1999 Buick LeSabre Limited 3.8 V6 from North America
Not as fancy as a Cadillac, but a significant step up from a Chevy, it's a Buick
Lower intake gaskets leaking coolant when purchased. Replaced the lower intake gaskets with updated Fel-Pro gaskets.
Plastic upper intake manifold cracked, caused engine to ingest coolant at 160k, but caught the problem before it caused damage. Dorman redesigned upper intake plenum is supposed to fix this issue, so I installed this when I put the lower intake gaskets on.
Transmission pressure control solenoid malfunctioning when purchased, causing erratic shifting and shudder under heavy acceleration. Fixed this problem for under 200 bucks including new fluid and filter, but required removing the transaxle case cover, which is an in-depth repair that could have easily cost $1000 bucks at the dealer (I know, because I used to be a mechanic at a Buick dealer).
The Buick LeSabre is a very competent machine. The best feature of this car is the 205 horsepower 3800 Series II V6, which produces a fairly impressive 235 ft/lbs of torque. While you aren't going to win any races on the drag strip with this 2.5 ton boat, passing on the highway requires only a quick snap of the throttle to leave annoying drivers quickly disappearing in your rear-view mirror. The large displacement(for a V6) and OHV design of the engine produce a throaty snarl from the exhaust when maximum acceleration is demanded.
The only place the powertrain comes up short is the 4t65e 4 speed slush-box automatic transmission. Shift feel is similar to that of slicing through warm butter with a paring knife, which does little to enhance the driving experience. Some may appreciate the ultra smooth shifting of the transmission, but anybody that is used to a performance-oriented automobile will wonder why the shifts are so sloppy and slow.
Cornering performance is hampered by a soft suspension and tires with large sidewalls, even when equipped with the supposedly sportier Gran Touring Package. Trying to throw your LeSabre into a corner much above the posted speed limit sends the 16 all season tires squalling while the direction of the nose follows slowly. The main purpose of this car, though, is not to be an impressive track demon. The Gran Touring suspension absorbs most bumps very well with minimal float, making highway cruising a dream. The Dynaride suspension (on models not equipped with the Gran Touring package) is much softer, rides on 15 inch tires, and is more reminiscent of 1980's Fleetwood Brougham in terms of cornering ability.
When cruising around town or on the highway, the engine and suspension noise are generally very muted. The interior is trimmed in soft leather that wears very well over time. Support from the wide and flat 60/40 split front bench is good, except when cornering. Both the driver and passenger receive 8 way power adjustable seats, which annoyingly enough, have manual recline adjustment and do not offer seat heaters as an option. Rear seat passengers are treated to ultra plush leather seats in the back, which are most comparable to a big puffy couch.
The "Comfortemp II" automatic climate control works very well, and even gives the passenger their own separate set of controls on the door. Rear passengers get their own vents in the limited models. The vertical black plastic clad dashboard is designed to look formal, but ends up looking dated in a 99 model. Use of faux wood is tasteful, and interior materials are of above average quality. Visibility is excellent out the front, but large rear roof pillars compromise rearward visibility. The large trunk is great for big shopping trips or weekend getaways.
The standard "Concert sound II" stereo system from Delco produces crisp, clear sound from the front mid-range and tweeters, with deep bass from the rear deck 6x9's. Steering wheel controls are optional, and are completely worth it. The volume control even energizes a motor behind the volume knob on the stereo, so it actually moves when you adjust the volume (imagine my surprise when I found this out while I was on a road trip; I thought I was seeing things!).
In my opinion, the LeSabre was one of the best full size cars of its time, and thus continues to be a great value today. Repair costs are comparably low, and generally infrequent. It is not uncommon for these vehicles to achieve in the 250-300k mile range, while still getting 30 MPG on the highway. Not as fancy as a Cadillac, but a significant step up from a Chevy, it's a Buick. For a reliable, efficient, large family sedan, the LeSabre is hard to beat.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 29th December, 2013
29th Dec 2013, 12:04
Yes, these were nice cars designed for mature Americans. Too bad everything these days seems to be designed with 20 somethings in mind! Not to mention that many new Buicks are designed in China with that market in mind. Oh well, I guess if it wasn't for China, Buick would be dead; maybe that would have been better, so we could fondly remember the great old sedans, designed in a time when America was still in touch with its own roots.
4th Jan 2014, 23:18
Very nice review.
Regarding the powertrain coming up short with the 4t65e 4 speed automatic transmission, if Buick/GM can do slurred shifts without impaired reliability, more power to them :). Chirping the tires on every upshift is overrated. Moreover, smooth, torque-managed upshifts was something GM pioneered, which other manufacturers rapidly emulated to enable transmission/transaxle reliability. Hint: spark advance is what needs to be controlled; how you should do that is a lengthy discussion. If you want details, see SAE Paper 870081 "Powertrain Torque Management" - http://papers.sae.org/870081/
I remember working in a Buick dealership in the early 90's, and the 4T6x-E was a "Frequent Flyer" in the repair bays. As time went on, not so much. Good job GM!!!
19th Jan 2014, 21:09
I remember the 700R4's AKA 4L60 had those hard slammy upshifts - especially when cold. When the 200-4R failed in my 87 Cadillac Brougham, I had it rebuilt and the transmission shop turned it into a slushbox. I preferred those smooth buttery upshifts in my Cadillac.