Category Archives: Buick

2018 Buick Lacrosse Premium FWD

2018 Buick Lacrosse Premium FWD

By Phil Shuyler

The premium mid-sized sedan market is a crowded one, and the Lacrosse may be getting overlooked. Buick is still thought of as a brand for older generations, however if that’s you, the Lacrosse should be on your shopping list.

The Premium trim Lacrosse is an excellent value with loads of standard features, including heated and ventilated front seats (both driver and passenger), massaging front seats (both driver and passenger), fully heated steering wheel, rear vision camera, head-up display, lane keep assist, lane change alert, side blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert, wireless phone charging, and the list goes on and on. All starting at $38,670. Not bad. And with all of the safety features, the Lacrosse has a 5-star overall safety rating.

The standard engine for the Lacrosse is a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine, with an optional 3.6L V6 available on higher trim levels. The 2.5L has 194 horsepower and 187 lb-ft of torque while the 3.6L has 310 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to either the front or all four wheels through a standard 6-speed or available 9-speed automatic transmission. The combination works well and there are paddles on the steering wheel for those who want to take their Lacrosse canyon carving on the weekends.

The 2.5L 4-cylinder engine also includes eAssist light electrification technology, which uses an on-board battery pack to power the vehicle when it comes to a stop. This is handy as the vehicle does not go into “hibernation mode” like many other vehicles when the engine shuts off when it comes to a temporary stop. We’re hoping this technology makes its way into other GM vehicles as well.

Fuel economy is rated at 25 MPG city, 35 MPG highway and 29 MPG combined. We experienced 26 combined, so it looks like we needed to drive with a lighter foot. The AWD model is rated at 20 MPG city and 29 MPG highway.

Both long and short trips are comfortable for all passengers. Ample leg room, supportive seats, and easy to access controls make the Lacrosse a pleasure to drive. We liked the redundant forward and back buttons that mirrored the same icons on the infotainment screen. These physical buttons were easier to reach and remained accessible even when the infotainment screen was not on the audio screen.

Available options include navigation, an 11 speaker Bose surround sound system, power sunroof with second row skylight, automatic parking assist and adaptive cruise control.

The starting price for a base model is $29,565, and a fully-loaded Lacrosse Premiumis around $45,000.

For added performance or traction in inclement weather, you can opt for the available intelligent all-wheel drive with active twin clutch. Keep in mind AWD is only available on the Premium model with the V6 engine, so the base price for an AWD model is $43,470.

The story here is more about value than anything else. What you get compared to what you pay makes this a great buy.

2018 Buick Encore Premium FWD

2018 Buick Encore Premium FWD

By Phil Shuyler

Small but mighty comes to mind when I think of the Buick Encore. This is more of a term of endearment than a fact. It’s definitely a small package, however it’s certainly not mighty. The 1.4L 4-cylinder variable valve timing Ecotec turbo engine gives you barely enough power and may leave some wanting more. It’s rated at 153 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. The 6-speed automatic transmission was smooth and silky working along with the front-wheel drivetrain (AWD is available).

Perhaps the mighty could refer to the Encore’s versatility. It may have limited cargo capacity (18.80 ft³) with the rear seats folded up, however that figure is not what attracts people to this tiny crossover. It’s the fact that it has a small footprint and a versatile storage area (up to 48.40 ft³) with the rear seats folded down. The flexibility of a compact crossover would fit the needs of most people or families of 4 or less, so the Encore can make a lot of practical sense. Its size and tight turning radius make it easy to maneuver around town, however for being so small, there are large blind spots created by the C pillars. So you’ll want to double check your mirrors, blind spots, and use the Side Blind Zone Alert lights before changing lanes.

Besides the blindspots, the Encore is a pleasure to drive, and achieves a respectable 25 city and 33 highway MPG rating. The all-wheel-drive option is rated at 23 city and 30 highway, and adds $1,500 to the price tag.

Buick and GM vehicles are making a big push toward mandatory auto start/stop functionality for their engines. This technology (which turns the engine off when the vehicle comes to a stop, and turns it back on when the vehicle begins to move) has great potential, however right now it’s mainly just annoying. Once the engine turns off, the HVAC decreases and it almost immediately starts to get hot or cold inside the cabin, depending on the outside temperature. The Encore is available with or without start/stop technology, however if you choose to purchase the engine with this feature, keep in mind that you can no longer turn it on and off. It only stays on. If you’d prefer to have it off, make sure you purchase the engine without start/stop built-in.

Some of the other safety features available on the Encore include rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, rear vision camera, stability control, lane departure warning, and lots and lots of airbags – all giving the Encore a 5-star overall safety rating.

The exterior styling is conservative yet modern, and I’ve heard a lot of people describe it as “cute.” So depending on the image you’re going for, that may or may not be a good adjective for your new ride.

The 8” infotainment system looks crisp and clean, and responds quickly to input. CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is standard, and an integrated navigation system is optional.

The starting price for a 2018 Buick Encore is $22,990, and with options that price can grow to over $35,000 for a fully loaded Premium trim model. As tested, our vehicle was priced at $35,420.

Overall, the Encore comes in at an affordable price point that will fit the budgets of most people. It gives you shades of luxury for a non-luxury price.

2012 Buick Verano FWD 1 SL (914)

Overview: 

This week we’re looking at the 2012 Buick Verano FWD 1SL. It is Buick’s new compact sedan where they say the goal was creating an exceptionally quiet compact sedan that is even quieter than other larger cars. I believe they accomplished their goal and inside is a comfortable and refined compact. It is one of the quietest cars I’ve tested.

Verano features standard On Star safety and security technology. If you have never experienced it you should test it out and you too will be sold on the value. There is a peace of mind that alone is worth the price of admission. On Star includes a free Vehicle Diagnostics service and the navigation capability includes turn by turn voice directions with no need to look at a screen display. In practice I was traveling with a fellow journalist and were so busy talking we missed our turn and had traveled a long way before we realized we were lost in a remote and unfamiliar desert area. With the push of the On Star blue button we were connected to a live person to help get us out of trouble. They stayed with us until we were directed back to civilization.

Another time my wife and I were returning to LA from San Diego, California late at night and we were directed to an open gas station we surely would not have found by ourselves. It simply  removes the anxiety when you have nowhere to turn for that kind of assistance.

OnStar also has the capability of making voice activated phone calls without a cell phone. And a Remote Link application allows you to unlock your doors, start the car, activate lights and horn to locate it, get roadside assistance and more. Really cool.

On Star is exclusive to GM cars and trucks and there are about 6 million subscribers which makes it a viable safety net for the foreseeable future.

Handling & Performance:

Verano is powered by a 2.4-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder engine linked to a standard 6-speed automatic transmission. A turbocharged 2.0-liter engine will be offered later.

Styling:

Very “Today” in its look and feel. And apparently the design led one guy to ask if it was as fast as it looks? No, I hadn’t thought of it being fast but it does have that look.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent.

Cost:

It is very well priced for the quality, comfort, and quiet ride you get in this class segment of the market and even beyond.

Conveniences and comfort:

In addition to the unique On Star feature, the listing of standard equipment below is broad for the price. I suspect that is, in part, due to the fact that GM has been humbled as it fell from the number one car maker position in the industry, which they enjoyed for about 100 years. Thus they must try ever harder to recapture the top spot… if they ever can. In the meantime you get a lot of great features for the money.

Consumer Recommendation:

Buick division holds the distinction of being the ‘grand daddy’ of GM brands. Buick models are sold in the United States, Canada, Mexico, China, Taiwan, and Israel, with China being its largest market.  Many current Buick models are shared with other GM global subsidiaries.

Recognized Competition:

Buick Verano $26,000, Acura TSX $30,000, Chevrolet Impala $26,000, Ford Fusion $27,000, Honda Accord $24,000, Hyundai Sonata $26,000, Infiniti G Sedan $33,000, Kia Optima $27,000, Lexus IS  $34,000, Nissan Altima $21,000, Subaru Legacy $25,000, Suzuki Kizashi $20,000, Toyota Camry $25,000, Volkswagon Jetta $23,000, Volvo S40 $28,000.

Good News:

Impressive fuel economy for a Racey, sporty and luxury looking Compact car that is well priced. On Star system is standard. It is comfortable and quiet riding.

Bad News:

None noted

Standard Equipment:

2.4 Liter 4-cylinder 180 horsepower engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, rear park assist, On Star turn by turn navigation, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, stability and traction controls, front, side and head curtain and airbag sensing system, rear seat mounted airbags, daytime running lights, tire pressure monitoring, 18” allow wheels, theft alarm, leather trim front sport bucket heated seats, driver 6-way seat passenger 8-way manual adjustable seat, power windows & locks, keyless start with remote starter, climate control, cruise control, power outlets front and rear, tilt and telescopic steering column with heated wheel and controls, XM radio with 7” color touch screen, CD/MP3 player and Bose 9 speakers, aux and USB port, Bluetooth, power heated mirrors, fog lights and headlights auto on/off control.

Gas Stats:

$4.27/ Gal avg. March 16, 2012

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

21 City and 32 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $25,965.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2012 – An Automotive Love Affair

2012 Buick Regal GS (910)

Overview: 

This week we’re looking at the 2012 Buick Regal GS. Wow, is this an international production?! A US manufacturer, a car that is assembled in Canada, the engine and transmission is from Germany and 15% of parts are from Mexico. Well, hopefully we have taken the best of many countries to put out a great product. And it would appear they have given this careful thought… or not!

Remember the old Buick’s of the 1950s and 1960s? One model was called a Road Master, but of course we kids called it a Road Hog. Yep, it was huge, bulky and albeit a classic today over half century later, today’s Buick’s are classy looking but I doubt it will ever be a classic since, it like most of the field play it safe. And when they aren’t safe, we call them Scion on the cheap end or Lamborghini on the obscene pricing end of the spectrum. Both approaches are over the top.

Opinion:

Henry Ford, father of the automated production line that revolutionized the auto industry was because he was a thinker. That led to the concept made manifest and is now so much of the production line is being manned by robots. Hey I have to ask my union friends – do those robots pay union dues?

Perhaps it will be computers and Robotics that will help to end the union’s curse on America. My guess is that top management would agree that curse has been the major reason for the need for a bail out by tax payers. Whether you agree with the bail out or not we who study the industry know why the need was there. It still is and we need to give a lot of thought on how we can eliminate the cancer.

I wonder what Henry Ford would think of the growing union stronghold, or should I say Stranglehold. It was Henry who said “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it”. Well, someone out there will think of a way before a total melt down.

Think about it!

Handling & Performance:

Regal is a pleasure to drive with responsive power for a four cylinder. My test vehicle had a 6-speed Manual transmission but some may want to opt for the 6-speed automatic.

Styling:

Beautiful. Nice job GM.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent assembly. Is it Man or Machine?

Cost:

You get what you pay for and this is a lovely automobile and I’d say it is priced right, all things considered. However, after just coming out of a Nissan Versa it gave me pause to reflect on saving $17,000 if I bought the Versa. Would I rather have that in the bank for a rainy day? I’ll have to think about that.

Conveniences and comfort:

Very comfortable and I finally got my sun visors that extend. That’s a pet peeve of mine since nothing irritates me more than moving the visor to the side window and it only covers half of the blinding glare. Overall the Regal has a perfect array of standard features.

Consumer Recommendation:

This is a tough one to pick out the best since the field is very competitive but as for me, I gotta tell you the Cadillac CTS remains one of my all time favorite cars in today’s world. GM looks good in this battle.

Recognized Competition:

Buick Regal $35,000, Acura TSX $30,000, Audi A4 $33,000, BMW 3 Series $35,000, Cadillac CTS $36,000, Chrysler 200 $27,000, Honda Accord $24,000, Hyundai Sonata $26,000, Infiniti G Sedan $33,000, Lexus ES 350 $37,000, Lexus IS $34,000, Lincoln MKZ $35,000, Mazda 6 $19,000, Mercedes C-Class $35,000, Nissan Maxima $32,000, Subaru Legacy $25,000, Toyota Camry $30,000, Volkswagon Jetta $23,000, Volvo S60 $31,000.

Good News:

Fair fuel economy coupled with great styling luxury packed sedan priced well.

Bad News:

Nothing I can put my finger on, but the shifting mechanism could be a bit tighter. When you test drive it, you’ll see what I mean. And finally, although fuel economy is fair, when gas prices go to $8.00 a gallon you’ll be looking for something that gets 40-50 mpg.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 Liter Turbo Ecotec 4-cylinder 182 horsepower engine, 6-speed manual transmission, ONStar with turn by turn navigation, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes with Brembo front brakes, stability and traction controls, front, side and head curtain and airbag sensing system, rear seat mounted airbags, daytime running lights, LATCH system with rear child lock security, tire pressure monitoring, 19” allow wheels, power heated mirrors with turn signals, 2 – 12 V outlets, 1 – 120 volt outlet, 8-way power driver and passenger heated seats with 4-way power lumbar, dual zone climate control, Bluetooth, cruise control, leather wrapped steering wheel, remote entry with push button start, power windows & locks, 60/40 split folding rear seat, tilt and telescopic steering column, stereo 9 speaker audio with CD/XM, USB port.

Gas Stats:

$4.15/ Gal avg. Feb 24, 2012

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

19 City and 27 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $34,450.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2012 – An Automotive Love Affair

2011 Buick Enclave

Overview: 

This week we’re looking at the 2011 Buick Enclave – a master of the road. Since I’ve been on vacation, one of my publishers helped me out with his take on the Enclave. I reviewed it in 2010 so I was interested in Vince’s opinion. It was interesting that he referred to the comfort being like that of the “Roadmaster”. That was a model when he was a young boy. He’s my sisters youngest of 5 kids. Back then my generation referred to the Roadmaster as a “Road Hog”. It was huge, bulky and absolutely comfy. I had a lot of time in that car since I would accompany my friend’s family to the beach every Thursday during Summer vacation. Mr. Odell drove a Buick Roadmaster and off we’d go to San Clamente – their favorite beach. Wonderful memories of surfing and hamburgers on the pier. That was before freeways and just when Disneyland was being constructed. We’d watch the progress as we passed through the Orange Groves of Anaheim.

But you know how kids are – we also had a saying for the Pontiac of the day, “Ug, Pontiac Heap” in reference to the commercial that Pontiac aired showing an American Indian saying “Ug, Pontiac Heap Good Car”. Remember back then when you could actually say such things and not offend anyone? Back then I was referred to as a WOP, or Ghini – So, big deal. I don’t know that I ever knew what Ghini meant but I did know that WOP stood for an immigrant With Out Passport. I suspect that was a condition of the times. It was when my grandparents emigrated to the US through Ellis Island at the turn of the 20th Century.

As to Vince, it doesn’t surprise me to think he remembers a model of ‘Yester-year’.

Herewith his review.

The new Buick Enclave is a luxury crossover SUV that easily could have worn the iconic Buick Roadmaster name – it’s packed with comfort, features and road manners that beg for full seats and the open road. Blending style and grace with precision, Enclave delivers comfort for up to eight, plenty of space for cargo and at 24 mpg highway, the best fuel economy of any eight-passenger SUV.

The Enclave has above-average road presence and manners – with recognizable Buick looks to match the excellent driving dynamics. It’s much bigger than it looks, with fluid lines and curved surfaces that create the illusion of a smaller vehicle. Even though it’s large, outward visibility is great, and it’s easy to drive and maneuver.

Overall, the Buick Enclave is a great package that is full of content and features that make it a true master of the road – yet another Roadmaster from Buick, even if now known by the Enclave name.

Enclave is covered by a four-year, 50,000-mile, bumper-to-bumper warranty, plus five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain coverage. The 2011 Buick Enclave is a Consumer’s Digest Best Buy. Rivals include the Lexus RX350, Volvo XC90, Audi Q7, and Acura MDX.

Handling & Performance:

The Enclave comes with front-wheel or all-wheel drive, and it’s powered by a 288-horsepower 3.6L direct injected V-6 VVT engine, and six-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission. It also has all-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and traction control. There is ample power to move a fully-loaded vehicle, and the steering and braking are crisp. The driving feel is smooth and controlled. Credit for Enclaves car-like driving experience is attributed to its stiff structure, its purpose-built suspension and aerodynamic shape.

Styling:

The unique styling and powerful engine are surpassed only by the interior – an amazing space that exceeded my expectations. It’s a first-class cabin from front to back. It’s a warm and inviting environment, with premium, soft-touch, low-gloss materials. The attention to detail is reflected in the precise fit and finish of all interior elements, including the instrument panel.

The interior was clearly the focal point of designers right from the beginning; it’s functional, thoughtful and well designed. Interior access is easy, the rear hatch opens electrically, and there’s lots of content. With three rows of seats, it seats seven or eight people, and still provides 24.1 cu. ft. of cargo space behind the third-row seat. The center and rear seats easily lay flat for more carrying ability. The premium sound system in enhanced by excellent interior noise dampening. The result is a library-quiet interior that enables easy conversation.

Cost:

The Enclave is helping lower the average age of Buick owners, appealing to families. Pricing starts at $35,865., and a fully-loaded model with every option tops-out $48,675. With a nicely-equipped Enclave costing in the high $30’s to low $40’s, you don’t have to spend a lot to get Enclave’s royal treatment. The pricing and incentives have helped the success of Enclave, sales are up more than 30% from last year.

Recognized Competition:

Buick Englave $37,000, Acura MDX $43,000, Audi Q7 $46,000, BMW X5 $46,000, Cadillac Escalade $63,000, Cadillac SRX $35,000, Chevrolet Suburban $41,000, Chevrolet Tahoe $38,000, Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid $51,000, Chevrolet Traverse $29,000, Dodge Durango $29,000, Dodge Journey $22,000, Ford Edge $28,000, Ford Expedition $36,000, Ford Explorer $28,000, Ford Explorer Sport Trac $28,000, Ford Flex $29,000, GMC Acadia $33,000, Honda Pilot $28,000, Hyundai Veracruz $28,000, Infiniti FX $43,000, Infiniti QX56 $59,000, Land Rover LR4 $49,000, Lexus LX 570 $79,000, Lexus RX 350 $39,000, Lexus RX 450h $45,000, Lincoln MKT $44,000, Lincoln MKX $39,000, Lincoln Navigator $58,000, Mazda CX-9 $29,000, Mercedes Benz GL Class $61,000, Mercedes Benz GLK $36,000, Mercedes Benz M Class $46,000, Mercedes Benz R Class $50,000, Nissan Armada $38,000, Nissan Murano $29,000, Subaru Tribeca $30,000, Toyota Highlander $28,000, Toyota Highlander Hybrid $38,000, Toyota Sequoia $41,000, Volkswagen Touareg $44,000, Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid $61,000, Volvo XC90 $38,000.

Good News:

A lot of competition, comfort, class and performance with good fuel economy for an 8-seat SUV.

Bad News:

A lot of competition – like going to a restaurant with a menu that is more than one page.

Standard Equipment:

3.6 liter 288 horsepower V6 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, ABS brake system with electronic brake assist, traction control, stability control, front and side and side curtain airbags, power windows and locks, child safety locks, air conditioning, seating for 8, audio with CD player, remote keyless entry, Bluetooth hands free phone, cruise control, tilt and telescopic leather wrapped steering wheel with controls, wood trim, tire pressure monitor, trip computer, power seats with driver lumbar support, second row folding seat.

Gas Stats:

$3.60/ Gal avg. August 26, 2011

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

17 City and 24 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $36,600.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2011 – An Automotive Love Affair

2010 Buick Enclave CXL – 2 FWD (834)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Buick Enclave CXL – 2 FWD SUV. I gotta tell you I don’t think luxury brands costing a lot more money look any better than this Buick inside and out. When you test drive in this class, be sure you include this Enclave, because you’ll never ever get through the entire list below.

If you ever had a doubt this was the most popular and PROFITable model for every manufacturer just take a look at the number of options you have in the SUV market. An interesting aside is that Buick is the most popular car in China. Do you think we can balance our debt with the sale of Buicks there? Countries owning US Treasuries at this writing is China, Japan and our Federal Reserve are number two and three. OK, so selling Buicks to China won’t quite do it. Hide your wallet because I think there are at least a few who want to pick you pocket.

Handling & Performance:

A combination of equal portions of power and smooth acceleration are blended into a real driving pleasure. I’d put this Enclave up against anything on the SUV offerings and that includes those with outrageous price tags.

Styling:

Simply a lovely looking automobile inside and out. The best bang for the buck far and away. 1.3 billion Chinese can’t be wrong.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent.

Cost:

Clearly a top contender.

Conveniences and comfort:

It doesn’t get any better.

Consumer Recommendation:

Drive the top priced badges and when you get down to the Buick – I believe you will stop and buy it.

Recognized Competition:

Buick Enclave $36-44,000, Acura MDX $43-54,000, Acura Q7 $47-61,000, BWW X5 $48-86,000, Cadillac Esclade $62-87,000, Cadillac SRX $18-19,000, Chevrolet Suburban $41-56,000, Chevrolet Tahoe $38-54,000, Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid $51-54,000, Chevrolet Traverse $29-40,000, Dodge Journey $21-30,000, Ford Edge $27-38,000, Ford Expedition $36-52,000, Ford Explorer $29-39,000, Ford Flex $29-42,000, GMC Acadia $32-45,000, Honda Pilot $28-40,000, Hyundai Vericruz $28-36,000, Infiniti FX $43-59,000, Infiniti QX56 $57-60,000, Jeep Comander $32-43,000, Kia Borrego $26-40,000, Land Rover LR4 $47,250, Lexus GX 460 $52-57,000, Lexus LX 570 $77,755, Lexus RX 350 $38-39,000, Lexus RX 450h $43-45,000, Lincoln MKT $44-49,000, Lincoln MKX $39-41,000, Lincoln Navigator $57-62,000, Mazda CX-9 $29-34,000, Mercedes-Benz GL- Class $61-84,000, Mercedes-Benz GLK $15-25,000, Mercedes-Benz M Class $46-93,000, Mercedes-Benz R Class $50-52,000, Nissan Armada $38-52,000, Nissan Murano $28-39,000, Saturn Outlook $31-36,000, Subaru Tribeca $30-36,000, Toyota Highlander $26-35,000, Toyota Highlander Hybrid $35-41,000, Toyota Toyota Sequoia $40-60,000, Volkswagen Touareg $41-44,000, Volvo XC90 $38-48,000.

Good News:

Beautiful, well priced out of all the field in its class.

Bad News:

Write me if you want to know.

Standard Equipment:

3.6 liter 288 horsepower SIDI V6 engine, 6-speed FWD auto transmission, power steering with variable assist, spare tire & wheel, ABS, Stability control, traction control, airbags, front, side and side curtain, LATCH system, Tire pressure monitoring, Remote Keyless entry, Theft deterrent, power lift-gate, fog lights, power windows, roof rails, 19” chrome clad wheels, rear parking assist, heater power folding mirrors with turn signals, leather seats with heated and cooled front seats, 7-passenger seating with 2nd row captain’s chairs & 3rd row split bench seat, smart slide 2nd row feature, power seat adjust on driver – 8-way and passenger 4-way, power lumbar front seats, tri zone climate control, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio and wood accents, stereo CD player, Bluetooth, XM Satellite radio, USB port, Remote start system, rearview camera, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, bose speaker sound system and 110V power outlet.

Gas Stats:

$2.99/ Gal avg. October 12, 2010

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

17 City and 24 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $41,995.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2010 – An Automotive Love Affair

2006 Buick Lucerne 4-Door CXS (590)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS 5 passenger sedan. The CX and CXL V6 and V8 are 6 passenger models.

If you are a golf enthusiast you surely know that Tiger Woods is the spokesperson for the brand. Boy was that a home run for Buick. I had the opportunity to meet Tiger at a press conference before the Torrey Pines Golf Tournament this past month. As well as being the number one golfer in the world today he is a gentleman as well. There were less than 10 automotive journalists invited to this prestigious event to cover the promotion of the Buick Lucerne.  

We were required to drive all the Lucerne models on a course around the San Diego area. Did they impress us and make their case, you ask? Well they did. It is one of the quietest and most comfortable passenger cars on the market at any price. Merkel (my engineer and author associate) would tell you that is one of the reasons for accidents these days. Why – well simply put comfort is one of the distractions of driving on our highways and byways. You can see his unedited published study at my website www.atthewheel.com under Point/CounterPoint – Editorials – “WHY ARE THERE SO MANY ACCIDENTS”.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Detroit , Michigan

Class:  – Large

Cars: – Lucerne , LaCrosse, Rainier , Rendezvous and Terraza.

Handling & Performance:

I must tell you this is a worthy competitor of the top recognized competition noted below.

And speaking of handling, we need to look at a new technology – “magnetic ride control suspension”. This is 21st century innovation is one of the reasons this is a great handling car. Have the dealer show you how it works. Buick made a display device to show exactly how the technology works. It is awesome and the simple use of magnetic force and magnetic material makes total sense in the application of shock absorbing and other controls.

Essentially it uses a magnetic material in the shock that is controlled by a magnetic field in variable levels of strength to relax or stiffen the shock motion depending on road conditions. It really works and you can feel it when compared with a car without the device.

Styling:

Design is distinctly Buick! It is however not the “Roadmaster” bulky design of the 1950s. Those models were called “Road Hogs” by us kids. Digger Odell’s dad (my adopted family) drove one of those road hog Buicks. I have good memories of riding in that Buick to the beach on those long hot summer days of my youth. We’d trek down bean field roads past what is now Disneyland (there were no freeways back then). Digger, by the way, was a nickname us kids gave him based on character of the time – “Digger Odell the friendly undertaker”. Digger’s mom drove a Studebaker and we’d refer to that as a Stupid-Baker. Kids have a way of cutting to the chase. That brand died before most readers were born.

Perhaps carmakers should listen to our kids to avoid future lost sales because of the perception of those who will ultimately be the consumers of tomorrow. For the record, we’d refer to Pontiac as a “Heap” to make fun of the advertising slogan of those days. Picture an American Indian with a flat hand held up to his forehead to shade his eyes from the sun. The slogan – “Ugh, Pontiac heap good car”. I wonder if that ad agency is still in business.

Fit and Finish:

This Buick is put together at least as well as any of the competition but I feel it is at the top of that list.

Cost:

Perhaps you get the best bang for your buck of those noted below. It is the classiest of the bunch in my opinion.

Conveniences:

Very good.

Consumer Recommendation:

I believe Buick has never been a better car. But then I felt the same about the Oldsmobile and GM dumped that model. Go figure. Me, I would have kept the oldest car in their lineup (over 100 years of history for Olds) and dumped the Pontiac . But they didn’t ask me. If you’re in the market for a new family car in this price range it is a must to test drive.

Recognized Competition:

Buick Lucerne $25-34,000, Chrysler 300 $24-40,000, Dodge Charger $22-35,000, Mercury Montego $24-29,000, Ford Five Hundred $22-28,000, Toyota Avalon $27-34,000.

Good News:

Extremely quiet and comfortable, powerful.

Bad News:

None

Standard Equipment:

4.6 liter 275 horsepower V8 engine, 4-speed auto trans, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, power rack and pinion magnetic variable assist steering, magnetic ride control suspension, traction control, dual air bags plus front and rear head curtain air bags, on star service, rear child seat anchors and security locks, remote keyless entry, theft deterrent system, tire inflation monitor system, power mirrors, dual zone climate control, stereo with MP3 CD player, cruise control, leather seating and steering wheel and power locks and windows.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 25 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $35,265.

2004 Buick Rendezvous (498)

Overview:

This week I tested the 2004 Buick Rendezvous all wheel drive AWD 4-door SUV. Why not just stop making all other cars. Then the SUV will make manufacturers more profitable and there would be one class of vehicle on the road.

We’re nearly half way there with SUV’s capturing about 40% of all cars on the road. The profit motive is all-powerful and explains Buick’s emergence a couple of years back into a market even Porsche thought worthy of the effort. Buick hasn’t built anything resembling a truck since the early 1920’s.

The only reason I can think of for everyone in the country wanting to drive an SUV is the perceived freedom to go anywhere, any time. Of course that just isn’t true and this Buick recognizes the actual limited off road use people subject their SUV’s to. A few consumers will sneer at the Buick as a true contender because it is not built for off roading.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Mexico

Class:  – Special Purpose

Cars: – Century, Le Sabre, Park Avenue, Rainier, Regal and Rendezvous.

Handling & Performance:

The model I tested was equipped with the 3.6-liter engine at 245 hp vs. the 185 hp 3.4-liter engine. I understand the 185 horses is wanting for power, but surely the 3.6-liter engine is very adequate.

In front drive you get about 2-mpg better mileage.

This is a luxury version first and thus has a soft passenger car ride. That translates to a smooth ride and seamless transfer of power to the rear wheels as needed with primary drive to the front wheels. It also has smooth quiet and comfortable braking.

Styling:

Naturally beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but Buick didn’t go out on a limb here. It is boilerplate and non-controversial styling setting on the Pontiac Aztek chassis. Ho-hum, maybe to some, but I chose to view it as having clean lines and standard styling for the day.

Fit and Finish:

Very good, and I just love the partial wood steering wheel to add that touch of class.

Conveniences:

7 seating is becoming even more popular as time goes on and although the cargo area with all seats up is verrrrry small, the roof rack should save the day on road trips. With third row seats down the cargo area is abundant. And the seats fold away easily.

Cost:

Hey, Tiger, can you spot me 40 grand to buy one?

Consumer Recommendation:

This is a cross over mix of the popular SUV and lesser popular mini van. It therefore has better fuel economy, lower to the ground for easy entry and exit and leaning to good control without the off road prowess. A good choice if you must have an SUV with a luxury feel and appointments. If you need a more prestigious badge, you’ll pay much more for not much more. If you must have Ralph Lauren, or other labels in your closet you’ll likely buy the Mercedes, BMW, Lexus or Porsche.

The Competition:

Buick Rendezvous $26-39,000, Mitsubishi Endeavor $25,500-33,000, Lexus RX 330 35-37,000, Pontiac Aztek $21-24,000, Honda Pilot $27-33,000, Saturn Vue $27-24,000, Mercedes Benz S-Class $74-123,000, Infiniti Q45, $52-62,000.

Good News:

Easy entry and exit, all wheel drive safety and decent fuel economy.

Bad News:

Common styling, small cargo area with 3rd row seats up.

Standard Equipment:

3.6 liter 245 horsepower V6 engine, 4-speed auto trans, leather first and second row seats and suede fabric inserts, wood trim steering wheel with radio controls, heads up display, audio system with 6 disc CD changer, tire inflation monitor, computer, OnStar system – 1 yr. included, XM satellite radio w/ 100 channels, memory for seat and outside heated power mirror settings, front heated seats, driver 6-way power seat and passenger power seat, dual climate control, roof rack, theft deterrent system, rear seat audio, rear parking aid, power windows and door locks.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $39,695.

2004 Buick Park Avenue Ultra (471)

Overview:

This week was a time for me to revisit the past by testing the 2004 Buick Park Avenue Ultra. The very first thing I noticed was the fender portholes that helped to launch me back to the 1950’s. Great trip down memory lane.

It’s a touch of class but to me it always represented the “Second Class” line along with Oldsmobile, both behind Cadillac. Chevrolet and Pontiac were further down the line. But all these cars come from a “First Class” company that dates back over 100 years. Oldsmobile is the oldest and if memory serves me, GM announced they were discontinuing the line soon.  

Speaking of “Memory Lane”, you know how some things just stay with you over the years; I can’t help recalling a friend in youth who drove a Buick. Roy was a little strange or eccentric if you will. When he wasn’t driving the Buick he was riding a Heritage Harley Davidson motorcycle. That was strange because only “California Cowboys”, Cops, police officers, rode Harley’s in those days. I don’t even think the Hells Angels rode Harley’s then. Anyway, Roy had changed the radio buttons from B-U-I-C-K to C-I-K-U-B. I’ve told this story before and I wonder if you can figure what those letters stand for. Email me at joe@atthewheel.com.

General Info:

Parts –  n/a

Assembly – Orion, Michigan

Class:  – Large

Cars: – Century, Le Sabre, Park Avenue, Rainier, Regal & Rendezvous.

Handling & Performance:

Buick used to be a real tank. It was not so lovingly referred to as a “road hog”. When you went over a dip it would still be oscillating up and down into the next county. Today it handles superbly. It is lean and mean with great road presence. What a nice turnabout. The supercharger is like a jet assist that makes this Buick faster than the sophisticated image should imply.

Styling:

The black color gives it the appearance of being an FBI car. Good thing it didn’t have chrome spot lights. But the mafia leans toward black cars too. And with tinted windows I could have donned a chauffeurs cap and added even more intrigue.

Well, it just goes to show you both the FBI and the Mafia have good taste in cars.

Fit and Finish:

Very good and the interior is well fitted with Faux Burled walnut trim reminiscent of Jaguar interiors. Truly this Buick has a standout elegant look I believe will sell this car more than any other feature of this American icon.

Conveniences:

One feature I’ve come to appreciate is the rear parking sensors on some cars these days. Buick refers to it as Ultrasonic rear parking assist. The cost is $295 and well worth it. It could save you the embarrassment of backing into objects in parking lots or while parallel parking. Another feature that is convenient (standard equipment) is separate climate control for driver and passenger. She never likes the setting I chose. And finally, the (standard equipment) Rain Sensor windshield wipers are trick but also very practical.

Cost:

Not cheap. I must admit I was a little surprised it was as pricey as it is. But on the other hand it competes with much more expensive cars. They are pricier by virtue of the fact they are foreign made. That distinction is beginning to be less of an argument for paying more.

Consumer Recommendation:

This Buick as well as many American cars is hugely under rated. Foreign carmakers hungry to do business in America entered with a “try harder attitude”. That attitude was apparent early on but today American cars are back and better than ever. With pricing advantages for American carmakers I believe it will be less fashionable to buy foreign in years to come. You’ve got to love this Buick.

The Competition:

Buick Park Avenue $35-40,000, Mitsubishi Diamante $26-28,000, Chrysler 300M $29-33,000, Cadillac DeVille $45-50,000, Ford Crown Victoria $24-31,000, Audi A6 $36-50,000, Lexus GS $39-48,000, BMW 5-Series $39-58,000, Jaguar S-type $43-62,000.

Good News:

Price competitive with foreign imports costing much more for similar quality.

Bad News:

Traditionally has a lower resale value than foreign competitors.

Standard Equipment:

3.8 liter supercharged V6 engine with 4-speed auto trans, OnStar system, traction control, Stabilitrak chassis control system, child seat latch, leather seating, driver info center, driver 10-way power seat with lumbar, child seat latch system, audio with CD and cassette with steering wheel controls, compass, power windows, remote keyless entry, power mirrors, 17”chrome wheels, 4-wheel ABS brakes, fender portholes, Faux burled walnut trim and moisture sensing wipers.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 28Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $39,925.

2003 Buick LeSabre Limited Sedan (414)

Overview:

This week I drove the 2003 Buick LeSabre Limited Sedan. Growing up I always got the impression Buick’s were for old people and that stigma has stayed with me to this day. However, when you review all cars you tend to be unbiased albeit jaded by the continual jump for one new vehicle to the next.

But this Buick has all but erased the old younger preconceived notions that only old people would like to drive a Buick. The past several years have served to impress me that Buick is looking to the new generation who has only come to driving age while guys like Golf Great Tiger Woods lets the younger buyer know it’s cool to drive a Buick.

I rather liked the “Heads up Display” of speed and turn indicators reflecting on the windshield right in front of your eyes.

General Info:

Parts –  USA

Assembly – Detroit, MI USA

Class:  – Large passenger car

Cars: Century, Le Sabre, Park Avenue, and Regal, Rendezvous.

Handling & Performance:

Steering was a little loose and took a bit of getting used to. Buick has always impressed me with engine performance and seemed incongruous since drivers usually tend to be older.

Styling:

Although the turn indicators on the outside mirrors aren’t really necessary they are “trick” and are definitely eye catching, because you don’t expect to see them there. The statement is that the Buick is designed with unique and useful gadgets and distinguished from the pack.

I didn’t much care for the Grey/Silver wood grain finish on the inside trim. Different but it cheapens the appearance.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Buick definitely gives you a lot for the money. Therefore the price is reasonable for the quality car you get.

Consumer Recommendation:

American built cars today are still the best buy but that won’t last forever.

New Developments:

Event Data Recorders (EDR’s). Altadena, CA based accident reconstruction engineers, Stephen Blewett & Associates told me a little about how this device works. Many cars manufactured after 1996 come with a Black Box similar to the now famous Cockpit Recorders in aircraft. NASA and NTSB technology has now been applied to auto recorders to collect basic crash related data. This data is already making its way into courtrooms to corroborate findings of expert witnesses such as Blewett and Associates. Blewett says these EDR’s record such information as whether the brakes were applied, throttle open or not, engine speed, vehicle speed and information about the supplemental restraint system and air bag deployment. This will go a long way in the way we look at the causes of auto accidents and will also help improve car design.

Comments to Manufacturers:

Why aren’t EDR’s noted on the Standard Equipment?

The Competition: * (in order of ranking)

(1) Chrysler Concorde $23-29,000, (2t) Mercury Grand Marquis $24-29,000, (2t) Toyota Avalon $26-30,000, (3) Buick LeSabre $30,650, (4) Ford Crown Victoria $24-31,000.

* – Ranking is based on cost, cu ft, number of features, warranty and gas mileage.

Good News:

Cool heads up display, lots of features for the money, for cold climate buyers heated outside mirrors and “Bun Warmers”… the seats, that is.

Bad News:

Unappealing silver interior trim and loosey-goosey steering.

Standard Equipment:

3.8 liter V6 engine, 4-speed automatic trans, power steering, tilt and cruise control, auto level control, dual air bags front and side, 4-wheel abs disc brakes, power door locks, rear child security locks, theft deterrent, traction control, OnStar communications, battery rundown protection, remote keyless entry, headlight sentinel, moisture sensing wipers, power windows.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 29 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $30,650.