Perhaps it would have been better to bring out a high-mileage version before a high-performance rendition.
But figuring those who favor fullsize sedans still want to lead rather than follow, Buick slipped a 4.6-liter, 292-horsepower Northstar V-8 in its top-of-the-line Lucerne sedan and slapped a Super label on it.
Enough room for Ma and Pa plus their dinner companions and ample trunk space to hold a week's worth of luggage, still it moves quietly, yet energetically, from the light.
And though the V-8 gets just 15 m.p.g. city/22 m.p.g. highway, Buick promises a V-6 that achieves 227-h.p. and can run on E85 for 2009. Never mind that it will deliver only 1 m.p.g. more in city and highway driving--or that it won't be in the Super.
The V-8 in the '08 Super ensures no-stumble acceleration, but considering Super weighs a shade over 4,000 pounds, zero-to-60 quickness is secondary to zero-to-60 quietness.
Lots of cabin wiggle room front or rear. In back, doors open wide to ensure easy entry/exit, a concession to the fact the car caters to older folks with limited fl exibility. But that sloping coupe-like roof line will make passengers ? nimble and not so-watch their melons when using those wide openings.
Magnetic ride control softens bumps, and magnetic steering control means quick reaction to wheel input, which contributes to good handling for a full-size sedan-though anything weighing 4,000 pounds is going to lean in corners.
Super comes with two new options Buick calls "safety-enhancing technologies": Side Blind Zone Alert and Lane Departure Warning.
The blind-spot alert ($395) uses radar to let the driver see what's hiding alongside Lucerne. Actually it's not so much a matter of "seeing" a vehicle in the blind spot, as it is seeing a car silhouette in the sideview mirrors-driver or passenger depending where another vehicle is lurking. But there's no beep to alert that another vehicle has approached. Unless you check both mirrors regularly, you might not notice the warning, though it is a bright yellow.
Lane Departure Warning ($295) makes up for the lack of beeps. It uses a camera-based lane-detection system to warn of inadvertent lane changes.
If you wander over the center lane divider or white line along the shoulder, a beep sounds to let you know you're off the beaten path. A turn signals tells the system you're going in the direction you want so it keeps its beeps to itself. There's also a button to silence the beeps, which those who like to dart from one lane to the other probably will do after just a few beeps.
Not driving drunk, drugged or drowsy would save the $295 cost of the system, though have to wonder how many folks who drive when drunk, drugged or drowsy will spend the $295.
Gauges and controls are easy to see and reach as a concession to older occupants. Don't look for a lot of water-bottle holders, however, because Lucerne fans prefer space to hold maps.
Super is loaded with goodies, including stability control and traction control for confidence and security on the road; heated outside mirrors; rain-sensing wipers; remote start; rear park assist; heated and cooled seats in cozy leather with suede back and bottom inserts; power, telescoping, heated steering wheel; side-curtain air bags; and dual-zone climate control.
Base price is $38,630.
Other than blind-zone and lane-departure warnings, options included a $1,945 navigation system with one of those key pads to spell out your destination letter by painstaking letter on the touch screen.
High gas prices have forced General Motors to scrap plans to replace the full-size, front-wheel-drive Lucerne with a rear-drive model in 2010 (a RWD Impala was scrapped at Chevy too) so Lucerne will continue to put its drive wheels forward.
But GM has said it will add the Invicta sedan that's slightly smaller than the LaCrosse next spring. Speculation is that Invicta will replace LaCrosse, but it's not sure if it would keep the name or opt for another.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Transportation. Contact him at transportation@ tribune.com.
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