Meh Car Monday: Embrace Nothingness With A Buick Lucerne

Illustration for article titled Meh Car Monday: Embrace Nothingness With A Buick Lucerne

Buick, at least in the U.S., is a brand that has traditionally skewed a bit older. I’m not sure there’s a recent Buick that makes that vague bit of demographic data come to life more than the 2005-2011 Buick Lucerne, a car that is essentially the very concept of responsible, suburban aging turned into metal.

It’s namesake is a Swiss town that nobody really gives a shit about, but is undoubtedly clean and well-run. That fits the Lucerne very well. The car was decent enough technically, with a choice of a decently powered V6 (at first a smaller 197 horsepower one, then a 227 hp one) or a Northstar V8, making up to 292 hp. That’s fine.

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All the specs were exactly what you’d expect of the era: FWD, four-speed auto, full-size, four-door sedan, in the middle of the full-size category, for size and fullness, generally streamlined shape that was decided by the same math and aero research as just about anything else, no risks taken whatsoever.

The build quality was decent, the options and amenities put it in a near-luxury class—hell, this car was Buick’s flagship model from 2006-2011! That has to mean something, right?

Illustration for article titled Meh Car Monday: Embrace Nothingness With A Buick Lucerne

You’d think so, wouldn’t you? The truth is, by putting the Lucerne at the top of their range, what Buick managed to create was something like that unfinished pyramid on the back of the dollar bill—a structure with no top.

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Sure, the unfinished pyramid gets that mystical, all-seeing eye filling the gap, but the Lucerne just topped the Buick range by being one of the most anonymous, character-free cars ever to blandly plow America’s roads.

The Lucerne, again, wasn’t a piece of shit; it was a quality product that no human bearing a detectable pulse could possibly give a shit about. It was like getting an absolute finest, prize-winning free range, artisinally-raised superchicken, and then cooking it by running it through an atomic-powered deflavorizer for a week.

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Buick tried, half-assedly, to give the Lucerne a distinct look with a chromier and chromier grilles and Buick’s trademark speed hole thingies, but these bits of detail and brightwork just served to emphasize how mind-scorchingly boring the rest of the car was.

Even the commercials—at least the ones without Tiger Woods pretending to give a shit—could really only tout the vague idea of ‘quality,’ because what else was there to point to? Other than the speed holes?

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Have you ever heard the words “I really want a Buick Lucerne?” Until now, no, I’m about certain you haven’t. In fact, my computer’s grammar checker algorithms just freaked out because it was unable to process the use of the verb “want” with the proper direct object “Buick Lucerne.” It’s simply never been written before.

Illustration for article titled Meh Car Monday: Embrace Nothingness With A Buick Lucerne
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The Lucerne is like some kind of healthy millet porridge that a doctor may suggest to someone in their late ‘70s as a rational meal. It’s certainly not going to hurt, and it’s probably even pretty good for you, but it’s so joyless and sexless and free of novelty or interest and aggressively benign that eating food you actually want becomes a fair trade for a few extra years of geriatric life.

That’s the Lucerne. Nobody ever wanted one. Nobody cares about it. Someday, they will all be gone, and we will have forgotten to even notice.

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Man, what a boring-ass car.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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DISCUSSION

-=sigh=-

They’re not “speed-hole thingies”.

They’re “portholes”.

... and yes, I’m one of those Buick people.

As for the Lucerne, it was a pretty nice “full-size” sedan. When the Lacrosse took its place, it was as if Buick had connected an air hose to the body of a Lucerne and inflated the whole thing by an extra 10 psi. (Disclosure: I drive a ‘15 Lacrosse.) I actually prefer the less stout-looking (and more longer-looking even if not really longer) Lucerne to the Lacrosse. I wish the present-day Lacrosse had the option of a V8, frankly. Really, the Lucerne was the inheritor of the Park Avenue legacy, and the Park Avenue, whether you look back on it as the Electra trim level it used to be, or the actual (ugh, smaller) model it became, was the best boat that Buick had to offer. The Lucerne was, admittedly, sort of a let-down for those of us that count ourselves as fans of Big Buick Boats (tm).

The Electra will forever be the model that we think of as the pinnacle of the Buick line, leaving aside the brief re-appearance of the Roadmaster sedan. My sense is that Buick was thinking very hard about not furnishing a full-size sedan at all (like forever [shivers]), and were looking to gauge how well the idea would sell by trying to create what really was a mid-size sedan adorned and sold as they might a full-size offering... touting its roominess and comfort-oriented features... the nice interior, heated and cooled seats, the adaptive suspension, etc. I don’t remember them selling very well, but I still see them on the road all the time. The Lucerne was a bridge car, I think, but also a test for how much smallness they could get away with selling as full-size.

Bridge cars are inherently interesting, Jason. It doesn’t really matter if the styling excites so much. No Buick (save perhaps the flirtations of the Reatta or the Grand National) is really meant to be exciting. At best, Buicks are meant for staid comfort, the ability to seat one’s family and luggage without cramping the space, and unobtrusive styling, while still having a bit of unexpected guts when you mash the go-fast pedal. The Lucerne is still in that tradition, but it’s certainly not the best example. It was a stepping-stone and a learning opportunity, and the marque is better off having tried it and moved on...

... an lest we forget, in 2018 they’re bringing us a wagon. So let’s not be so hard on Buick, okay?