2001 Buick LeSabre
2001 Buick LeSabre Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
New features for an old friend.
In a market often ruled by fad and fashion, it is worth noting that Buick has called its basic full-size car 'LeSabre' for 43 continuous years. For the past 10 of those years, Buick likes to remind us, LeSabre has out-sold every other full-size car. Of course the definition of 'full-size' has changed a bit since 1959, when a unit-body car with V6 power and a 112-inch wheelbase would have been considered at best a 'senior compact.' Nostalgia aside, however, the current LeSabre provides all the room, comfort, and practicality demanded of a full-size car today, with modern fuel efficiency and advanced safety features that have earned it a double five-star rating in U.S. government crash tests.
Buick LeSabre was totally redesigned for 2000, and now moves into 2001 with new dual-stage airbags, 15-inch aluminum wheels for LeSabre Limited, and an oil-change interval that's been stretched from 7,500 to a full 10,000 miles. OnStar, GM's 24-hour on-demand navigation and driver-assistance service, is now factory installed on all LeSabre Limiteds and is optional on LeSabre Custom.
Two models are available: Le Sabre Custom ($24,107) and Le Sabre Limited ($28,796).
LeSabre Custom comes with front and side air bags, air conditioning, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, cruise control, power door locks, power windows, power mirrors, AM/FM/Cassette four-speaker stereo, power driver's seat with manual lumbar adjustment, adjustable steering column, automatic level control, theft deterrent system and a power trunk release.
The Limited model adds automatic dual-zone air conditioning, driver information center, upgraded Concert Sound II six-speaker stereo, remote keyless entry, heated power seats and alloy wheels.
For those who want better handling, the optional Gran Touring package ($235) comes with firmer suspension tuning, magnetic speed-sensitive power steering, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 16-inch wheels and fatter 225/60 all-season tires, and a 3.05:1 final drive ratio for quicker acceleration. Other options include traction control, leather seats, heated seats (for Custom) and a 12-disc CD changer.
From some angles LeSabre offers styling cues that would not look out of place on a Jaguar; yet it still retains a strong Buick identity, with nicely rounded edges and plenty of attractive curves. In particular, the side profile has a nice curvy upturn along the rear doors, leading to a high trunk; it's a nice classic touch, fitting LeSabre's position as a premium sedan.
At the front, the LeSabre has a distinctive Buick grille that sits well forward and is almost part of the front bumper. The headlights are well integrated into the lines of the car. Buick claims that the new body is much stiffer than the pre-2000 model, giving the car a better ride and crisper handling.
Safety is an important part of LeSabre's image and Buick has gone to great lengths to safeguard the occupants of the newest model. Dual front airbags are a given, but LeSabre has side airbags for the front seats, too. Anti-lock brakes working on all four wheels are standard on all LeSabres.
LeSabre Limited buyers can choose a $730 Driver Confidence Package. In addition to self-sealing tires and a heads-up instrument display, this includes StabiliTrak, an electronic vehicle-stability system that Buick introduced in mid-2000. StabiliTrak helps keep the car on the correct line through a corner in slippery conditions by gently applying the brakes on one or more wheels. It cannot overcome the laws of physics, but it does add a margin of safety by reducing the effects of driver errors. The head-up display projects speed and other information onto the windshield in front of the driver's eyes.
The front seat belts are mounted to the seat frame, so they move with the seat for greater comfort. The seats boast a new design engineers like to call a 'catcher's mitt.' The seat back is much stiffer than usual; in an accident it holds the person in place and the headrest moves forward to lessen whiplash. It is especially effective common low-speed, rear-end accidents, according to Buick.
Buick totally redesigned LeSabre's dashboard last year to give the interior a fresh, modern, luxurious look. The dash sweeps across the width of the car with a canopy over the instruments extending from the passenger side to the driver's door panel. This design gives the interior an open feeling and integrates the door trim into the dashboard nicely. A wide strip of faux wood trim extends along the door panels and across the center of the dashboard.
The driver information center on the Limited model has a digital readout that can display oil temperature, fuel consumption, tire pressure and other data. Round analog gauges are easy to read. At a touch of a button the speedometer will read speed in kilometers per hour, which obviates the need for a second set of small kph numbers on the dial.
A front bench seat is standard on the LeSabre, split 40/60 so the driver's side can be adjusted separately from the passenger seat. A bench seat does not usually provide much support for the driver compared to a bucket seat and the LeSabre's is no exception. Cover it in leather and you may find yourself sliding around on winding roads.
Our test LeSabre was equipped with optional separate 45/45 seats and a center console with two large cupholders that spring out at the touch of a button. A large flat writing surface also flips out. It could prove useful for people who need to have a notepad handy while on the road. But it sits at an awkward angle, and we found it difficult to use.
Wide doors allow easy access to the front and rear seats. Rear-seat passengers will find plenty of room. The slightly longer wheelbase and wider track of this latest-generation LeSabre increased rear seating space over pre-2000 models. It still gets a bit tight with three adults back there, however. An optional rear center armrest features an opening behind it to provide space for skis and other long objects.
Big Buicks have not been known as cars that excel in the handling department. Their suspensions have been designed primarily to provide a soft, cushy ride, where the car tends to float over undulations and provides little feedback to the driver. At slow speeds this is fine, but at higher speeds, or on a winding road, a soft-sprung car is not as stable as one with a firmer suspension.
But when Buick redesigned the LeSabre last year, the engineers vastly improved its roadholding capability. As a result, the LeSabre now handles much better than previous versions. While you still cannot compare LeSabre's handling to that of a BMW, it is much improved over the old model. That floating sensation is gone. When you jam on the brakes, the nose does not dive the way the old one did.
Our LeSabre Limited was equipped with the Gran Touring package, which helped give the car more road feel. But even the base LeSabre should offer good handling.
The 3.8-liter V6 engine is one of GM's best. It performs well in the LeSabre, even though it has to propel a relatively heavy car. Likewise, the electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission provides smooth shifting between gears. Braking performance is good and, with anti-lock brakes acting on all four wheels, we never had any dramatic moments.
LeSabre packs plenty of sound insulation for a quiet ride. Although not officially billed as a luxury car, it provides a more luxurious environment than most luxury cars of just a few years ago.
Buick prides itself as the maker of premium American cars and it has upheld that tradition with the 2001 LeSabre. For not much more than the price of a compact car, the LeSabre delivers six-passenger capacity with lots of standard features. In its newest form, the LeSabre offers a comfortable ride quality, and you may be pleasantly surprised at how nicely it performs.
Custom ($24,107), Limited ($28,796).
Options As Tested
Gran Touring package ($235), leather upholstery ($780), convenience console ($70), 16-inch alloy wheels ($165).
LeSabre Limited ($28,796).
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