Versus the competiton:
THE VISITS dwindled into convenient absences marked by excuses moreakin to lies. We grew tired of one another, weary of dancing arounddelicate issues: What is it about blacks? What is it about whites?Rather than answer, we let the casual poetry group die.
That was two years ago, maybe three. It was hard to remember the lasttime I was in the big pink house in Bay Ridge, Md., overlooking theChesapeake Bay. It was a fun destination on any test drive.
That’s what driving is all about — going somewhere to meet somebody,to be someplace. Otherwise, why bother? That was the question nagging atme as I inexplicably pointed the 1994 Buick LeSabre Limited in thedirection of the big house in Bay Ridge. Surely I wasn’t going to stopthere.
I didn’t. I drove right by, slowing down only when the LeSabre’soptional traction-control system became active, automatically cuttingback on engine power and gently applying anti-lock brakes, thusindicating that I had hit a patch of icy road. It’s a good early-warningsystem that allows the driver to take corrective action and avoiddisaster.
Unfortunately, friendships don’t come with the same equipment.
Background: For several years, the LeSabre has been America’sbest-selling full-size car, which is puzzling. Not because the car lacksquality. It’s just that the LeSabre and the Oldsmobile Eighty Eight arepractically the same cars, both made by General Motors Corp. Thedifference is that the Olds Eighty Eight has a prettier, moreintelligent instrument panel.
Anyway, for 1994, the LeSabre has all of the other stuff found in theOlds Eighty Eight. That means it comes with standard dual front airbags; standard anti-lock brakes; standard PASS Key II theft-deterrentsystem (meant to thwart the casual car thief); standard ozone-friendly,R134a air-conditioner refrigerant; standard four-speed, automatictransmission; and a standard 3.8-liter, V-6 engine rated 170 horsepowerat 4,800 rpm. Maximum torque in that engine is 225 foot-pounds at 3,200rpm.
There are two LeSabre models — the reasonably well-equipped Customand the tested, super-plush Limited. Both are front-engine,front-wheel-drive cars capable of carrying six passengers and 17.1 cubicfeet of luggage.
Complaints: The LeSabre shares the instrument panel found in thebigger, super-full-size Buick Park Avenue. That linear, be-buttonedpanel works better in the larger car than it does in the smaller one,where it carries a cluttered, busy appearance.
The LeSabre’s power-seat buttons on the interior door panels alsoneed work. They are simply too confusing. You can spend all day pushingthem without ever finding the best setting for your back and bottom: Theessence of power-seat hell.
Praise: When you find an acceptable power-seat setting — livable,but by no means perfect — the LeSabre becomes a highway dream car. It’sa smooth, tight sedan with excellent build quality. Anyone shopping fora full-size family or exe cutive sedan should put this one on the list.
Head-turning quotient: Senior sexpot — nice body, a few wrinkles.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent ride and acceleration.I’ve long grown fond of GM’s 3.8-liter V-6, one of the best six-cylinderengines made anywhere.
Brakes include power front discs/rear drums with anti-lock backup.Braking got top marks on slippery roads. Also, the LeSabre Limited’soptional interactive traction control — automatically combininganti-lock braking and engine control systems — won kudos.
Mileage: About 26 to the gallon (18-gallon tank, estimated 450-milerange on usable volume of regular unleaded), running mostly highway anddriver only with light cargo.
Sound system: Six-speaker AM/FM stereo radio and cassette, GM/Delco.Oops! This one was a little funky on the downbeat. Lots of disturbingvibration in the bass register.
Price: Base price on the LeSabre Limited is $24,420. Dealer invoiceis $21,368. Price as tested is $ 25,840, including $845 in options and a$575 destination charge.
Purse-strings note: Great car, but the comparable Olds Eighty EightLSS, at $2,000 less, is a better buy. Check the prices.