Refined Touring for the Business Traveler.
“When better cars are built, Buick will build them” went the most famous automotive slogan of all time. Buick was, for many years, the cornerstone of General Motors, selling a staggering 260,000 cars in 1926 and 514,000 cars in 1954. It came in just under Cadillac in Alfred P. Sloan’s hierarchical order of General Motors. Chevrolet was the entry level vehicle, Pontiac eventually became the performance division but in Sloan’s time it was what you aspired to move up to from Chevrolet. After Pontiac came Oldsmobile, which developed the reputation of being GM’s experimental division. The first fully automatic transmission was introduced on an Olds in 1938; front-wheel drive was introduced in the radical 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado; and in 1974, Oldsmobile was the first to offer airbags (as an option).
Buick was the car for doctors. Indeed, in the 1930s and 1940s, many doctors, to avoid giving the appearance to their patients that they were making too much money, drove Buicks instead of Cadillacs because the Buicks were almost as luxurious and powerful as the Cadillacs while lower in cost.
The lines between the divisions, once clear, became blurred starting in the 1960s and by the 1980s, it was almost impossible to differentiate between the various GM marques although the overlap had really begun as far back as the 1930s.
Buick, however, always held a special place in the General Motors family. Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell, GM’s top stylists, favored Buick with styling exercises that sometimes led to production models. Harley Earl’s Buick Y-Job of 1938 was the first dream car to capture the world’s imagination. The 1963 Buick Riviera, introduced in 1962, solidified the personal luxury category that had begun with the Ford Thunderbird and went on to include the Cadillac Eldorado, Lincoln Mark IV, and Oldsmobile Toronado.
Buick is, by all accounts, building better cars: Buick tied for first place with Lexus in the 2007 J.D. Powers Vehicle Dependability Study.
In 2006, Buick experienced a renaissance with the Lucerne, the first Buick sedan to offer a V8 engine in a decade. Replacing both the venerable LeSabre nameplate as well as the Park Avenue, which in turn had replaced the Electra, the car gracefully melds the old with the new. The smooth boulevard ride is there but the car does not handle like a boat. In fact, for a car of its mirth, it is quite responsive. Buick’s trademark “ventiports” are on the front fenders (three on each side for V6 models and four for V8s) and, unlike the edgy styling of the more expensive siblings over at Cadillac, the Buick features gentle curves which are modern yet readily identifiable.
The Lucerne is available in CX, CXL, and CXS trim. The V6, standard in the CX and CXL, is the veteran Series III 3800[BA1] V-6 engine with 197 horsepower and 227 pound-feet of torque. The V-8 is the 4.6-liter Northstar bringing 275 horses and 290 pound-feet of torque to the Lucerne. Both are paired with four-speed automatic transmissions. Traction control is standard across the line but only V-8 models get StabiliTrek; Magnetic Ride Control is a CXS exclusive.
The interior is tasteful and restrained, with wide comfortable seats (cloth is standard, leather is optional), large gauges, easy-to-identify switches, and rich looking materials. A bench seat is optional and allows the car to seat six (although I would not wish to be the passenger in the middle front seat, that goes with my aversion to traveling in a middle seat on an airliner).
The Buick Lucerne comes standard with six airbags, including a dual-depth front-passenger airbag. This design is intended to maximize protection and reduce airbag-induced injuries by deploying in two different shapes and pressures, which in turn depend on the seat position, seat-belt usage, and severity of the crash.
RIDE AND HANDLING
The Lucerne benefits from Buick’s “Quiet Tuning,” introduced in the 2005 LaCrosse. Quiet Tuning combines a stiff body structure, tight-fitting body panels, and extensive sealing and sound absorption (including laminated side window glass to double isolated powertrain mounts). This reduces road, wind, and engine noise, making the interior as quiet as some of the world’s most exclusive luxury cars. This isolation is a dual-edged sword; while the car handled nicely for a large American boulevard cruiser, it lacked the necessary amount of road feel.
Our Buick had the V-6 and while it was sufficient to propel the car from zero to sixty in x seconds,
The CXS version includes traction control and Magnetic Ride Control, which maintains a smooth ride by continuously varying the suspension’s stiffness. (It does this with the help of shock absorbers filled with metal-infused fluid. A computer monitors road conditions and sends an electric current that magnetically changes the state of the fluid.)
FOR THE BUSINESS TRAVELER
Lucerne drivers receive one free year of General Motors OnStar’s Safe and Sound plan. This includes OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics (with automatic monthly diagnostic reports sent via e-mail), automatic collision notification, emergency services, crisis assistance, stolen vehicle recovery, remote door unlock, and hands-free calling (calling minutes not included but you can pool minutes if you use Verizon Wireless as your mobile operator). The optional Directions and Connections plan, $26.90 per month, includes turn-by-turn navigation, Virtual Advisor for local traffic reports (uses voice minutes), driving directions (from a live person), and a concierge-like service that will provide recommendations for hotels and restaurants, phone numbers and addresses for specific businesses, and the location of the nearest ATMs, gas stations, or other facilities.
Buick is certainly building better cars now and your father’s Oldsmobile is no longer available. Business travelers who want to get to a meeting in comfort and style, or want to hold a meeting in as silent a moving vehicle as possible, should consider a trip to the local Buick dealer.
2007 Buick Lucerne CX
Base price/price-as-tested $26,495/$28.480
Drivetrain Front engine, front wheel drive
Engine 3.8-liter/197 hp/ V-6
Transmission 4-speed automatic, Enhanced Electronic
Curb weight 3,764 lbs
Wheelbase 115.6 in
Length x width x height 203.2 x 63 front/62.5 rear x 58
0-60 mph N/A
EPA city/highway fuel economy (mpg) 19/28
–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.