SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 27,635 Price As Tested $ 28,522 Engine Type OHV 12-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SFI* Engine Size 231 cid/3791 cc Horsepower 205 @ 5200 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 230 @ 4000 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 110.8"/74.4"/200.8" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 3483 pounds Fuel Capacity 18.0 gallons Tires (F/R) P215/60R16 Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Six-passenger/four-door Domestic Content 90 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 19/30/24 0-60 MPH 8.5 seconds 1/4 Mile (E.T.) 16.5 seconds @ 85.5 mph Top speed 105 mph * Sequential-port fuel injection
(Buick has been around now for 95 years and is a great favorite with buyers of "traditionally-sized" domestic cars. Its LeSabre has been ongoing for 40 of those years and Bob Hagin remembers well its debut in '59. Matt Hagin says he's glad the newest version has been scaled down from those early behemoths.)
BOB - At 40, the LeSabre is the longest ongoing name in Buick history, Matt. The Century and Roadmaster names are older, but they each had production gaps for certain years along the way while the Roadmaster disappeared entirely in '96. But there must have been some magic in the LeSabre name because Buick sold 165,577 of them in that first year and over six-million since the name was introduced in '59. It's been reduced in size from those early versions, but it's still the best-selling full-sized sedan in America. For '99 there are two Le Sabre models, the Custom and the Limited. Our week's test car was the Limited with the hot-rod Gran Touring package.
MATT - Dad, our tester is indeed a driver's car from its high-tech dual climate control to the P215/60R16 Goodyear Eagle GA "sporting" tires. The LeSabre we reviewed in '96 was the standard version of the Limited and its 15-inch whitewall tires complained bitterly when they were pushed in a corner. The 3.8 liter V6 is a far cry from those huge V8s that powered the early versions, but it produces more horsepower from only 3.8 liters of displacement and gets considerably better fuel mileage, too. It puts out 205 horsepower and 230 pounds-feet of torque and incorporates an internal balance shaft to smooth out the vibrations that are often associated with a pushrod-operated V6 engine. Although the original LeSabres drove the rear wheels, this LeSabre utilizes front-wheel drive, as do most other cars in the GM lineup.
BOB - Front-drive is the norm now, Matt, and it helps make the LeSabre very sure-footed on wet roads. The optional traction-control and standard anti-skid-brakes arew a plus in wet weather, too. The suspension on this '99 LeSabre has also become "traditional" on domestics, too, with independent struts and coil springs front and rear, with variable load stiffness in back. But even with the Gran Touring suspension upgrade, the car is not a sports model. The special springs and shock absorbers make it more pleasurable to drive, but didn't encourage us to toss it through high-speed turns. Acceleration, however, is surprisingly brisk. Despite its almost 3500 pounds of weight, our LeSabre hit zero to sixty in nine seconds and I'm sure that the optional 3:05 gear ratio from the performance package had a lot to do with achieving that number.
MATT - As a further indicator that the LeSabre is the archetypal "mature" driver's car, a bench seat up front is the only system available which makes it a true 6-seater. There's almost enough headroom for everyone inside to wear a top hat, with legroom to match. I wish LeSabre was offered with optional bucket seats up front for long trips because the bench doesn't offer much side support. The optional OnStar System would be a handy item, too, if the driver did much driving in unfamiliar areas. I liked the easy-to-use radio and climate controls on the steering wheel, but I found that the operation of the headlight controls took some getting used to.
BOB - For such a big car, fuel economy is a real positive factor, Matt. Our Gran Touring version got 19 mpg around town and 30 mpg on the open road. On the highway, its 18-gallon tank gives drivers a pretty good range between fuel stops, as long as they don't bury the accelerator at every opportunity. LeSabres use front disc and rear drum brakes with an anti-lock braking system, but I'd like to see at least one model offered with four-wheel discs, even if it's an option.
MATT - The LeSabre doesn't have the swoopy "modern" profile of some of its domestic competitors, but the numbers don't lie and the car outsells them all by a wide margin.
BOB - When we get older, Matt, striving for comfort makes a lot more sense than showing off to a bunch of kids at a drive-through restaurant.