The 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS is not at all bad for a Buick. The top-of-the-range model (it also comes in CX and CXL versions) is spacious, with leather seats and a range of climate-control options, making for a comfortable ride. Technology features on our test model were numerous and usable. Harman Kardon's audio system with MP3 CD compatibility, auxiliary input, and satellite radio was the most impressive cabin feature, but others such as climate control, heated seats, reverse-parking assistance, and optional touch-screen navigation added to the car's luxury feel.
The 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS looks good from the outside, with sleek lines, chrome detailing, and handsome 17-inch alloy wheels. Nor is its beauty skin deep: GM's V-8 Northstar gives the CXS boasting rights on the parking lot and the performance to back them up in the fast lane. On the downside, Buick could have done better with cabin fixtures, and the four-gear automatic limits in-town performance.
The base price for the 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS is $34,265. Our test car came with the Driver Confidence Package ($595), heated and cooled front seats ($500), a six-disc MP3 CD player ($100), and Premium Paint ($995). With a destination charge of $725, the total ticket price was $37,480.
Buick touts the 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS as the ultimate combination of elegance and innovation--but it isn't. However, having dispensed with the hyperbole, there is a range of comfort and tech features that makes this car stand out from the crowd--and head and shoulders above Buick's regular stripped-down offerings. Perforated leather seats with temperature control and electric lumbar support welcome the CXS driver to the cabin, and interior chrome accents and a leather-bound steering wheel go some way to mitigating the tacky faux walnut on the dash and the center console.
Two options for seat heating and three levels of seat cooling offer more than adequate allowance for different seasons. The coldest setting felt as if we were sitting on ice cream--effective, if a little disconcerting. Dual-zone climate control allows the driver and the front passenger to have some autonomy over their respective temperatures but is obviously limited by shared airspace; the in-seat controls are the only way of ensuring a truly personalized temperature.
A turn of the ignition key launches the 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS's driver information center (DIC), the car's main instrumentation interface. Our test model didn't come with the optional DVD-based touch-screen navigation system, which we would have liked to try. The DIC's dot-matrix LCD occupies the bottom half of the speedometer and is controlled by four buttons to the right of the steering wheel. Using these buttons, you can set the display as an odometer or a tripometer or to provide information on the Lucerne's average and instant fuel economy, as well as data from GM's oil life and tire-pressure monitoring systems.
The DIC can also be used to activate and deactivate the ultrasonic rear-parking-assist system, which uses a color-coded light meter situated on the lip of the parcel shelf, along with a series of beeps to alert the driver to obstacles when reversing. We found the meter to be well placed and useful for gauging decreasing proximity to obstacles. One complaint that we have is that the lights are difficult to make out in bright sunlight--a criticism we also had of the main gauges in the instrument panel, which are a washed-out gray rather than white.
Harman Kardon's nine-speaker, 280-watt audio system comes standard on the 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS and delivers solid but not outstanding sound quality at all ranges up to half volume, after which it starts to get noisy. In an unofficial barometer of onboard acoustics, we found that when cranking up the sound, the image in the rearview mirror distorted, due to vibrations before the bass distorted. The system offered an array of audio-source options, including XM Satellite Radio, MP3 compatibility (both discs and portable players via an auxiliary input), a six-disc CD changer, and AM/ FM radio.
Navigation of MP3 files is intuitive via buttons and a dial on the stack, and ID3 tags are accessible at the touch of a button. For XM Satellite Radio tracks, the stereo's LCD provides impressive data points such as channel, song, artist, and category.
Despite the ease of use via the 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS's head unit, we had more difficulty getting around the audio system using the controls mounted on the steering wheel, which allowed us only to skip forward, and required a deal of wrist action to adjust the volume via paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. Another button on the steering wheel acts as a voice controller when communicating via GM's OnStar telematics service (one year's Directions and Connections package comes standard on all Lucerne models), as well as a mute button for the stereo the rest of the time. Although an in-dash navigation system is an option, Buick relies on the OnStar service for navigation and phone connectivity. The disadvantage of OnStar over Bluetooth cell phone integration is that the car needs its own telephone number.