We just got back from a spin in the 2006 Buick Lucerne CXS, and we must confess to being pleasantly surprised by our first impressions. It appears that GM has done a lot of thinking for the launch of this top-of-the-range model, resulting in a car that delivers robust performance with an impressive array of tech options for a U.S. manufacturer.
An LCD dot-matrix display integrated into the instrument panel welcomed us to the cabin when we turned the key--a pretty cool feature--and doubled as a tripometer, a tachometer, and an information panel for engine diagnostics such as oil life. The display also gave information on the Lucerne's ultrasonic rear-parking-assist system, which lets drivers know when they are about to back into something solid.
Having set our perforated leather seats to Cool mode for a drive in the San Francisco sun (there are also two separate heating options), we popped an MP3 disc into the Harman Kardon stereo, cranked up the sound, and set off to put the Lucerne through its paces. As well as the MP3 functionality, which displayed track, artist, and album information and allowed us to navigate easily between them, the stereo offered XM Satellite Radio and sounded good way past the halfway volume mark, although the bass was a touch feeble. The head unit also had an auxiliary input port for hookup with personal MP3 players.
Other features on the Buick that exceeded our tech-spectations were Rainsense II, a system that monitors moisture build-up on the windshield and automatically operates the wipers when needed (although we didn't get to test this); a digital compass built into the rearview mirror; and illuminating orange blinker arrows on the wing mirrors. GM's OnStar comes standard on all 2006 Lucerne models, and a Rainier GPS/DVD touch-screen navigation system is available on the CXS as part of its optional entertainment package.
The 2006 Lucerne CXS looks sleek, with flowing lines, slightly flared rear-wheel arches, and 18-inch alloy wheels. The sedan's muscular Northstar V-8 responded promptly when goaded into action, purring away with the promise of plenty more in reserve.
On the downside, we found the interior fixtures to be very plastic and a bit tacky for our liking--no doubt, they are durable and stain resistant, but functionality has its price. So does the 2006 Lucerne CXS: With options, it will set you back just south of $40,000.