Back when Exxon gasoline was sold as Esso, they had a marketing slogan that sticks with me to this day – “Put a Tiger in Your Tank!” Perhaps General Motors was also thinking of this slogan when they signed superstar golfer Tiger Woods to be the spokesperson for GM’s Buick brand.
Tiger marketing Buicks? I know, it seems like a strange marriage, as Tiger is a young stud, and Buicks have traditionally been driven by those who may or may not use hair dye or funny color pills to make themselves feel younger.
But, after driving the Buick Lucerne CXL, I think Buick may have known what was up all along. The Lucerne is one of the best cars, and certainly one of the best American cars, I’ve driven in a while.
As a tester of automobiles, first impressions are usually drawn when the vehicle is delivered and you give it the “driveway once over.” If you’d had multiple deliveries of test vehicles that week, as I had the week I took delivery of the Lucerne, you sometimes find yourself driving first the one that looks sexiest. Even though a Jag was in the driveway, I chose the Lucerne.
The sun was shining brightly on delivery day, and Lucerne’s Pearl Red paint sparkled. I was struck by the long lines of the car. Generous front overhang, low slung roofline, and just enough rear deck to ensure great luggage space in the trunk without turning Lucerne into a clone of the Roadmaster boat that used to take anchorage at Buick dealerships in the 1990s. Chrome wheels, and a signature touch from the past – Buick portholes on the front fenders, finished off Lucerne’s high-styled look.
So it looks good, I mused, fully expecting the cheapo treatment GM has been guilty of in some past models inside. Wrong. Open the full aperture front doors, and you are treated with quality leather, wood trim accents, and plastics done in a way that bespeaks luxury, not a bean-counter mentality. Am I in the right place? Surely the Lucerne would let me down on the roads.
Wrong again. The Lucerne CXL is outfitted with GM’s Northstar 4.6-liter V8, making 275 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. From a standstill or while passing, this engine delivers. Mounted transversely for this FWD application, no torque steer is evident. When you put your foot down, the car just moves out in a hurry, and it sounds great doing so. In fact, the sound of the Northstar V8 under acceleration is about all you are going to hear in the Lucerne, as it is quiet. Lucerne incorporates Buick’s “QuietTuning,” technology, which uses special dampeners and baffles, composite wheelhouse liners, laminated steel and side glass, dense acoustic materials and special exhaust tuning. Road noise is nil, and there is virtually no tire noise from the standard speed rated radials. There were zero squeaks and rattles during seven days of testing over 400 miles of varied roads. This car is screwed together the right way. The only road flaw, at least to me, is that the Lucerne CXL is sprung a bit for the traditional Buick driver rather than the “Tiger” generation. If this is a problem for you, then opt for the Lucerne in CXS trim, and you’ll get GM’s excellent Magnetic Ride Control, which uses a special electrically-charged shock fluid to constantly adapt to road changes.
One thing I’ve always liked about GM products is the innovative use of electronics they employ on select models. Corvette and Caddy XLR are the corporation’s rolling showcases for this technology, and Lucerne is the beneficiary of the “trickle down” effect. Lucerne is equipped with magnetic variable assist steering, traction control, and Buick’s comprehensive trip computer/vehicle monitor. The vehicle monitor can be set to: automatically lock/unlock doors; remotely lock/unlock doors; set exit lighting between 30 seconds-two minutes; view remaining oil life; set parking assist; monitor tire pressure; set approach lighting; adjust seat controls, and determine whether the standard remote start system is activated/deactivated. You can also set the speedometer to switch from miles per hour to kilometers per hour (handy for trips to Mexico or Canada) with the touch of a button.
The trip computer can give you vehicle range (miles to empty), outside temperature, average fuel economy, instant fuel economy, and average speed. The Lucerne also had thoughtful features, like a 12V power point just under the driver’s seat (perfect for those cell phone power cords) and a rubberized pad below the ignition so your keys don’t damage the trim and make unnecessary noise.
My tester was equipped with an optional navigation/audio system ($1,795). It’s a touch screen system that’s intuitive. Programming destinations is easy, and screen graphics are first rate. An upgrade to this package is the $795 “Entertainment Package,” which adds a nine speaker harman/kardon system and XM Satellite Radio to the touchscreen nav. It sounds awesome, and can be played at very loud levels with virtually no distortion. Premium paint added $495, “Stabilitrak” stability control added $495, and heated and cooled seats added another $1,075 to the $6,595 worth of options on the test vehicle. Base price for the CXL V8 model is $31,290, bringing the total price with destination charge to $37,885. Lucerne is also available in V6 trim (CX, MSRP $26,265) or upgraded CXS trim (MSRP $35,395).
On the safety front, traction control, ABS brakes, OnStar, daytime running lamps, and front, front side, and side curtain airbags are standard equipment.
My only significant complaint about the Lucerne is the lack of rear headroom. If you are over six feet tall, you likely will have to bend your head to sit in the rear.
When testing various makes, I always ask myself if the price as tested is worth it. Don’t sleep on the good ol’ U.S.A. on this one. This American beauty can run (and in many cases, outrun) the big dogs from Europe and Japan. It is a worthy competitor in the “Near Luxury” vehicle segment, and a car I highly recommend.