This is not a BMW. So why should it aspire to drive like one?
That was the question running through my head during the first 100 miles in the 2008 Buick Lucerne Super.
It's a Buick through and through and I find no flaw there. Some people may shun it, or even make fun of it -- laughing that most of the people who buy new Buicks signed the Declaration of Independence or that the harpoon for this whaleboat is sold separately. But those snarky twerps weren't going to buy one anyway, so try silence for a bit. I really liked this car.
Behind the wheel of the Lucerne Super, I was washed with this floating feeling of sublime comfort. Put away all of those German and Japanese luxury sports sedans with their taut suspensions and turbos and embrace the king of squishy rides. Kiss the beefy V-8 and note the car's swishing swagger 500 feet past those railroad tracks you may or may not have crossed. It's hard to tell really.
This car hits the highways oblivious to its conditions. In Detroit, where every sports car shakes like a baby's rattle on our horrible roads, the Lucerne Super glides over the biggest bumps. It's a waterbed on wheels, winning me over just a little bit more with every ripple.
Finally, a big sedan that rides, drives and delivers like a big sedan should. God Bless Buick, and the U.S. of A. (Though here's an interesting side note: China is the No. 1 market for Buick).
My first experience with a Buick and the word "Super" was anything but superb.
However, that was the outdated Lacrosse Super -- the Lucerne is different.
First, no one will laugh at the exterior. It's refined and simple. The four portholes on each front fender are used to either symbolize the number of cylinders in the engine or the number of decades of the average age of Buick owner.
The Super model comes with a unique grille, front and rear fascias and special rocker panels. The differences are subtle but distinctive. It also comes with standard 18-inch wheels that look nicely stuffed into the wheel wells.
Now, the suspension should have felt stiffer. The Lucerne Super uses magnetic ride technology to provide a customized feel. The suspension can adjust to any bump nearly as quick as it takes for a tire to fall into the pothole. The magnetic variable assist rack-and-pinion steering is a little loose and doesn't offer much feedback in wide turns. Speed bumps, rail road tracks, animal carcasses, it didn't matter, the Super plowed through all them without ever causing me to spill a drop of coffee.
When I would try to whip the Super onto a highway entrance ramp, I'd have to carefully bring it straight due to the power in the engine and heavy body roll I'd experience. Note: I was doing this a much faster than I'd recommend to most Buick drivers. But, wow, they were fun. On normal approaches to a turn, the car's body would remain mostly flat and the steering felt much firmer.
Inside, the Buick Super was insanely quiet. Buick uses a number of materials, such as laminated glass and special sound-deadening materials around the engine, to keep noises outside of the cabin. It works: The outside world stayed outside.
Mash the accelerator and you'd catch a hint of the 4.6-liter V-8 blasting off with hardly any torque steer -- an impressive feat for a front wheel drive car carrying 292-horsepower. There's a lot of power, but it's necessary, this car drives on the heavy side of the road.
Driving is really a secondary activity in the Super. Instead, you should enjoy the XM radio on the 280-watt stereo and the conversation with friends. There's tons of space. The back seat is big enough that you may not want to loan it to your high school aged grandchild. The dash is simple and all of the buttons are intuitively in the right place. Everything looks well made and elegant.
The Super may not win Buick many new customers, especially as V-8s lose favor with consumers, but its airy ride will take you right down memory lane to a day when big cars glided down the road and men wore hats to the office. Times may have changed, and men hardly wear ties to the office much less a fedora, but this Buick hits the mark. It's the same as it ever was, and there's nothing wrong with that.
2008 Buick Lucerne Super
Type: Five passenger, full-size front-wheel drive sedan
Engine: 4.6-liter V-8
Power: 292 horsepower at 6,300 rpm; 288-pound-feet torque at 4,500 rpm
Recommended fuel: Premium (not required)
Redline: 6,700 rpm
EPA Mileage: 15 mpg city / 22 mpg highway
Transmission: Four-speed automatic
Rear: Independent, multi link
Steering: Magnetic variable assist rack-and-pinion
Front: 12.7-inch vented discs
Rear: 11.5-inch discs
Wheels: 18-inch painted aluminum (chrome plated optional)
Curb weight: 4,004 pounds
Trunk space: 17 cubic feet
Fuel Tank: 18.5 gallons
Scott Burgess is the auto critic for The Detroit News. His auto reviews run every Wednesday and Saturday. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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