With a new, larger front-wheel-drive platform that it shares with the Buick Park Avenue, the redesigned LeSabre has more interior room, a wider track which improves handling and ride, and new standard four wheel disc brakes. 2000 LeSabre Custom models start at $30,465, and uplevel Limited models start at $35,725.
New LeSabre expands on traditional virtues
It’s not surprising that the redesigned 2000 Buick LeSabre looks very much like the previous LeSabre, last redesigned in 1992 and freshened in 1997. The LeSabre has been North America’s best-selling full-size car for the past seven years – why mess with the look of success?
Actually, there’s more to the 2000 LeSabre than meets the eye. The new LeSabre is based on a new platform, the same front-wheel-drive platform as the bigger Buick Park Avenue. The 2000 LeSabre’s 2850 mm (112.2 in.) wheelbase is 36 mm (1.4 in.) longer than the previous LeSabre, and its track is 48 mm (1.9 in.) wider. The new platform adds 51 mm (2.0 in.) of additional hip room for rear passengers, even though overall, the new LeSabre is about the same size as the last model.
The LeSabre’s new bodystyle is stiffer too, creating a quieter ride with fewer vibrations, and a feeling of quality and sturdiness. A re-engineered chassis with fully independent suspension offers more wheel travel, less dive during braking, and new self-leveling shock absorbers. Also, the turning circle has been reduced from 12.4 metres to 12 metres.
The LeSabre’s standard powerplant continues to be a 205 horsepower 3.8 litre OHV V6 engine mated to a standard four-speed automatic transmission. Refined over the years, the 3.8 litre engine with its traditional pushrod design offers more torque than most overhead cam V6 engines, and thus feels more responsive. It’s also very quiet, and very smooth. Buick has resisted changing to a more contemporary overhead cam, multivalve engine design, in part because overhead cam engines are less responsive at lower speeds and are sometimes noisier. As a general rule, luxury buyers don’t like high-revving sporty engines and they aren’t as concerned about fuel economy – they want a quiet, smooth, responsive powerplant – like the 3.8 litre V6.
Other than a new platform, there are numerous upgrades to the LeSabre’s mechanical and comfort features. The 2000 LeSabre now has standard four wheel disc brakes with ABS instead of front disc/rear drum brakes, a wider track which improves handling, stability and ride; and a new anti-skid system called StabiliTrak (available mid-year) which helps prevent loss of control during cornering in slippery conditions.
Also new is a larger 18.0 cubic feet trunk (up from 17.0 cubic feet) with a lower liftover height, a pass-through in the rear armrest and a folding rear seat (Limited models only); new side airbags on front seats; a Driver Information Centre that monitors vehicle systems; three distinct gauges and a restyled instrument panel with easier-to-reach buttons; filters in the ventilation system; and larger outside mirrors that now fold away if bumped.
The LeSabre’s interior has more storage space, including a small sliding drawer in the centre dash, larger door pockets, a tissue holder inside the glove box, cupholders that open independently of the centre armrest, and a credit card slot in the sunvisor.
Interior lighting has been upgraded too. New for 2000 are delayed entry and exit lights, Twilight Sentinel headlamps with delayed off feature, retained accessory power for operating power windows and radio after the ignition has been turned off, and battery rundown protection which shuts off any lights after ten minutes.
To reduce the chance of injury in a collision, all LeSabres have new ‘catcher’s mitt’ front seats with self-aligning head restraints that are designed to bend with the body to reduce whiplash and injury. In addition, outboard three-point seatbelts are now integrated into the front seats rather than attached to the B-pillar – this allows the seatbelts to move forward and back with the seats, and increases passenger comfort. Also new for 2000 are optional 10-way power front seats with lumbar adjustment and optional seat heaters, a centre rear three-point seatbelt, and rear tether anchor points for child seats. However, rear head restraints are not offered.
New options include a 12 disc CD changer in the trunk, a moonroof, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a centre console with writing pad surface, and a three-channel garage door opener.
For those who want a little more performance, an optional Gran Touring package includes larger P225/60R 16 inch tires and alloy wheels, variable effort power steering with a quicker steering ratio, firmer shocks, rear anti-sway bar, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
During my test-drive, I was immediately struck with how quiet the LeSabre is, how effortless the engine is, and how the car glides along oblivious to road surface irregularities and undulations. The suspension is well-damped, but not too soft like big domestic cars used to be. With a comfortable driving position and low-effort power-assisted rack and pinion steering, the LeSabre is a very easy car to drive.
The engine’s generous torque is quite useful around town where low-speed throttle responsiveness is important. And at a steady cruising speed of 100 km/h, the LeSabre’s 3.8 litre V6 engine revs at just 1700 rpm, a very relaxed and quiet engine speed.
I was impressed with the design of the LeSabre’s new instruments and controls, in particular the large stereo buttons, pushbutton headlamp switch, and large door handles. All LeSabres have a column-mounted shift lever for the automatic transmission – a floor shifter and console is not offered.
The quality of dashboard materials and seating materials is still a notch below many import cars, and could be improved, in my opinion. I also disliked the design of the new hideaway cupholders in the front of the centre armrest – it’s easy to inadvertently open them when resting your arm on the armrest.
For security, a remote trunk release near the driver’s seat is lockable, and so is the optional rear pass-through. However, the folding rear seat (on Limited models) is not lockable.
LeSabres come in two trim levels: Custom and Limited. Custom models, which start at $30,465, include standard P215/70R-15 inch tires, 4-speed automatic transmission, front and side airbags, AM/FM/cassette with four speakers, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, cruise control with steering wheel controls, tilt steering wheel, power windows with driver/passenger express-down, power mirrors, and Pass-Key anti-theft system.
LeSabre Limited models, which start at $35,725, include the following features over and above the Custom: alloy wheels, automatic climate control with driver and passenger temperature settings, a full analogue instrument cluster with tachometer, 6-way power heated front seats, premium AM/FM/cassette with six speakers, traction control, anti-theft alarm, pollen filters, front cornering lights, power heated outside mirrors.
Leather upholstery, moonroof, memory seats, CD player and 12 disc CD changer, StabiliTrak, heads-up display, self-sealing tires, 16 inch tires, 10-way power seats, and rain-sensing windshield wipers are all optional.
If you’re looking for a domestic luxury car with a roomy six passenger interior, a humungous trunk, a classy image, and a reasonable price, the 2000 LeSabre should be on your shopping list. Other cars in its class include the Chrysler Concorde, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Pontiac Bonneville.
You can find out more about the LeSabre on GM Canada’s web-site at www.gmcanada.com.