SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 26,695 Price As Tested $ 29,420 Engine Type OHV 12-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SPFI* Engine Size 231 cid/3791 cc Horsepower 205 @ 5200 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 230 @ 4000 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 112.2"/73.5"/200.0" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 3627 pounds Fuel Capacity 18.5 gallons Tires (F/R) P225/60R16 touring tires Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content N/A 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 (E.T.) 17.0 seconds @ 86.0 mph Top-speed 105 mph * Sequential port fuel injection
It must be hard to be a category leader and not have anyone know about it. In case you too didn't know, the Buick LeSabre is the best- selling full-sized car in America for the seventh year in a row.
And those were sales with the old model. For 2000, a new LeSabre has hit the streets with improvements all around. It's available in Custom and top-line Limited, the basis of this week's evaluation.
OUTSIDE - The car looks quite similar to the model it replaces. The reason is that Buick claims that more than 50 percent of LeSabre buyers return for the same car, and that those buyers are less likely to accept radical changes. LeSabre's smooth contours and rounded corners won't win any design awards but it has stout, muscular lines that the other workhorse sedans in GM's lineup just don't have. Based on a modular platform shared by other GM sedans, the new LeSabre has a longer wheelbase (by 1.4 inches), a wider track (up 1.9 inches) and is stiffer in both twisting (62 percent) and bending (27 percent). While most of the car is painted the same color, a small amount of black trim separates the side windows and a bit of chrome trim is applied to the tail and roof lines. Custom models get standard wheelcovers and tires, while Limited models get alloy wheels and a Grand Touring package adds 16-inch wheels and performance tires.
INSIDE - Improvements to the way Buick pre-assembles its interiors have reduced the risk of squeaks and rattles. A cast magnesium beam behind the instrument panel is connected to the rest of the body structure, making it and everything mounted to it stronger. Its interior is pretty much classic GM, which means that the upholstery is soft and comfortable, The seats are wide and noises from outside are well muted. The back seat is roomy enough for three-across seating, with only the center rear passenger having a slight room disadvantage. Buick does a good job of packaging lots of standard equipment into the Le Sabre. Where many of its import-brand competitors charge for extras such as remote keyless entry, cruise control and power mirrors, those items come standard on the base Custom model. Our test machine, the Limited, also featured no-cost extras like auto-dimming and heated rearview mirrors, a 10-way power driver's seat, programmable keyless entry and a six-speaker stereo system.
ON THE ROAD - LeSabre uses GM's corporate workhorse in the powertrain. It's a 3.8 liter V6 that produces 205 horsepower and 230 lb-ft of torque. This iron engine has been in production since 1991, and it forgoes fancy overhead cams and multiple valves for old-fashioned pushrods and two valves per cylinder. Powering everything from GM minivans to sedans under various brands, this veteran design has been thoroughly modernized with sequential port fuel injection, a stiffer motor mount and improved crankshaft dampers to reduce vibrations plus a quieter exhaust system. A smooth-shifting and seemingly bulletproof four-speed automatic transmission is the sole gearbox available, while LeSabre's equipped with the optional Gran Touring package get a higher axle ratio for better freeway cruising. Traction control is optional.
BEHIND THE WHEEL - Stiffer undercarriages are the auto industry's targets these days, which means that less twisting and bending by the chassis allows the builders to tune the suspension for a smooth, well-controlled ride. The suspension pieces are straight-forward on the Le Sabre with MacPherson struts up front and semi-trailing arms in back. While a front stabilizer bar is standard, the Gran Touring option increases the diameter of the front bar, adds another bar to the rear, stiffens the spring rate and adds sticky P225/60R16 tires for much better grip in corners. Four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) are standard.
SAFETY - Dual dashboard and side-impact airbags, ABS and daytime running headlamps are standard; traction control is optional.
OPTIONS - Prestige Options Package: $715; Leather seating: $735; Heated front seats: $260; Gran Touring Package: $185; Memory seats: $145; convenience console: $70. Destination charge: $615.