2006 Buick Lucerne CXL V6
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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh
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For 2006, Buick has pared its line-up of cars from four to two: the Century and Park Avenue are gone, the new-for-2005 Allure carries over, and there’s an all-new, full-size premium sedan, the Lucerne.

Built in Detroit, the Lucerne comes with a choice of two engines, a 197 hp, 3.8-litre V6 in the CX and CXL V6, and a 275 hp 4.6-litre Northstar V8 in the CXL V8 and CXS models. The V6 trim lines are base-priced at $30,995 and $33,355, the V8 lines at $36,235 and $42,685; my tester was the CXL V6, optioned with a $1,400 “Luxury Package” of eight-way power driver and passenger heated seats with power lumbar support and driver’s two-position memory, and a hefty $995 for its “Sharkskin” exterior shade, which brought it to $35,750. (Crimson Pearl and White Gold Flash paint are also $995, but there are nine exterior no-extra-charge colours; beauty’s in the eye of the beholder, but I didn’t see a grand’s worth of difference in my tester’s paint.)

The standard configuration is five-passenger, but both V6 models and the CXL V8 can be ordered with a 40/20/40 front bench, to transform into six-passenger.

2006 Buick Lucerne CXL V6
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Having driven both engines, I found that GM’s venerable 3800 V6 is ample for the Lucerne; naturally, acceleration isn’t up to the V8’s standards (in AJAC testing, the V6 ran zero to 100 km/h in 9.5 seconds, and 80 to 120 km/h in 8.2 seconds), but then, Buick’s target audience isn’t into drag racing.

2006 Buick Lucerne CXL V6
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That audience dictates much about Lucerne: while the company is trying to woo younger audiences with vehicles like the Rainier and Terraza, the fact remains that, on average, Buick’s buyers are the oldest in the industry. Mindful of that, GM has designed a relatively simple interior. The four-speed transmission has no manual mode, dials and controls are large and easy to use, and the exterior styling hasn’t a hint of edginess. It won’t appeal to those who like their vehicles tech-heavy, but I’ve always felt that when you’re going 100 km/h you shouldn’t have to fiddle with tiny buttons or complicated heater and audio systems.

Complementing the traditional feel is the ride and steering; it feels more like rear-wheel-drive, although it’s strictly offered in front-wheel configuration.

2006 Buick Lucerne CXL V6
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Suspension is fully independent, with MacPherson struts up front and multi-link in rear; four specifically-tuned suspension packages are used across the model line-up, with the CXL V6 receiving a slightly firmer suspension than the base CX’s “premium” ride. It soaks up road imperfections very well, but despite the extra firmness, there’s still some body roll; Buick will give you that luxury big-car ride, but you’ve got to pay for it somewhere. StabiliTrak stability control is optional on the CXL V8 and standard on the CXS, but it can’t be added to the V6 models.

All models receive Buick’s “QuietTuning”, which uses a stiff body structure, tight body gap tolerances, body baffles and extensive wind sealing system to keep cabin noise to a minimum. It really is a quiet ride, with just a throaty growl from the V6 when it’s under heavy load.

The CXL V6 shares several features with the base CX model, including side and curtain airbags, power locks and windows, automatic headlamps, cruise control, tilt wheel and OnStar; to that, the CXL V6 adds leather upholstery, front cornering lights, heated power mirrors with auto-dimming on the driver’s side, 17-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror and CD/MP3 stereo.

2006 Buick Lucerne CXL V6
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The interior, while spacious and comfortable, really looks too plain for the price; I think the less-expensive Allure seems more upscale, and has somewhat better fit-and-finish. The Lucerne’s dash is a very wide expanse of beige plastic, and the fake wood accents don’t do much to break it up. My list of grievances include very high door sills (especially given the target audience, which tends not to be athletic), map pockets that are too narrow to be really useful, and heated seat controls on the top edge of the door, where their three-stage indicator lights are impossible to see in bright sunlight.

2006 Buick Lucerne CXL V6
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(To their credit, the seats get wicked hot on the high setting, a real plus for winter-haters like me.) The seatbelt buckle slides all the way down on the webbing when you remove it, so that you have to fumble at the bottom of the seat for it, and the flat handles on the vents can be difficult to move.

The outside mirrors, one or both of which can be programmed to tip down in Reverse to aid in parking, take far too long: once you’ve put the shifter into gear, it’s three seconds before they start to move, and four seconds before they’re fully tipped. That doesn’t sound like a long time, until you’re holding up traffic in the aisle waiting for them to settle in.

Functions are programmed easily through instructions in the cluster, accessed by buttons on the dash, allowing you to set such things as locks and courtesy lighting. The inside handles don’t override the locks, which is good news for parents of small children, and an irritant for adults running errands. All controls are backlit, including the windows and locks on the rear doors.

The trunk is 103 cm long, and offers a pass-through for long items like skis, although the rear seat doesn’t fold. The pull-down handle could use some work; it’s just a flat-sided plastic cup, and your hand slides out of it when you try to pull the trunk closed. The most convenient method, unfortunately, is to pull the lid down by the emblem until it’s low enough to push down from the top, which will certainly affect the shelf life of the stick-on letters should you persist.

2006 Buick Lucerne CXL V6
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The Lucerne finishes up the big-Buick tradition with its fender-mounted portholes, taking the 2005 Park Avenue’s oval holes and substituting squared-off versions. The practice dates from 1949, when they were actual holes in the fender (the company defended them as semi-functional, ostensibly to siphon off engine heat); now, they look rather odd as a plastic emblem just stuck on the side. Originally the number signified the model series, as all Buicks had eight cylinders back then, but now, V6 models get six portholes – three on each side – while V8s get eight. Still, traditionalists should like them, and they make for quick identification should you need to know what’s under the hood.

All told, the Lucerne is a nice machine on its own: handsome and smooth-riding, with a roomy interior that’ll coddle four adults even on long drives, yet sized so it isn’t unwieldy. Still, you should comparison-shop. Buick’s press release lists the Toyota Avalon and Lexus ES330 as direct competitors, but they’re both more expensive. For my money, if you’re looking at the V6 Lucerne, the made-in-Canada Allure is, well, more alluring: in CXL trim it’s $4,705 under the Lucerne CXL, it wrings an extra three horsepower and lb-ft of torque out of its 3800 V6, it’s only slightly smaller, and while it doesn’t have all of the Lucerne’s amenities, it still contains a number of upscale features. If you believe there’s no replacement for displacement, you’ll have to stick with Lucerne for its V8 option, but should you be shopping on a budget, don’t overlook the other Buick in the stable.

Technical Data: 2006 Buick Lucerne CXL V6

Base price $33,355
Options $2,395 (Luxury Package $1,400; Sharkskin paint $995)
Freight $1,150
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $37,000 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 4-door, 5-passenger full-size sedan
Layout Front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.8-litre V6, OHV, 12 valves
Horsepower 197 @ 5200 rpm
Torque 227 lb-ft @ 3800 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Tires P235/55R17 all-season
Curb weight 1800 kg (3969 lbs.)
Wheelbase 2936 mm (115.6 in.)
Length 5161 mm (203.2 in.)
Width 1874 mm (73.8 in.)
Height 1473 mm (58.0 in.)
Cargo capacity 481 litres (17.0 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 12.2 L/100 km (23 mpg Imp)
  Hwy: 7.3 L/100 km (39 mpg Imp)
Fuel type Regular unleaded
Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 4 yrs/80,000 km
Assembly location

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