To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, if a Buick Lucerne can be noticed on Duval Street, a Buick Lucerne will be noticed anywhere. You’ll see just about everything on Duval—well, it is Key West, as they say—so when we drove a 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS, Buick’s new full-size sedan on this boulevard of the bizarre, the last thing we expected were approving looks. And that’s what the Lucerne got on Duval.
We’ll concede that being noticed on Duval Street could be a less than good thing, but we read the expressions as being favorable. At least in our opinion the 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS we tested in Key West was handsome as God and Alfred P. Sloan believe a big Buick should be.
With a little platform sharing with the Cadillac STS, the Buick Lucerne is new from the nameplate up. The Lucerne, however, is no clone or “badge engineered” duplicate of its Cadillac cousin. Styling is distinctively Buick, clearly inspired by the Buick Vélite concept car, with rounded contours, especially compared to the edgy Cadillac. It’s a big sedan, but the Lucerne wears its size well. Proportions are scaled well to the Lucerne’s not insubstantial length and width. Unlike some attempted applications of traditional features, the Lucerne’s front end gracefully blends the classic Buick vertical bar grille with modern headlamp clusters that sweeps well back into the fenders.
Perhaps there’s nothing more traditional on a big Buick than “portholes” in the fenders. The Lucerne’s got ’em and wears them with pride. Buick claims no function for them, and the Lucerne’s are really too small for any engine compartment ventilation effect. But they are mesh and open to the inside of the fenders and they were quite hot to the touch coming off of highway driving. They do have a purpose on the Lucerne, other than just cosmetic: If there are three portholes per side, the Lucerne is powered by a V-6. If four, the Lucerne has a V-8.
The Lucerne marks the return of a V-8 to Buick. A V-6, with 3.8 liters (3791cc for those keeping a scorecard) making 197 hp, is standard on the base Lucerne CX and the Lucerne CXL. The V-8, Buick’s use of Cadillac’s Northstar technology, is available in the Lucerne CXL as an option and is standard in the top of the line CXS. The all-aluminum 4.6-liter (4565cc, to be precise) V-8 can produce 279 horsepower, at least with premium (“recommended but not required”) fuel. The V-8 hardly plods along, either. The dual overhead cam engine breathes deep with four valves per cylinder, and spins up to 6500 rpm. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard on all Buick Lucerne models.
The Lucerne’s interior is conservatively styled, less distinctive than the exterior, but the overall impression is that of an expensive car. Nothing looks cheap. All touch surfaces are rich, including the center and door armrests and particularly the buttery soft seat surfaces. Six-passenger seating is optional—that’s another way of saying a bench front seat is available for the true traditionalist—but our test Lucerne CSX had front bucket seats. Individual seats would be a better term, however. There’s little lateral support, even for the cruising mode that’s the forte of the Lucerne.
Handling is soft, ride is soft. The Buick Lucerne is a car where comfort is supreme, and although the Florida Keys offer little opportunity for sports car type driving—it’s a bridge from one island to the next—the Lucerne didn’t act like it missed any tarmac gymnastics. Don’t push it in corners or expressway ramps. Everyone will be happier, especially the Lucerne.