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Review: 2002 Buick LeSabre Limited

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SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide

By The Car Family On The Car Place

Good: Plenty of interior storage, smooth transmission, energetic engine, and quality awards

Bad: Soft ride, pricing, exterior appearance.

The Big Picture

A great trivia question would be: What's the best selling full size car in America?

It would be a fairly safe bet that most people would not know that the Buick LeSabre holds that claim to fame.

Buick has mastered the feat of providing classic American values in terms of size, performance and quality. As a result, the LeSabre commands the top sales position despite repeatedly being ignored by the motoring press for "car of the year" honors. And it's for the same reason that movie critics' choices are not the box office winners. The professionals distain the bread and butter products in favor of those on the edge. In the case of cars, the writers don't have to live with a car for a long period of time.

For example, seats that might delight a car tester doing hard cornering might prove awful after hours stuck in traffic. A powerful engine might be fun for a week, but getting 15 mpg and having to refuel twice a week may make the joys of acceleration wear thin, especially when the insurance premium comes due.

So the bottom line for this category-leading LeSabre is essentially nothing new; just the way the Buick faithful have loved them for a 100 years. You get the old reliable 3.8-liter V6 and automatic transmission with anti-lock 4-wheel-disc brakes, front side airbags, traction control, and General Motors' OnStar assistance system. Popular options include an anti-skid system and Gran Touring Package with firmer suspension and 16-inch wheels. Because LeSabres are such great long distance touring cars, Buick is now offering them with an optional XM satellite radio that enables drivers to get clear reception in all areas, including theme stations and some non-commercial ones. Other than that, there is very little news for this front-wheel drive stalwart.

Mom's view We averaged about 20 mpg in the LeSabre and the engine was very cooperative. The transmission was marvelous, and the interior space generous. A very livable car with everything I could ask for, whether going to the store or across the state. I even liked the turn signal arrows mounted in the side mirrors once I got used to them.

As for the heads-up speed display that shows on the bottom of the driver's windshield, I think it is great. I love to know how fast I am going, especially in cars that are quiet and can lull you into thinking you are going the legal speed when you are significantly over the posted limit.

Another note to potential buyers is that by selecting the right options -- a front bench seat -- you can seat six in this model.

Of course, there are areas where improvements are needed. The suspension is floaty and just does not do a good job of providing a solid feel when cornering. I would definitely go with the upgraded suspension. The brakes worked well, but I want a little feel in the pedal. I did not like the tire noise and felt that the tires were not well matched to my driving style.

The dash gauges were well laid out, but the many auxiliary functions on the steering wheel could be confusing. The rear seat legroom was quite limited for such a large car. It is going to be a tight fit to have three adults in the rear seat.

Finally, the as-tested price of about $32,000 places this Buick in near-luxury territory with a lot of competitive, quality vehicles. I think the base price is okay at around $25,000 or less, but options can quickly add to that MSRP. You need to test drive the model you want with the various option groups to make sure you are getting what you want because there is almost a $10,000 difference between the base version and the Limited with all the options.

Dad's view At first, I did not like the LeSabre at all. It was cushy and leaned on corners taken at even moderate speeds. The 205-horsepower engine was adequate, but not awesome and the gas mileage, although rated at 20/29, never seemed to get near those figures. Of course, we were testing a new car that was barely broken in and so the mileage will improve somewhat for the 3,500-pound LeSabre.

After a few days the car started to grow on me. The engine had a nice growl when accelerating, the ride made my aching back feel much better, and the seat adjustments made it possible for me to get comfortable when the muscle relaxing pills were wearing off. I could see why this was a popular car. It just does everything you ask without any surprises.

I only had a few complaints about the LeSabre. First, the suspension is too soft. Secondly, the brakes need more feel. Next. the heating and air-conditioning controls could have been simplified and the wood-grained plastic panels weren't impressive for a car in this price range. The push buttons that controlled the driver's computer were easy to use, but you had to take your eyes off the road to find them, as they required a long reach.

The trunk needed a key to open. There wasn't the easy lever to pull that I like. There was also a small spare tire and the trunk lid hinges extended out into the usable space. Finally, the exterior appearance is too bland. The car needs some visual upgrading.

Overall, a pleasant driver that isn't at all pretentious as it provides a relaxing ride for those who have had enough surprises in their lives.

Teen-age male's view I quit my job. I cannot live on 20 hours a week. I am now a full-time, sort of, student. The classes are fairly boring, with teachers who read from their notes, forget where they left off, and are generally uninspiring. Despite these shortfalls, the classes are expensive. Still, I need them to go anywhere. That is my review of the Buick LaSabre and of my college: Boring, uninspiring, and needed by some.

Unemployed post-graduate woman's view Buick builds a quality car and this LeSabre is proof of that. Outside of its overall soft appearance, ride, and seats, you would be hard pressed to find a weakness in this car. Buick has got the ingredients right and is sticking with their pride and joy.

Personally, I like the Park Avenue much better with its supercharged engine, art deco type appearance, and gobs of standard features. With the LeSabre, almost everything is extra.

I tried the OnStar communication system again. Last time it didn't work well at all. This time I had to wait for an operator every time, but at least I got through. It is a worthwhile safety feature and makes me feel better when driving.

Family conference You can't argue with success and Buick and General Motors didn't in offering a LaSabre that is nearly identical to the one they have been producing for years. It does almost everything well.