The giant here is General Motors, a company that may be a little slow on the uptake – after 25 years of mostly hollow promises for class-leading all-new cars, this global behemoth has let domestic market share fall to an all-time low. But now GM is making promises again, launching a revitalized product offensive, and finally the turn toward relevance is being made and competitive cars like the 2006 Buick Lucerne are seeing the light of day. At a media drive for the Lucerne in California, everyone from the detailer to the head engineer seemed to be interjecting every sentence with the phrase “attention to detail.” The tighter gap tolerances? The focus on a much quieter ride? The use of better interior materials? The availability of a more powerful engine and more controlled handling? You got it – all a result of this purported new emphasis on the little, and not so little, things.
Overall, it shows. The 2006 Buick Lucerne, when properly equipped, is a great driving car, one with style, comfort, and a choice between two competent powertrains. This is the closest Buick has come to satisfying driving enthusiasts in recent years, the last successful effort being the 1987 GNX. But that’s not to say all is perfect. Fit and finish is markedly improved, though there are some glaring exceptions, lower level models still have that floaty ride for which Buick is famous (or infamous), and the absence of options like a navigation system will have potential buyers heading for the nearest Chrysler or Toyota dealer. And the Lucerne’s V6 engine, while capable, is about as technologically advanced as a phonograph.
Clearly, there’s room for improvement, but the 2006 Buick Lucerne is a true departure from the warmed-over tri-shield sedans offered in years past. This is a Buick worthy of a buyer’s consideration, not just a business person’s rental upgrade.