Review: 2007 Buick Lucerne
This 2007 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2011.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
If you haven't been to a Buick dealership lately, you're going to be surprised at the changes in vehicles—and their names.
The long-running Buick Regal, LeSabre and Century cars are all gone. The flagship Park Avenue sedan is gone, too, replaced by the Buick Lucerne.
The Lucerne is a full-size, 17-foot-long, front-wheel-drive sedan that's roomy inside and even offers a 6-seat configuration. Most carmakers have gotten rid of front bench seats in new models, so shoppers don't find many new cars anymore with a front bench available to accommodate three people.
With a base V6, the Lucerne also became the first Buick in a decade to offer an up-level V8, and it's a fine-performing, 4.6-liter Northstar engine borrowed from Cadillac. Buick and Cadillac are owned by the same parent company, General Motors Corp.
Best of all, the Lucerne is one of the few domestic-branded cars that was recommended by Consumer Reports in 2007 after the Lucerne racked up above average reliability ratings in its first year on the market. The Lucerne debuted in calendar 2005 as a 2006 model.
Indeed, by the end of calendar 2006, the Lucerne had become Buick's best-selling vehicle. This is in part because Buick had pared down its car models to only two and because the Lucerne's starting retail price of less than $26,000 was only some $3,200 more than the starting price of Buick's only other car, the midsize Lacrosse.
"Quiet Tuning" at Buick
Even while traveling on congested city streets, my passenger and I conversed in low tones comfortably, and I never heard much noise from other vehicles nearby. There wasn't much wind noise at highway speeds, either.
Solid-feeling large car
About the only times I noticed the Lucerne was unwieldy was in U-turns, where the car's more than 42-foot turning circle made for strenuous turnarounds, and while I was parallel parking this lengthy sedan in tight city street spaces. Note to Lucerne buyers: The optional rear park assist is a good feature to add.
The ride, overall, was mixed. The Lucerne is a pleasing highway cruiser and keeps lots of road bumps away from passengers, but I often heard their impact through the suspension and optional, upsized, 17-inch tires.
The test car's brakes were less than impressive, with a mushy feel to the pedal. But the up-level magnetic variable assist rack-and-pinion steering didn't take much getting used to and made for decent steering feel.
V8 performance is preferred
I could merge onto highways without fuss and even zoom past slower cars easily. It wasn't an instantaneous, crazy, raw acceleration. Instead, there was a smooth unspooling of the power, and the car felt like it was ready to carry four, five or six people with ease.
One problem was when I got going too fast in congested traffic and let up on the accelerator. The Lucerne wouldn't slow automatically. It would coast some, and so I'd sometimes need to press on the brake pedal intermittently to slow the car down. In some other cars, especially those from Europe, there's a ready response when a driver lets up on the gas pedal and wants to slow.
My other problem in the Lucerne was fuel economy. The V8 model has a government rating of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Even the Lucerne with base V6 that has lower horsepower—only 197—than its major V6 competitors such as the Toyota Avalon and Mercury Montego and still gets lower fuel economy ratings—19/28 mpg in 2007—than these competitors. In fact, the Toyota Avalon's V6 puts out nearly as much horsepower—268—as the Lucerne with V8!
But both Lucerne engines are older-style, overhead valve layouts and both Lucerne transmissions—one for each engine—are only 4 speeds. New cars, especially those in the over $25,000 bracket, tend to come with overhead-cam engines with variable valve timing and transmissions with more than only four gears. To wit, the Avalon's 3.5-liter V6 is twin cam with Toyota's VVT-i and mated to a 5-speed automatic, which helps explain why its 2007 government fuel economy rating was 22/31 mpg.
Meantime, Mercury's 2007 Montego offered a choice of 6-speed automatic or continuously variable transmissions and got as high a fuel economy rating as 21/29 mpg from the U.S. government.
About the Lucerne pricing…
The V8 is only available on the mid-level CXL and upper-level CXS models, so the starting retail price for a Lucerne with V8 is high at more than $30,000.
Even Lucernes with V6—the base CX and a CXL—don't exactly present attractive prices when shoppers compare standard features with some other large sedans.
Yes, every Lucerne comes standard with six airbags, including curtain airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes and traction control.
But the StabiliTrak stability control system is an option on all but the top Lucerne CXS, while electronic stability control as well as active front head restraints designed to reduce whiplash injuries are standard on the Hyundai Azera large sedan that has a lower starting retail price of around $24,000.
For the $25,000-plus starting price, the base 2007 Lucerne V6 came only with manual heater/air conditioner controls, while the lower-priced, base Azera had standard dual-zone climate control with automatic temperature control.
The base Lucerne has a 6-way power driver's seat. In contrast, the base Azera comes with an 8-way power driver's seat plus a 4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat. A Lucerne buyer has to move up to the mid-level Lucerne CXL, starting at more than $28,000, to get a front passenger seat with power adjustments.
Indeed, even the base Toyota Avalon, which had a $1,000 higher base price than the Lucerne for 2007, comes standard with an 8-way power driver's seat, automatic climate control and a seventh airbag—a knee airbag to help keep a driver in proper position in his or her seat in a frontal crash.
Lucerne is roomy
At 5 feet 4, I moved the Lucerne driver's seat forward on its track for what seemed like forever—and a long distance—before I was appropriately positioned behind the wheel. Long-legged drivers note: The Lucerne provides 42 inches of front-seat legroom, which is more than what you get in a big Cadillac Escalade sport-utility vehicle. It's also more than what's in the Montego and Avalon but less than the 43.7 inches in the front seat of Hyundai's Azera.
And compared with many family cars today that are mid-sized, the full-size Lucerne sedan has a welcoming back seat. Three passengers enjoy 57 inches of hiproom compared with 53.6 inches in the back of a Montego, 56.2 inches in the back of an Avalon and 55.1 inches in the back of the Azera.
The 41 inches of legroom in the Lucerne's back seat is generous, too, and bests the 38.1 inches in the Azera and virtually ties that of the 40.9 inches in the Avalon. The Montego has 41.9 inches of rear-seat legroom.
Headroom all around in the Lucerne is on par with or better than that in the main competitors, save for the extra 1 inch of headroom in the back of the Montego.
Be aware that seats in the Lucerne are more on the cushy side, rather than stiffly supportive.
Trunk space of 17 cubic feet is more than in midsize family cars, but it's less than the 21.2 cubic feet in the Montego's trunk.
As you might expect, everyone sits lower in the Lucerne than they would in an SUV, van or crossover SUV, so taller vehicles in front of and around the Lucerne can definitely block views.
Odds and ends
Buick also has five-year/100,000-mile limited coverage on its powertrains, which could be a benefit, at least for high-mileage drivers, vis-a-vis Toyota's and Mercury's five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranties.
But Hyundai bests them both with bumper-to-bumper warranty coverage good for five years/60,000 miles and a limited powertrain warranty that goes for 10 years/100,000 miles.
Also note the 2007 Lucerne earned five out of five stars in frontal crash testing but only four out of five stars in side crash tests, according to the U.S. government.
This is lower than the across-the-board five-stars-out-of-five-stars rating that the 2007 Montego and Avalon received in government crash testing. The 2007 Azera had an even lower crash test rating than the Lucerne.