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It’s a difficult life, being a Buick. General Motors’ old-man brand has long represented mediocrity (and Boca Raton) in a way that few other marques have or could. Buicks were never meant to excite, they were never meant to impress, and they were rarely meant to keep you awake. It’s just the way of the world.
GM, apparently, is tired of this. (Funny: every time we get into a Buick, we simply grow tired, period.) And so we have the latest rash of Buicks–toothy-faced, chromed-up barges, meant to evoke class and GM’s postwar heyday in a brash-yet-elegant-yet-restrained manner. It’s not exactly the kind of thing that lights a fire in your shorts. Or prompts you to drool uncontrollably.
Thing is, though, that’s exactly what GM wants. The company views Buick as a home for quiet taste and subtle style, and has begun morphing the Buick lineup accordingly. For 2008, the Lucerne gains the corporate Buick nose, first introduced on the Velite show car in 2004, but it also gains a whole new sister model: the Lucerne Super. Buick’s new Super line (a Lacrosse Super is also offered, and the plan is to extend the philosophy across the Buick range) is meant to emphasize refined speed over brute force, delicacy over tire-shredding, and comfortable capability over racetrack-lapping prowess. Buick<and GM Performance Division head rock star John Heinricy, who oversaw all Super vehicle development<claim that a great deal of time was spent fine-tuning the Super program for maximum refinement rather than outright speed.
In Super form, the changes to the Lucerne are few. A 292-hp Northstar V-8 gets plugged into the ‘Cerne’s engine bay, along with modified Delphi Magnetic Ride Control dampers. Woven leather trim is applied to the Lucerne’s seating surfaces, and subtle trim modifications (dual exhausts, new rocker panels, unique wood trim and wheels, among other things) also join the party. It’s a little ironic that Buick’s premium large sedan doesn’t get the division’s largest and most powerful engine (the 5.3-liter, 300-hp, 323 lb-ft, small-block V-8), but we can’t really complain, given that the less expensive and much lighter LaCrosse Super *does* get it.
So there you have it. The Lucerne is a little different this year, a little faster, and a little more composed, but not much more interesting. We’re not excited, but then, we’re not planning on moving to Boca in another fifty years, either. At least all this seems like a step in the right direction: rather than continue pumping out endless bland with a healthy serving of bland on top, Buick is at least making an effort to be interesting. It’s just a shame that the Lucerne . . . well . . . isn’t.