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.
A couple of other small tech features endeared the car to us, including a digital compass built into the rearview mirror, as well as illuminating orange blinker arrows on the wing mirrors, which are far more useful in the dark than in the day. The windshield wipers also use GM's RainSense system to activate when a wet windshield is detected. We didn't test this system due to the fine weather we had while driving the car.
If there is a star feature in the 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS, it is the engine. While onboard tech and comfort are adequate, it's this car's 4.6-liter, 32-valve V-8 Northstar power plant that differentiates it from its 3.6-liter V-6 CX and CXL siblings (although the V-8 is offered as an option on the latter) and from other upper-middle-class sedans. It also goes some way to justifying its near-$40,000 price tag.
The 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS marks the first time GM has installed its flagship engine in anything less than a Cadillac, and with around 275 horsepower, the car has plenty of muscle. In a sign that GM is proud of this model, the parent company has placed a branded chrome GM badge on the front wing to let people know that this car comes from the General Motors stable.
Unsurprisingly, the Northstar is happiest on the freeway. After tailing a Jaguar X-Type on the way to San Jose, we prevailed upon the driver to cede the fast lane, and with 295 pound-feet of torque at 4,400rpm at our disposal, we saw him only once more--in the rearview mirror.
Around town, the 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS's V-8 is a tad lethargic, taking a while to make up its mind off the line and producing noticeable torque steer for those in a hurry. Also, with only a four-speed automatic transmission, flexibility at lower speeds is limited. Suspension and handling are both sound, enhanced respectively by Buick's magnetic ride control and StabiliTrak. However, a slight understeer had us stretching a couple of extra millimeters to change lanes in town.
From the cabin, the 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS is a quiet car: We recorded a reading of 65dB in highway driving at 60mph. Fuel economy, however, is less impressive. EPA gas mileage ratings for the V-8 are 17mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway, but we recorded an average of just 17.9mpg in a mixture of in-town and freeway driving. EPA air-pollution ratings for the V-8 are between 6 and 7 out of 10 (with 10 being the cleanest), as well as 6 out of 10 for the 3.6-liter V-6--not bad for a thirsty V-8.
An array of standard safety features and a solid design make the 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS a safe bet. Each Lucerne model comes with six air bags as standard, including roof-rail curtain air bags and a dual-depth front-passenger air bag that has two deployment settings, calibrated to the severity of an impact.
StabiliTrak's brake-assist feature senses emergency-braking situations and increases braking at each wheel as necessary. The Lucerne has a maximum five-star rating for driver and passenger frontal impact, five stars for rollover safety, and four stars for front- and rear-seat side impact.
The 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS comes with Buick's comprehensive four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, which includes corrosion coverage, roadside assistance, and courtesy transportation. Rust-through coverage is offered for six years with unlimited mileage.