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2006 Buick Lucerne CXL Long-term Review


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#1

Paolino

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 10:45 PM

2006 Buick Lucerne CXL V6 Long-Term Review


Pros:
  • Quiet
  • Roomy
  • Numerous premium features
  • Economical for size
Cons:
  • Build quality
  • 3800 Launch note
When my father retired in 2005, he was looking for something to replace both of his cars, a 1994 Buick Century and a 1992 Buick LeSabre Limited. Being both my parents were retired, they anticipated getting along fine on just one car. Something you should know about my parents: they’re very simple; they do not like gadgets and gizmos and shy away from them. My mother is the typical Italian mom who sits behind the steering wheel of a big car with the AM radio tuned to one speaker, because she grabbed the balance knob when adjusting the volume, and the fade when adjusting the station.

After testing several GM cars including a 2006 Impala LS, they settled on a 2006 Hyundai Sonata GLS V6. They disliked the four cylinder at the time because it was weak, loud and after testing the 3.3L V6 with 5-speed auto, they were sold. After all, 235hp/226ft-lb was quite a jump from the 170hp/225ft-lb of their Series I 3800 V6 of the LeSabre and 160hp/185ft-lb from the 3100 of the Century, both with 4-speed automatics.

It wasn’t long after owning the Hyundai that they noticed two problems: Firstly, they felt and heard everything. EVERYTHING. Ant hills were now speed bumps. Conversations had to be spoken at a louder volume. Secondly, they simply needed a second car.

They missed their Buick. Enter the 2006 Buick Lucerne CXL with a Series III 3800 V6 and 4-speed auto. Large, quiet, conservative, and smooth. And with a ton of gadgets for them to complain about (they would have rather had a CX but they caught a bargain as Buick was trying to push these at the time).

I’ve driven both cars several times for lengthy drives. The Buick does what it’s supposed to do which is provide a quiet, calm and serene environment for the driver and passengers. The car is built to be a cruiser. And it does it well.. I’ve achieved 32mpg on the highway, which isn’t bad for an out-dated 4-speed automatic and a car that’s 203.4” long.

What disappoints me is the build quality of the Lucerne. The car currently has 75,750 miles on it, and so many things have broken down. Moulding around the doors has had to be replaced. The headliner is peeling away near the windshield. The engine mounts have been replaced. Currently the driver-side door panel is coming off. The plastic cover near the hood release is falling off. The carpet is pulling up in the back near the passenger-side door. There are so many rattles when driving. The bass on the radio (which truly isn’t up to par with the stereo in the Hyundai), rattles the doors. The plastics in the car are all hard, and some of them push in when touched (for example, near the radio and near the light controls). The stitching on the steering wheel is fraying slightly.

Honestly, I’d love to own one of these as I’ve always been a big-quiet-car type of guy, but the build quality dissuades me. I would love to own a premium car, but with things constantly broken down, I’d never feel like I was in one.
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#2

daves87rs

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 10:55 PM

Oh, the issues D ham had when these first came out......


From what little I can say here, I would really avoid the early Lucernes. The later ones won't display the same issues the early ones had. Some even had powertrain issues....

And the issues came from many angles....much of it supplier side. Never saw a launch as bad as this one....
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#3

Paolino

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 11:11 PM

Oh, the issues D ham had when these first came out......


From what little I can say here, I would really avoid the early Lucernes. The later ones won't display the same issues the early ones had. Some even had powertrain issues....

And the issues came from many angles....much of it supplier side. Never saw a launch as bad as this one....

I honestly didn't hear of anyone else having these problems either. One little detail about the 3800 that annoys me.. it's a premium vehicle, yet the grunt at launch (literally from 0-10 mph) is loud, intrusive and vibrates the steering wheel a tad. It just isn't as smooth as other V6's I've driven, Hyundai included.

Oldsmoboi even suggested I try a 2009 with the 3900 V6. He told me that grunt at start won't be there. But truthfully, the quality part really concerns me. I mean, every last inch of this car is falling apart in some way! As for the headliner, the Buick dealer said their only solution they've been given is to put this gaudy/thick piece of moulding at the edge where it meets the windshield. That's ridiculous.
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#4

black-knight

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 11:14 PM

Nice simple review. Great job.

It isn't just your parents Lucerne that's suffering from questionable interior build quality; my parents Aura isn't holding up the best these days either.

For example, the Aura has an annoying and rather useless pop-out trinket bin below the dimmer switch. All of the later Epsilon cars have them, but on the G6 and Malibu you have to pull them out of the dash to use them, whereas on the Aura you'd push on it. I don't understand why they decided to make it worse for the Aura, but if you have tall knees you'll occasionally bump the stupid thing exiting the car and it'll flop out of the dashboard. Well, my parents took their Aura to Tire Discounters to have the tires replaced at around 68,000 miles and the dude who put the tires on got in the car to move it, got out of it and accidentally brushed the damn thing. He forgot it was left down, got back in it, and slammed it with his knee so hard it broke off. It's now jammed in place in the dashboard because the part isn't easy to find.

Other than that, all of the soft-touch interior paint on high-traffic areas like the door pulls is coming off, the seat fabric is somehow creased in unnatural ways, and none of the speakers on the front left side of the car work. The gauges like to twitch when you shut the car off, the glovebox squeaks, and the A/C blower chatters like a homicidal chipmunk on speeds one and two. The car only has less than 75,000 miles.

Rest easy, I'm not trying to turn this thread into a personal bitchfest, but I really wish the old GM had just spent the few extra cents they wasted on stupid things — like a trinket bin you'll never use because nothing fits in it — on generally better build quality instead.

Edited by black-knight, 12 April 2012 - 11:19 PM.

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#5

Paolino

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 11:27 PM

Thanks black-knight.

I can only hope these things don't plague newer GM cars, but after the few I've been in, they seem pretty solid inside-out.

It's funny you mention that little cubby... I use the one in the Sonata for change. Other than that, I can't fathom what you could put in there.

As for the mechanic breaking off that cubby door--I did something similar in the Lucerne. The light/dimmer switch sticks out a good deal. I got in before putting the seat back and bashed my knee in pushing the whole dimmer switch inside the dash. Fortunately I was able to fish it out and since springs were attached, I popped it back, but it feels very loose now. Thankfully it's not something you touch often since they're automatic.
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#6

Cubical-aka-Moltar

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 11:32 PM

I could see using a cubby like that to put my office parking garage swipe card or coins for tolls (but the toll roads I'd most likely use have EZ-Pass, so that is moot). I use the dash 'ash tray' thingie for my swipe card..
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#7

ocnblu

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 06:09 AM

2011 HHR I'm using as a company car is a total rattle trap at 31k miles. It has the Delta rattle in the steering column. When braking, it makes the same noise my Cobalt made when it had another broken wheel stud (a problem I attributed to the aftermarket rims I had on the Cobalt, but alas...), and when cold, the shifter is horribly stiff and creaky (I'm thinking maybe somebody spilled a sugary drink into the shifter at some point, but then again, when the interior is hot from sitting in the sun, it works smoothly and quietly like it should, so it's more likely just a junky mechanism). Plus, the whole car is a cacophony of looseness and rattles.

This after first coming out of a 2011 Impala that was quiet and smooth, but had the W-body clunk in the steering. After the Impala I had a 2010 Sentra and a 2011 Versa... both of which happened to feel more refined and better put together than this HHR. Shame.

Edited by ocnblu, 13 April 2012 - 06:11 AM.

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#8

vonVeezelsnider

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 09:51 AM

Having been exposed to a lot of that ilk of GM Vehicles in the last five years or so (Cobalt, G5, Malibu, Impala... Epsilon, Delta, and W-) I think I can inject a thing or two as I am noticing some interesting patterns here. With regards to build quality (things holding up) and especially rattles which are a pet peeve of mine.

Malibu Maxx (2006, Epsilon 1) - 46000mi currently
-Like BK said, the stupid small storage cubby beside the steering wheel. Barely big enough to hold a bluetooth headset and after a while it has trouble staying shut.
-I am very familiar with the "homicidal chipmunk noise" coming from the blower motor at speeds one and two as it is happening on our Malibu right now.
-It's on it's fourth intermediate steering shaft, and a set of front strut mounts already
-The rear skylight never stops rattling
-The headliner isn't strong enough in its fastening to bear the weight of the dome light and so it rattles
-The rear seat frame rattles quite loudly
-Paint is peeling off the radio buttons
-Rear cargo cover rattles loudly (I semi-fixed this one using cloth tape along the mounting tracks)
-Basically a pain in the ass to drive, so many different rattles all going at the same time that it's actually an aggravating experience that I avoid if at all possible. I don't understand how my mom is able to live with it.

G5 and Cobalt (2007 and 2008, Delta 1) - 35000mi before sold
-Once again like BK said the "satin metallic" paint on the window switch bezel
-Like blu mentioned, they both had the steering column rattle which is even more annoying in cold weather when it's louder and more frequent due to the condition of the roads
-Passenger door panel loosened up and creaked when any weight, even just as an armrest during driving, was put on it
-The window switch on the left rear door of BOTH cars would intermittently fail and could only be fixed by slamming the door shut from the inside with my finger putting the switch in the window-down position
-Like blu mentioned about the HHR the shifter mechanism (in this case an Automatic) was really stiff in cold weather (and squeaky/creaky)
-Everything did feel like it had loosened up over time.

Impala (2007 and 2009, W-Body) - just under 60000mi on 2007, just over 32000mi on 2009
-Compared to the other two these cars are an absolute treat as they have both are almost completely problem free
-Both cars have had the rotors warp a bit so that under higher speed or downhill braking you get a little feedback. Only a matter of turning the rotors occasionally so not a big deal.
-Neither cars had the all too common clunk noise although my 2007 is developing a very slight popping/tapping noise/sensation from the steering column during low speed driving & turning that I suspect is I-Shaft related. I'm taking it in on Monday to see if I can get it covered on my GMPP before it expires.
-Both cars have been pretty much rattle free. The only two consistent problems have been on my 2007, one is the trim between the window and the dashpad rattling, but I figured out that is happening because the cheaper plastic expands and contracts; when it expands is rubs against the A-Pillar trim making that noise. I put some felt tape around the bottoms of the A-Pillar trim and the friction problem went away. The other one was a minor rattle coming from the door lock assembly which loosened up in the driver's side door over time. They tightened it three years ago and the problem went away but now it seems to have loosened up again. When the warranty expires I'm going to take the door panel off and tighten it again, and replace the clips that hold the panel in- that should take care of that.

On the whole though I'd say my brother's 2003 Regal has held up better to nine years of service than the Malibu has to six years of service and much fewer miles. The Regal probably needs an I-Shaft at some point as it is clunking, and potentially some new struts/mounts as the current ones are showing their age, but that's to be expected at this point. Beyond that the car is rattle and noise free, tight as a drum considering its age. None of the little nitpicky issues the Malibu has had. There is seriously no excuse for how horrible every part of that car has worn. A lot of Epsilon 1 have the same problems all over the place and as a result I don't think I could recommend a G6, Aura, or both Epsilon 1 generations of the Malibu to anyone that I didn't wish ill upon. I'll swear by the W-Body as quite honestly it's proven itself to be on the whole a much more durable car if a more chintzy one in the materials department than the Malibu.

For example, the Aura has an annoying and rather useless pop-out trinket bin below the dimmer switch.

Other than that, all of the soft-touch interior paint on high-traffic areas like the door pulls is coming off,


the A/C blower chatters like a homicidal chipmunk on speeds one and two. The car only has less than 75,000 miles.


It has the Delta rattle in the steering column.

and when cold, the shifter is horribly stiff and creaky (I'm thinking maybe somebody spilled a sugary drink into the shifter at some point, but then again, when the interior is hot from sitting in the sun, it works smoothly and quietly like it should, so it's more likely just a junky mechanism).

Plus, the whole car is a cacophony of looseness and rattles.

This after first coming out of a 2011 Impala that was quiet and smooth, but had the W-body clunk in the steering.


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#9

daves87rs

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 10:52 PM

Simply put, you guys are seeing the "cost savings" GM used before the whole "new GM thing" People don't realize just how bad things really were, and how well they hid it....and I've been seeing it more and more in the last year or so.

I do know more than I'm telling, but I don't want to put jobs at stake either. Anybody who had to suffer during the down slide could fill you in more.... For example, some of the people who called the Cobalt a "piece of s***" and "how did this get through" weren't joking. Why do you think GM left the delta platform un-updated for YEARS? GM could only afford to do a few at a time.....

That said, as I watch my Cobalt age, it's kinda sad. My two Cavaliers are holding up better (minus the rust on the 03) better than the Balt. It's sad to see that the car feels worn at 50k...and it shouldn't. Since I plan to keep it as a beater anyways, I'll do the needed updates, and she should be better. My issues with the Balt, and friends with the same issues with Deltas too (G5, Ion) have pretty much turned me off from cars from this era (2004-2009). Not sure I'd buy another unless it was a good deal. Granted, there are expections (2008+ Malibu and others), but it just seems these cars are not aging well.

Even though cars like the Cruze are worlds better than those cars, it has made me pause and think.....Of course, I have not given up on GM, and still love the Cruze enough to give it a try.
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#10

SAmadei

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 01:08 AM

It seemed to me that any major update GMNA did between 2000 and 2006 was problematic. I'm glad mom love her 2004 GP GTP... 'cause I don't.

Honestly, the only cars made during the '00s I'd buy would be the F-bods (holdover from the previous decade), pre-2004 W-bodies and GTO/G8 (designed and built by Holden).
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#11

ocnblu

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 04:24 AM

The Delta I vehicles are a great engine and transmission in search of a decent home. I always liked the looks of the HHR, and almost bought one on a few occasions. Now I'm happy I dodged that bullet. I liked my Cobalt, but then again I only had it 18 months.

It is absolutely imperative that the Delta II cars hold up better than their forebears.
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#12

hyperv6

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 12:44 PM

I had a Lucerne In California for a week. The guy at the rental wanted to put me in a Camry but I asked for an American car. He looked at me like I was crazy. The car I had was a good car but it also was new. the compass was not even set till I did the circles in John Forces shop parking lot. John was there and I think he thought I lost it will I told him what I was doing.

The car hauled 5 of us well around So Cal. I had several runs from San Deigo to LA in that week most were at 90 MPH to keep up with traffic. The only thing I noted was the car was starting to feel old. I think it was the fact that it was an new car with an old design and having driven newer designed cars it was showing its age. I would like to see GM do a RWD car of near this size for Buick to kind of take the place of the XTC when it is replaced with the RWD Flagship at Cadillac. Lets face it the Cadillacs will get more and more expensive as they update with better product and this will give Buick more room.

As for quality. All the cars GM designed pre Present Malibu are all suffering from the lack of development money and higher quality materials. I saw it in my SSEI, my GTP and in my present HHR. Lots of cheap interior plastics and they just never took needed efforts to finsih these cars right. Most had the money put in the drivetrain but little was left when they got to the interior. The F bodfather himself said on the F bodies he wanted to do a better interior but just was never given the funding to do more than a great drivetrain and Chassis. He said by the time they got to the interior pennys were pinched.

Now My HHR even with the SS suspension is not a rattle trap but I also took the time to address where the plastic in some places crash together. So for the most part it sounds great yet. A better interior material would have made a difference. My GTP was just cheap feeling and was it ever a noisey car. It sounded like toys in a toy box inside. lots of thunks and clunks. It was like that from new.

Now my 08 Malibu sounds and rides very quiet and the new Terrain is almost Rolls Royce like compared to the GTP. It rides well, quiet and the interior feels much more high grade. It also still has a very stable suspension but does not jar a filling lose. GM has finally learned to leave a little spring out and improve the dampers like most Euro cars do. Even my HHR has a higher quality Sachs damper on it thanks to the guys at the GMPD.

Todays new GM cars are a leap over anything over the last 20 years in all areas. As we see the new platforms we will see major jumps to come.

Anyways nice write up!!
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#13

daves87rs

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 07:56 PM

Good point hyper....
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#14

riviera74

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 09:25 PM

Hyper, I could not agree more. It is an open secret that GM skimped on interiors for several years and it took BK for them to reset and put actual money in the interiors. I have a 1999 Park Avenue Ultra and that interior is just as cheap as a same MY Bonneville. I have seen in person what the new interiors are in all the new Buicks and I have said, "It's about time they finally upgraded these!" As for a RWD flagship for Buick, I am in even greater agreement, with one slight caveat: the new XTS should be a replacement for the Buick Lucerne (even as a transition to a new RWD car), not a Cadillac. I guess that this 2006 Lucerne sounds a lot like a poorly aging LeSabre/Park Avenue in some respects since it is the FINAL FWD G-body car (1985-2011).
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#15

hyperv6

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 06:57 AM

One thing too we all need to consider here is the Lutz factor.

While it was a while ago that Bob come in he was only able to work with some of what they had. Adding Chome to the surrounds of the window frames and improving interiors with some material qualities were a start.

Most of what Bob did will be seen in the new cars and trucks yet to come. The new products were built under new rules he put in effect on how GM can and should build cars. With the new hard points they are able to do things they could not fix on the older cars. Quailty should imporve with better fit and finish. Styling will be better with no silly wheel well rules and other things on what you can or can't do on a car.

If anyone has not read Bob's book to really understand where GM is going and what they are now able to do you need to read it. It will give you a much better idea of how things will change and why they did not change sooner. Between his book and hearing from the people at GM I know they have a new way of doing things but it will take platform changes to reach some of these goals.

The Lucerne was an example of Bob improving a vehicle that pretty much was in place on a old platform at GM. With the hard points he was locked in on many things he still wanted to change. We will see much more in the future and it will be due to the changes he brought. The designers and engineers are now enabled to do what they can do and do not have to be told to fix the issues. In the past they could not do anything with out being told.
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#16

balthazar

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 09:54 AM

Dad has a Lucerne, He's had no issues that I know of, and has also gotten over 30 on the highway. I drove it 1 time for a decent trip, it's much like Paulie said- quiet, soft, serene, a cruiser.
But it's far too overstuffed for my liking. The interior room is very nice tho.
I will get a report on issues, quality, miles from Dad & update here.
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#17

SAmadei

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 01:40 PM

My gripes with the cars significantly overhauled between 2000-2006 has nothing to do with interior materials, its all on parts holding up. Luckily, the drivetrains seem fine, but the brakes, wheel bearings, window trim, interior leaks, squeaks, clunks, rattles are nuts. Ergonomics are my second gripe... when a 2004 GP is over an inch taller than a 2003, but has like 4 inches less headroom.
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#18

balthazar

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 04:37 PM

To that last point; cars have been getting taller with seemingly tighter interiors. Blame insulation, thickened cage edges, more laid-back windshields.... not moving forward in my book.
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#19

ocnblu

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 04:42 PM

More like bunkers, less like fun.

Case in point, and three excellent examples: the modern pony cars. Park them each next to their inspirators, all small, low beltline, potentially nimble scrappers, compared to now... middle age spread indeed.

Edited by ocnblu, 15 April 2012 - 04:42 PM.

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#20

Paolino

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 06:40 PM

Dad has a Lucerne, He's had no issues that I know of, and has also gotten over 30 on the highway. I drove it 1 time for a decent trip, it's much like Paulie said- quiet, soft, serene, a cruiser.
But it's far too overstuffed for my liking. The interior room is very nice tho.
I will get a report on issues, quality, miles from Dad & update here.

What year/trim?
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