2006 Buick Lucerne: Return of the V8
The venerable Buick Park Avenue is no more, having been replaced by the all new Buick Lucerne, a down market version of the Cadillac DTS. With a 275-hp Northstar V8 engine, the Lucerne becomes the first Buick car in nearly ten years to arrive equipped with a V8. The entire Buick line up is in the process of being overhauled, so let’s take a look at this make’s newest flagship and see how it plays a part in GM’s overall strategy. If you are a fan of the Buick brand you have witnessed your fair share of changes over the past five years. Gone are the Park Avenue, LeSabre, Century, and Regal, and in its place are the Rendezvous, the Rainier, LaCrosse, Terrazza, and the Lucerne. All the changes are the result of General Motors’ broad realignment strategy in the wake of retiring the Oldsmobile brand, lifting Saturn into the fold, and setting strategy to compete against the nonstop onslaught of foreign brands including Toyota, Lexus, Nissan, and Infiniti.
One look at the Buick and you will notice a strong resemblance to the Cadillac DTS. The Buick’s oval grille sets it apart from the Cadillac’s firm nose, but a cursory examination of the body lines tells you that these cars are in fact twins. In the past, Buicks were essentially “stripped down” versions of Cadillacs, while Oldsmobile and Pontiac were more luxurious or sportier versions of Chevrolet models. Clearly, GM is repositioning Buick to have a more distinct “near luxury” look without stepping on Cadillac’s toes, while giving the Buick division a much needed replacement for the aging Park Avenue. For the car shopper, the Lucerne is value priced, arriving at in showrooms at just under 27K.
With a standard 3.8 V6, the automaker can claim decent fuel mileage of 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. In these days of hyped up gas prices, favorable fuel economy is a keen marketing tool, but expect many buyers to opt for the ultra powerful Northstar V8 instead. Why? Because, if they want to purchase a Buick, they likely will want the power to go along with the luxury. It remains to be seen how well the V6 operates in a car that is 203 inches long and weighing in at nearly two tons. Standard equipment for the Lucerne includes the following: power windows, door locks, and mirrors; side curtain air bags for the front seat; theft deterrent system; OnStar; keyless entry; and more. The optional equipment list is expansive and can easily drive the starting price of the top of the line CSX to over 35K. For that price you receive heated power seats with lumbar support; a memory package that adjusts the seats, mirrors, radio, and climate control to each driver’s specifications; sport leather steering wheel with built in controls; and more. A fully loaded Lucerne is still several thousand dollars less than the DTS, making the Lucerne a value leader in the luxury car category. Still, Buick has its work cut out for it as competition from foreign brands including Acura, BMW, and Lexus continue to hammer away at GM’s “near luxury” division.
Fortunately, quality levels for all Buicks remain very high so combining that level of success with a strong price may help the Lucerne compete admirably.
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