DALLAS, Tex. -- On the President George Bush Freeway, which slices through posh northside sections of Dallas, we're cruising in a center lane while encased in the velvet comforts of the top luxury sedan from Buick, the super Lucerne Super.
As Buick's grand-size luxury sedan in front-wheel-drive (FWD) format, the nameplate popped up first on a performance edition of Lucerne for model-year 2008 outfitted with premium equipment and packing a Northstar V8 engine plus a tuned chassis with GM's Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) variable suspension for a refined ride quality.
That NorthStar V8, an aluminum 4.6-liter plant with 32-valve dual overhead cam, romps with 292 hp at 5600 rpm and 288 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm.
The V8 teams with a four-speed automatic transmission with electronically controlled shift sequences for unobtrusive transitions. Dubbed 4T80, this GM Hydra-Matic permits the application of more engine torque to accommodate the forceful V8.
The Super edition of Lucerne extends into Buick's 2009 line with new safety devices -- Side Blind Zone Alert system and Lane Departure Warning system -- added to an upgrade Driver Confidence Package that brings a remote starter and theft-deterrence system, plus Ultrasonic Rear Park Assist, StabiliTrak skid controls and RainSense windshield wipers.
For the Side Blind Zone Alert system, radar sensors mounted on sides of the vehicle emit beams which sweep adjacent traffic lanes to spot any flanking vehicles and then alert the Lucerne driver via a lighted LED icon in the side rearview mirror.
For the Lane Departure Warning system, an on-board camera positioned behind the windshield near the interior rearview mirror notes traffic lane stripes and provides audible signals to alert the driver when the vehicle crosses a stripe to another lane.
Buick forges two additional trims for Lucerne 2009 -- CX and CXL.
Motivation for CX and CXL comes from a more powerful V6 engine with flex-fuel capability to run on 100 percent regular unleaded gasoline, up to 85 percent ethanol (E85) or variations of these two fuels.
The iron-block 3.9-liter V6 delivers 227 hp at 5700 rpm and torque of 237 lb-ft at 3200 rpm.
A smooth and responsive automatic transaxle, GM's 4T65 Hydra-Matic with electronic controls, four forward gears and the shifter lever mounted on the steering column, comes with the new V6 in Lucerne.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency sets the fuel economy numbers for Lucerne V6 at 17 mpg City and 26 mpg Highway using gasoline, or 13 mpg City and 20 mpg Highway with E85 ethanol.
Lucerne's external styling looks smooth with ripe lines and a bold face focused on a chrome-rimmed grille.
The slinky body features Buick's signature grille with vertical bars in chrome and flanking pairs of shimmering multi-lens headlamps.
Below the grille a body-colored fascia contains split air intake ports and round foglamps.
A canted hood incorporates striking curves from the headlamps and draws them in taut lines rearward to the base of a raked windshield.
Sides reveal smoothly rolled shoulders and arched wheelwells with body-colored molding streaking across the double doors.
Chrome-coated portholes on front fenders, hallmarks in Buick history, denote engine size -- three portholes for the V6 and four for the V8.
And the line of the roof is a smooth arch that tapers to a rolled tail.
The unit-body structure for Lucerne has a long wheelbase that extends to 115.6 inches -- and those extra inches show up in the passenger compartment with more backseat room to stretch (there's up to 41 inches of rear legroom).
Within the cabin, Lucerne reveals an impressive quality of quietness in terms of reducing noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).
All external NVH seems to be locked outside, the result of wrapping the passenger compartment liberally with sound-deadening material.
The effort to control NVH inside Lucerne is labeled by Buick marketeers as QuietTuning. It represents a sense of refinement more akin to elite premium cars.
Buick's QuietTuning measures include thick layers of laminate applied to the windshield and all four side windows, adding composite nylon baffles inside all structural roof pillars and rocker panels and cross-car braces, multi-layer steel laminate employed for the dashboard design, along with noise-paring exterior rearview mirrors and low-profile windshield wiper blades.
Lucerne's cabin also contains fancy gear, either stock or optional, depending on trim level.
The standard seat plan shows a pair of bucket seats in front of a bench for three, although CXL issues may be ordered with a three-person front bench split 40/20/40 percent to boost total capacity to six.
Lucerne CX for 2009 loads more luxury features.
The standards include air conditioning and power controls for windows and door locks, heated power outside rearview mirrors and cornering lamps, six-way power for the the driver's seat and front passenger seat, an extended-range key fob, a stereo kit with CD player and audio controls mounted on the steering wheel, and 17-inch painted wheels.
Lucerne CXL for 2009 also gains equipment.
There are rain-sensing windshield wipers, leather upholstery and a twin-zone automatic climate system, the front seats are heated and move eight ways with memory settings, a leather-wrapped steering wheel also has an internal heat element, exterior rearview mirrors carry integrated turn signal indicators and the vehicle rolls on 17-inch premium wheels.
Lucerne Super upgrades with MRC and StabiliTrak, a 280-watt Harman Kardon stereo audio with nine speakers and a six-disc CD/MP3 player, a leather-clad instrument panel with French seam stitching, suede trim on doors as well as the heated and cooled front seats, and real walnut wood trim.
Buick sets the MSRP for Lucerne as low as $26,265.