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2008 Buick Lucerne Super – Drive 2

Several months ago I had the opportunity to drive a pre-production Buick Lucerne Super for a few miles around Malibu with Karen Micklin the program manager for the car from General Motors’ Performance Division. I was pretty impressed with the Super as a very competent front wheel drive large car from GM’s “mature division”. Also impressive was the fact that Buick was not trying to make an overt move to capture younger buyers. They simply want to provide the most competent car a Buick driver can buy.

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Last week we had a Super at VehicleVoice offices and the staff had a chance to drive the car. Several balked at the idea of driving the Buick – too mature for their youthful sensibilities – but when they came in the day after driving the car each was surprised and impressed. The highlights: effortless cruising on the freeway, good performance from the tweaked Northstar V8, quiet and comfortable ride, good size.

To Big Bear and Beyond!
When the weekend came around I pointed the Lucerne Super towards Big Bear Lake while avoiding all major highways and freeways… that’s the way to see a place. The ride up CA330 and CA18 to Big Bear Lake is a twisty windy road that goes all the way to 8,443 feet above sea level. The sign at the side of the road warned to turn off the air conditioning for the next 14 miles, but I didn’t. After all it was 94-degrees as shown on the Lucerne’s temperature readout.
Climbing the Lucerne struggled a little bit at altitude and the temperature gauge moved into the segment just below “H”, but the car never stumbled or stuttered. Passing did take a bit of patience and courage, but “time exposed to danger” was acceptable. The performance was excellent most times and the brakes excellent on the downhill portions of CA38 going into Redlands.
All is Not Perfect – Some Nits Show Age of Lucerne – a Bit Out of Date
What were the “nits”? One staffer complained that the lane departure warning system was too sensitive as he was trying to clip apexes on the mountain road leading to his house. He had not yet learned that the system could be turned off. I found that a car of this era with a full blown navigation system does not have a backup camera is unacceptable. And there was no Bluetooth! At least I couldn’t find it.

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Some more fundamental things were a couple of finesse items. The interior was gorgeous with a cocoa trim theme, but the instrument panel looked Spartan. While not an advocate of bling, the Lucerne could have done with a bit more “interest” on the instrument panel. The door closing sounds reminded me of the Ford Five Hundred prior to its transformation to the Ford Taurus. The doors did not close with an authoritative thunk. Still more of a clang. And the decklid sprang open when released by the key fob. Stand too close and it could catch you under the chin.
Still, the Lucerne was a delight to drive in almost all situations. Its $40,000 price point is persuasive for the amount of car you get. What would be going against it in today’s environment? Well, brand name is still a challenge. It is a large car in an environment temporarily favoring smaller cars. It is powered by a large V8 and only has a 4-speed automatic transmission in a world quickly growing to demand a 6-speed (or more) automatic.
MKS EcoBoost Could Challenge Lucerne Super – But Super is the Value
But, all in all, the only American car I could compare with the Lucerne Super would be the Lincoln MKS next year when it gets the EcoBoost V6 to challenge the Super’s V8. But given the Lincoln’s price today, the EcoBoost unit will be priced at a substantial premium over the Super. This is a car with real value.

1 Comment

  • a mascio| October 3, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    I realize that GM is in a financial pickle, but they have got to put the six speed autotrannies in ALL the cars they equip with automatic transmissions.
    At the $40k price point, there are simply too many cars that have six speed transmissions and much more (BMW’s come to mind).
    The Buicks are nicley styled and put together well, it’s just that for some reason or another, GM always seems to strive to be mediocre.
    The car reviewed here is completely worthy of it’s price point if it’s minor short comings (listed in this article) were taken care of.
    If GM could stay out of the rebate game, they could afford to put the things in their cars that would make them “over deliver” in the customer experience.

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