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New Car/Review


Buick LeSabre Custom (2002)

SEE ALSO: Buick Buyer's Guide

by Brendan Hagin and Mikele Schappell-Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 24,975
     Price As Tested                                    $ 26,714
     Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     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                                     3589 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P225/60R16         

     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Six-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            19/30/24
     0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                                  16.5 @ 86.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           105 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

BRENDAN - Your dad is a devoted, dyed-in-the-wool GM man. He's never strayed from the General Motors flock and he always buys one of their cars when it's time for a new vehicle. Among other GM products, he owned a problem-free black 1988 Buick LeSabre. On a recent GM trip to Detroit to check out the new GM vehicles, we were transported from the airport to a hotel in a new Buick, and he said that it might not be a bad idea to own a new one. The new 2002 Buick LeSabre is almost the top-of-the- line and its one of the four four-door sedans that comprise the Buick lineup. While lots of other full-sized cars are grabbing the automotive headlines with high-tech mechanicals and avant-garde styling, the LeSabre outsells all of them. For nine straight years, it's been the best-selling car in its class and judging by its current acceptance, it could easily go on this way for another decade of the same success.

MIKELE - The LeSabre Custom that we tried is short on razzle-dazzle features but over the years, it's stuck with proven mechanical items and the engineering at GM has been refining them for decades. The newest LeSabre powerplant is the venerable 3.8-liter V6 engine that was in the Buick Dad bought 13 years ago. It only develops 205 horsepower with 230-pound feet of torque which is not a lot for a car that weighs 3500 pounds, but it's not the kind of car that is used in stoplight drag racing. It trades sparkling performance for fuel economy and this relatively big car get 19 miles per gallon and an astonishing 30 on the highway. My grandmother has an older Buick LeSabre that she loves and uses to drive around in with her church pals. I know that they'd appreciate cruising in this new model. She does her own driving and she'd no doubt be impressed with the smoothness of its four-speed electronically controlled automatic. Its shifts are so seamless that she probably wouldn't even know that they're happening.

BRENDAN - Driving this new LeSabre is best described an uneventful and uninspiring. It's kind of like comfortable furniture that you're unaware of using. It's as quiet on the road as any car we've ever been asked to evaluate and it's a pleasure to drive around town or on the highway. In the old-time domestic car tradition, there's room for three people up front and in the rear, but the rear was a little tight, with not quite enough foot room unless the front seats are pulled up pretty far. The LeSabre rear seatback has a pass-through from its trunk so that a couple of bags of golf clubs can been carried inside. Buick seems to be big on golf since its successful advertising campaign features Tiger Woods as the spokesman.

MIKELE - The LeSabre Custom has a great number of standard features. Cruise control, automatic daytime running lamps, battery rundown protection, a power eight-way driver's seat, programmable remote keyless entry, power remote outside rearview mirrors, power windows and door locks are all standard and so is air conditioning. It comes equipped with all the trimmings and more.

BRENDAN - Mikele, you forgot to mention the AM/FM cassette radio, PASSKey III theft-deterrent system, and power trunk lock release with valet lockout. The exterior of the LeSabre is a lot different from your grandmother's Buick. Her's has those vintage sharp lines that make it look like three rectangular boxes stuck together. But the new LeSabre has smooth lines that give it a look that is on par with some of the expensive European sedans. It has safety items like driver and right front passenger air bags and seat-mounted side-impact air bags, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, child seat anchors, and rear child security door locks. It also is a large vehicle in most regards, so you feel safe when you're behind the wheel. I some cases, bigger really is better. The average age of a buyer of a new Buick is something over 60, I'm told. For the money, I think that a lot of us younger folks are missing out on big cars that are comfortable, reliable and economical. We don't always have to be in a hurry to get where we're going.

MIKELE - I never thought I'd hear you say that, Bren. Maybe we're closer to 60 than we thought.