It's amazing to think full-size cars were by far the most popular cars in the U.S. just 15 years ago. Nowadays sport-utility vehicles attract most of the potential full-size car buyers. Consequently, if you want a large car your choices are limited to a handful of American-made cars and several expensive imported luxury cars.
Buick likes to brag that its LeSabre has been the best selling full-size car every year since 1992. The LeSabre is not a traditional large car because the body is not built on a frame, it does not use rear-wheel drive nor is it fitted with a V8 engine. The only cars left on the market that fit that description are the Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car.
The Buick LeSabre has been totally redesigned for 2000. It's somewhat hard to tell at first glance, however, because it looks similar to the 1999 model. Buick says more than half of all LeSabre buyers buy another LeSabre, so it did not want to alienate its traditional buyers with something radically different. If you want a six-passenger car with lots creature comforts for a price that could be considered a bargain, take a look at the Buick LeSabre - it's a big car available for a reasonable price.
Custom ($22,890), Limited ($27,340)
From some angles the new LeSabre offers styling cues that would not look out of place on a Jaguar, yet it still maintains a strong Buick family look with nicely rounded edges. Although the overall appearance of the new car is similar to the old car, it has all-new sheet metal with more curves. In particular, the side profile has a nice curvy upturn along the rear doors to a high trunk that gives the car classic lines that befit its position as a premium sedan.
At the front, the LeSabre has a distinctive 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 previous 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 improve the safety of occupants in the newest model. Apart from dual airbags it also includes side airbags for the front seats. Anti-lock brakes working on all four wheels are standard on all LeSabre models.
An optional vehicle stability control system called StabiliTrak is available as part of a driver-confidence package that includes self-sealing tires and a head-up driver display. 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 seat belts on the front seats 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 in the common low-speed rear-end accident, according to Buick.
Visually there might not be a great change to the new LeSabre but inside it's another story. Buick has totally redesigned the dashboard to give the car 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 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 windy roads.
The model we tested came with an optional center console with two large cupholders that spring out at the touch of a button. A large flat surface flips out that is designed to be a writing surface. 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 on this new LeSabre increase rear seating space. It gets a bit tight with three adults back there, however. An optional center armrest in the rear features an opening behind it to provide space for skis and other long objects.
The new LeSabre offers much better handling than the previous version. That's good news because 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. That can sometimes result in a wallowy ride where the car tends to float over undulations and provide little feedback to the driver. At slow speeds it's fine, but once the car is being driven along winding roads the car becomes less stable.
While you cannot compare the ride and handling of the new LeSabre 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 came with the Gran Touring package, which helped give the car more road feel. But the base LeSabre should offer good handling.
The 3.8-liter V6 engine is one of GM's best engines. 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.
The addition of more sound installation has turned the LeSabre into a quiet ride. Although this is not officially regarded as a luxury car, it provides a more luxurious environment than most luxury cars of just a few years ago.
If you need to carry six people in a vehicle, you're pretty much stuck with a minivan or a large SUV. But if you want the comfort of a sedan, your choices are limited because few cars nowadays offer a front bench seat. Buick prides itself as the maker of premium American cars and it has upheld that tradition with the 2000 LeSabre.
For not much more than the price of a compact car, the LeSabre delivers a six-passenger sedan with lots of features standard. In its newest form, the LeSabre offers a comfortable ride quality and you may be pleasantly surprised at how nicely it performs.