• Mar 9, 2006

It’s our hope that any page referring to GM’s interior design during the last twenty-five years be ripped out of the annals of automotive history. It’s time for the General to begin a new chapter on interiors. Gone are the gaps, cheap plastic and oversized cartoon buttons that have been the company's unfortunate trademark for so long. The Lucerne’s dash has been designed with the same restraint and minimalism as its exterior, with a focus more on quality of materials, ergonomics and fit and finish. And it seems GM has emptied out its old parts bin and refilled it with new pieces, as some of the Lucerne’s switchgear can also be found in the new 2007 Chevy Tahoe.

The Lucerne’s interior design is as large a leap forward for Buick as the exterior design, but we’re not ready yet to anoint GM the 'King of Cockpits.' Read on to see where the Lucerne’s cabin rewrites the book on GM interiors and where it refers back to previous passages.



At first the Lucerne’s dash was a welcome sight after the blitzkrieg of buttons we encountered in Land Rover’s Range Rover Sport. Again we see the austerity of the vehicle’s exterior design transferred to the dash, as flush surfaces appear shrink-wrapped around simple shapes.



The driver’s first job upon entering the Lucerne is to settle into the leather-appointed driver’s seat and order up one of three heat settings for the back, bum or both. The seats in our CXS also cool by blasting cold air through their custom perforated leather. Heated and cooled seats are a hefty $500 option, but our butts are fast becoming addicted to the guilty pleasure, and memory settings for two drivers assures that the Lucerne will never forget how you like your rear catered to.



The Luxury Package on our tester also includes 8-way power adjustments and 4-way power adjustable lumbar support for the front seats. Despite the extra control, it was difficult to find a comfortable seating position in the Lucerne. The somewhat firm seat cushions, combined with a lack of bolstering made us feel like we were sitting on the seats, not in them.



Look up, and driver's eyes are greeted by a simple dash design that’s straightforward and to the point. The audio and HVAC controls cohabit a squarish black expanse that stands out in a sea of beige plastic and wood appliqué. The controls are very European in design, featuring predominantly flush buttons that offer fingertips soft feedback when pushed. Three large dials to control the stereo’s volume, fan speed and vent control rotate easily and also feature dampened clicks to track their progress. These large dials are wrapped with soft, high friction rubber that feels expensive and makes a good first impression on the vehicle’s operator.



One will also find faux wood growing in the gauge cluster where the tach, speedo and coolant/fuel dials reside. At a quick glance, the gauges look like an old clock on your grandmother’s mantle, but this is still a Buick, after all. The large white-on-black speedo is visible through the frame of a new steering wheel that is pure vanilla in flavor and features new cruise control and remote audio switchgear also shared with the 2007 Chevy Tahoe. The door locks and power window pieces also come from the new GM parts bin and not only feel better than the old switchgear, but operate better, as well.



While we were initially impressed with the straightforward dash design of the Lucerne, that impression quickly retreated and was replaced with a sense of ennui. Buick’s aren’t supposed to get all up in your grille with their appointments, but we found ourselves bored while sitting in the driver’s seat of ths $37K automobile. Thankfully, our CXS came with XM satellite radio and someone remembered to pay the subscription fee this month. There’s also a discrete auxiliary input for the 9-speaker harmon/kardon sound system that enables use of an iPod or other such MP3 player. Even with the audio system available to occupy one's time, the interior of the Lucerne doesn’t impact the senses and excite, instead laying low and out of the way.



One item that is conspicuously absent from our tester and its option sheet is a navigation system. We think such a gadget should be made available in a vehicle that can be optioned up into the upper $30K range. The Tahoe can be had with one, though we fear the Lucerne will have to wait for a major dash redesign before one could be integrated.



Shoppers in this segment tend to care more than the average Joe about how much stuff can be stuffed in the trunk, and the Lucerne’s booty can swallow an above average 17 cu. ft. of cargo. That’s enough to out pack everything but the Ford Five-Hundred, which has a freakish capacity of 21.2 cu. ft. Unfortunately, the old school hinges compromise the Lucerne’s trunk space every time the lid is closed. Again, this kind of thing may fly on a $25K sedan, but it’s not something we expect to encounter on one that costs $37K.

The fit and finish of the Lucerne’s interior is well above what GM has offered in the recent past, though we’ll stop short of calling it a class leader until these new interiors have gone around the block a few times. The Lucerne’s interior feels like it’ll stand the test of time, though our tester was already showing some wear and tear after only 3,000-plus miles.



The best feature of the Lucerne’s interior is that it’s as far removed from the ones it replaces as possible. The design, the materials and the fit and finish have all come far enough along to compete in the segment, though a few niggles remain. The uncomfortable seats, lack of a nav system and durability question are all cause for a pause when considering the Lucerne, though we don’t think any will stand out as a deal-breaker on the lot.

[In our final review of the 2006 Buick Lucerne CSX we’ll take this big sedan in search of some highway miles and a bend or two.]

For Day 1-2 of our review of the 2006 Buick Lucerne CSX click here.



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  • 35 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      "They aren't any good, they are uncomfortable, and you'll have a car that will be recalled more often than you have payment coupons in your book."

      I'm 6" 4', about 270-I found them comfortable and was happy that Buick leads JD Power and Consumer Reports in quality. I especially like the interior room-but it does look better in black.

      It's still a girl's car however.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I wonder if Acura's going to have a fit about the "CSX" bit.
      • 8 Years Ago
      This is an exceptional value in a luxury full sized car. It is not an Acura TL competitor. The three cars that will surprisingly lose business to this "every option" V8 Lucerne at $37k are:

      - Acura RL, $53,715
      - Cadillac DTS, $58,320
      - Lexus 330 which comes to an astonishing $41,735 with every option
      - Toyota Avalon evenly matched in priced at $37,915

      The manufacturer listed should be very worried with the 'out of gate sales' the Lucerne is showing. Congratulations to Buick. The Tiger Woods golf crowd, and the Martha Stewart Connecticut/White Plains NY wealthy must love this car.

      Good review here:

      http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2006/02/20/211077.html
      Paul
      • 8 Years Ago
      #8 and #12
      Cant agree more. Especially your comments that the american companies deserve to fail. these products are yet one more fraud on the car buying public. cheap plastic designed by morons and assembled by morons.
      i think the answer might be to shut down the buick lines in the us and import the chinese buicks. at least they will be cheap.
      • 8 Years Ago
      First of all, you had similar praise for the "understated" interior of the Trailblazer SS, which is replete with cartoonish buttons and enormous gaps. Be consistent.

      If the Trailblazer's interior represents the old GM, the Lucerne's should represent the new GM, right? Wrong. This is the same old GM school of design, with a few ideas borrowed from the makers that are kicking its tail.

      The basics are all there: Flat seats, cheap materials (including faux wood that fools no one) and a hodge-podge of unrelated, vaguely trendy shapes. The "improvements" consist of poorly-implemented rip-offs of others' innovations.

      You say the controls are of European design. I say you have no business writing about cars: The audio control knob is copied from the Honda Accord introduced in 2003. Also from Honda are the rotating-circumference HVAC knobs with pushbutton centers (this time from the current CR-V/Element). Large, soft-push buttons were popularized by Asian companies in the nineties. Two-tone tan is practically a Lexus trademark. The HVAC vents and flow controls also operate in the Japanese tradition.

      Then there's the sheer lunacy of some of the design decisions: Tell me who thought it would be a good idea to put white print on a beige knob (as in the headlight and dash illumination controls)? Maybe they light up at night, but what's the point of using print that can't be read in broad daylight? Why must the MPH light stay on all of the time? Is it constantly reminding me that I'm in the USA? I recently rented a Chevy HHR that had this same "feature." It was the brightest light on the dashboard, and it did not dim with the rest of the dash illumination. Brilliant!

      I'm sure there are a couple of European design elements, too, but the point remains: Why can't the world's largest auto-maker (er, second-largest) innovate? Why must it always copy? I know, I know--every automaker copies the best ideas, but who's copying GM? (Aside: Toyota is rapidly-becoming the Asian GM in more than one way. It's mainstream cars are on the dark path to utter anonymity.)

      The sum of all these acts of plagiarism is not a compelling car. The afore-mentioned HHR was interesting, and it actually handled competently. But that car is a direct rip of the Chrysler PT Cruiser in almost every detail (dash-mounted window switches, soft-pull electronic t-gate release--oh and the body!). This Lucerne is a little more difficult to place, but the car-conscious eye instantly recognizes it. The rear end is the VW Phaeton, right down to the circular logo. The side profile (including wheels) say "Lex-Finiti." And if anyone still has doubts whether this is the same old GM, just have a look at the front: It is a portrait of blandness.

      GM cars are like iPod knock-offs. You can sell 'em if they're cheap enough, but people would rather have the real thing. If GM were a great car company, its UAW issues wouldn't seem so threatening. People would genuinely want to buy their cars--not just accept them as cheap alternatives. As it is, GM just doesn't have the soul to withstand both the competition and its own massive financial obligations. Nothing short of a DNA transplant will save it.
      Paul
      • 8 Years Ago
      #27 wilson,

      if you are saying that the americans are total incompetants that no longer capable of creative and original thinking and of engineering quality into their products.... then i totally agree.

      sad to say but our skills are best used working in walmart or burger king.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I hated the cruise control and/or the windshield wiper control on the turn signal stalk. And it appears that it's still there.
      • 8 Years Ago

      Mr. Britman,
      What should a Buick dash look like then? Should they go with a retro 1975 Regal look? Are they in such a predicament that no matter what they do, they'll be criticized for being copycats or unoriginal? Are they that doomed? Moreover, I honestly don't think the materials are any cheaper or different than a Toyota. Seriously, if you take a swath of leather or plastic or anything out of that dash, layed it on a table next to a similar item out of a standard issue Avalon or Camry, you'd be shocked. It's probably made by the same company. The plastic from last year's Park Avenue was probably worse, but the plastic from this car is VERY similar. It's a little lame that it's that similar, but still, what should GM do? How can you make a dashboard or an entire interior of a car that much different, and still market it to a similar audience. I have a feeling it's a pretty daunting task, especially for a company that has some pretty bad perception problems at the moment.

      Yes, perhaps some more originality would be welcomed but I still think that the way this car sits now, it's pretty appealing for it's intended audience. However, I do think that perhaps the design team at Buick should stare at a 1971 Riviera for a while and take some clues from that car for it's upcoming designs.
      • 8 Years Ago
      #28 - the cruise control is on the left side of the horn pad on the steering wheel. the only control on the turn signal stalk is the wipers
      • 8 Years Ago
      I don't like gooseneck hinges either. But I think before you rip a $37K a new one for having them, you need to pop the trunk on a M-B E500. Guess what you'll see there?

      http://a332.g.akamai.net/f/332/936/12h/www.edmunds.com/media/roadtests/roadtest/03.mercedesbenz.e500/03.mercedesbenz.e500.crg.500.jpg

      As far as I can tell, the M-B has them because they work with the power trunk open/close mechanism whereas articulated hinges would not. Still, whether you get power trunk closing or not, you get stupid gooseneck hinges.

      And at least 50% more than a Lucerne.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The goosneck hinges on the MB500 however, retract into pre-defined wells. While there is still the drawback of lost trunk space, You can't fill the space up and then have the hinges mash down on the trunk contents. Thats the real issue with the hinges.
      • 8 Years Ago

      "Hey, lazerwizard, jump in, we are headed to the Lakers game..."

      "there is no way in hell I'd ever ride in a GM car much less buy one"

      "Sorry to hear that, enjoy the game on your Tivo..."

      "come back in a non-GM car and I'll consider riding with you my friend. Oh, and stay away from Japanese cars, I loathe them"
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