Options included 18-inch chrome wheels, navigation system, heated and cooled front seats, rear parking assist, heated washer fluid and premium paint. The sticker price was $40,675.
The standard warranty is for four years or 50,000 miles, while the limited powertrain warranty is for five years or 100,000 miles.