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New Car/Review


by Tom Hagin


SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 26,114
     Price As Tested                                    $ 27,966
     Engine Type                            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                  110.8"/74.4"/200/8"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3462 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P215/60R16
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Six-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            19/30/24          
     0-60 MPH                                        8.2 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       16.9 seconds @ 83 mph
     Top speed (Est.)                                    107 mph

     * Sequential port fuel injection

The 1997 Buick LeSabre, Custom and Limited models, can be labeled "traditional" American full-sized sedans. They use front-wheel-drive, a V6 powerplant and can deliver as much as 30 miles per gallon.

They are also traditional in their 200-inch length, ultra-plush ride and soft, comfortable seating for six. Unfortunately, we couldn't muster a full compliment of riders for a ride into the city, but let's just say that with four inside, an intercom system would have been nice.

OUTSIDE - LeSabre enjoyed a major redesign just three years ago, but to freshen things somewhat, Buick added a new front fascia and has relocated the parking lights to the front bumper. The grille is also new, and is now affixed to the hood, which eliminates a large seam between it and the grille. The new halogen headlamps now use fixed lenses, so they can be aimed by adjusting the reflectors themselves, instead of moving the entire lens assemblies. This makes for a tighter, cleaner-looking fit, which compliments the quality finish work for which Buick is known. LeSabre is large and made completely of steel, and meets the federal government's dynamic side-impact standards, with plenty of protective crush resistance. Limited models come standard with handsome 15-inch aluminum wheels and P205/70R15 whitewall tires.

INSIDE - Things are plush inside, and new this year are two new interior color shades, upgraded cloth upholstery, new woodgrain on the dashboard, and new, easier-to-use safety belt releases. Both LeSabre models include such standard features as air conditioning, variable speed intermittent wipers, tilt-adjust steering column, rear window defogger, AM/FM stereo with four speakers and power windows. LeSabre Limited adds a cassette stereo, remote keyless entry, auto-dimming inside mirror, lighted vanity mirrors, a six-way power front seat and cruise control. All LeSabre models are equipped with six-passenger carrying capabilities, and there's plenty of room for all six to travel great distances in comfort. And with 17 cubic feet of trunk space, no cargo should be left behind.

ON THE ROAD - LeSabre comes standard with a 3.8 liter V6 engine, which delivers 205 horsepower and 230 lb-ft of torque. The engine is an old design, with roots dating back 30 years - though we have come away impressed with its performance. Lacking exotic overhead camshafts and multiple valves, it makes the best of such technology as port fuel injection, lightweight pistons, and engine accessories that are mounted directly to the engine block, which saves weight. The engine is mated to an electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission, which has proven itself many times in GM vehicles we've tested to give smooth, reliable shifting. With 0-60 times coming in at just below eight seconds, this full-sized vehicle accelerates nicely from a stop and pushes nicely during freeway cruises, yet it's stingy at the gas pump. Those are not usually claims that can be made by a six-passenger sedan.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - LeSabre's standard Dynaride suspension is soft, but the optional Gran Touring package adds recalibrated shocks and springs, variable-assist steering, special gearing, larger tires, and a host of convenience items. Be prepared, however, to trade some ride comfort with this optional handling package. Soft coil springs are at all four corners, and anti-roll bars front and rear keep the car relatively flat in corners. LeSabre delivers a safe and secure feeling on the road, but the standard tires, rather smallish 205/70-15 tires don't grip as well as the optional performance rubber. The suspension soaks up bumps well, with only the heaviest bumps and thumps caused by road irregularities finding their way into the cockpit. Stopping power is handled by front disc and rear drum brakes, with a four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) as standard equipment.

SAFETY - Besides its large, steel girth, LeSabre comes with dual airbags, ABS, side impact beams and optional traction control.

OPTIONS - The leather/vinyl seating adds $550, while the Grand Touring package is $512 extra. A CD player is $200, and traction control is a good buy at $175.