1997 Buick LeSabre 3800 series 3.8 liter V6 from North America

Summary:

Big floaty land yacht of a car with surprisingly decent fuel economy

Faults:

Leak in the power steering system.

Leak in the coolant system.

Oil leak.

Leak in A/C system.

General Comments:

This was my 97 year old grandmother's car that she bought new and only recently had to sell because she moved into a retirement home.

These are what I'd call typical of your average American land yacht. Great big car with a huge interior, plush upholstery and a lazy, floaty ride quality with almost zero feedback.

The good:

Amazing fuel economy for something this big. It had a large 3.8 liter V6, but even so on the freeway it would easily get between 25 to even as high as 30MPG if you were gentle. The gearing on the transmission was such that at highway speeds the tachometer would just be sitting there at 1500RPM. On long trips the seats were pretty comfortable. I drove her to Florida several times and never got sore.

The trunk was HUGE. As in you could just about lay down in there as it was a giant cavern. The car had every whistle and bell imaginable for a 90's era car. Power everything. Power seats, power antenna, power windows, locks, mirrors, automatic head lights... and so on. And all of it worked.

The bad:

The handling was almost non-existent. It also wasn't exactly what I'd call fast. Punching the gas resulted in a brief half second of hesitation before anything happened. The ride was akin to floating on marshmallows. If you ran over a bump or whatever the car would lazily heave up and down slowly long after you'd hit it. Absolutely no feedback in the steering. As such it was about as exciting to drive as watching paint dry.

The car started to leak power steering fluid during the last 3 years she owned it. In fact the car seemed to leak... everything except gas. It leaked oil, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, and engine coolant. As she was barely driving by then we would always top it off whenever we saw her. Whoever designed where the power steering reservoir was an idiot: It was shoved all the way back against the firewall and was impossible to get at. That and DON'T get me started on the spark plugs... Some of those were ALSO shoved all the way back against the firewall and nearly impossible to get at. It was like GM didn't think about what mechanics would do in the future or something.

I could not believe how cheap the interior was for what was supposed to be a luxury car. At one point she ran into a pole at the grocery store and put a dent in the rear door. So I pulled the interior trim off the door to pop the dent. The entire panel was made out of cheap blow molded plastic. The whole interior was like that. Just a vast sea of cheap plastics and cheap upholstery. Then again, to be fair most American cars back then had these kinds of interiors.

That said, the car did its job for over 20 years, which was to get my grandmother around in relative safety and without any major issues. I'd heard the 3800 engines used were among the more reliable engines from GM at that period. And with the exception of the leaks, the drivetrain never really had any problems.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 16th March, 2020

17th Mar 2020, 19:08

Remove the strut tower brace that goes across the back of the engine bay for easier (much easier) rear spark plug access. Done enough of these in my sleep on all the full size FWD GM cars on this platform.

My mother also had this same car for over 7 years, bought used with 80k miles and went to 150k miles with only radiator and water pump replacements due to the crappy Dex-Cool.

Ride quality is more of a personal preference. I myself like the ride of these old LeSabres and my current 2002 Town Car. I don't care for these newer luxury cars with stiff suspensions that catch every imperfection in the road.

18th Mar 2020, 01:42

Total mileage?

18th Mar 2020, 20:10

It got up to around 160,000 miles or so. Luckily the stupid ABS plastic intake manifold held up. Apparently a lot of those were prone to cracking. I have no doubt the car is still running. According to her mechanic the 3800 was the best engine GM made. She had a previous generation LeSabre. Unfortunately that car was a piece of junk.

1997 Buick LeSabre Limited from North America

Faults:

We own a 1997 Buick LeSabre, and when the wife was pulling away from the intersection, heard a loud bang and then lost steering control. The four subframe mounts had rusted and the assembly engine etc. fell, disengaging the steering knuckle. Lucky for her, she wasn't on the highway or could have bee killed. Now the decision will be whether I fix it, as it only has 185,000 kms on it, and was excellently maintained. There should be a recall before someone isn't so lucky!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 25th January, 2011