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The Buick LeSabre is America's best-selling full-size car in and has been for the past 10 years. For 2003, Buick is celebrating this market dominance with a special edition of the LeSabre called (what else?) the Celebration Edition. Distinguished by body-colored trim and a two-tone leather interior, the Celebration Edition comes loaded with luxury and safety features.
But for car buyers with traditional tastes, any LeSabre is cause for celebration. LeSabre offers a big, roomy interior, a comfortable ride, a big trunk, and it's packed with safety features. In short, the LeSabre brings all the traditional Buick virtues into a new era of fuel-conscious practicality.
XM Satellite Radio is now available for Limited and Celebration Edition LeSabres. New 16-inch aluminum wheels are available with the Gran Touring package and all LeSabres are available in new metallic colors. Other changes for 2003 are minimal.
The 2003 Buick LeSabre feels smooth on smooth roads. The old floating sensation of Buicks past is gone. When you stab the brakes, the nose doesn't dive for the pavement. Standard self-leveling rear suspension keeps the ride consistent regardless of the number of passengers aboard.
The brakes feel and work excellent. The brake pedal feels smooth and it is easy to modulate the brakes (better in that respect than the new Mercedes E-Class). Jam on the brakes and the LeSabre comes to a quick stop, without drama, that's easy to control. Anti-lock brakes come standard, allowing the driver to maintain control of steering in a panic stop.
The steering feels light and precise, making this a nice, pleasant car around town. It also handles smooth gravel roads well. We were disappointed by the amount of vibration on rough roads, however, especially at low speeds. When driven quickly on a rough, undulating road, the suspension loses composure and bottoms out on sharp dips. The available Gran Touring suspension improves handling a bit through the addition of a rear anti-roll bar that should help reduce understeer and body lean.
The LeSabre's 3.8-liter overhead-valve V6 is one of GM's best engines. It delivers good acceleration performance, even against the LeSabre's substantial weight. Likewise, the electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly between gears.
Lots of sound insulation makes for a quiet cabin. Although not officially billed as a luxury car, the LeSabre provides a more luxurious environment than most luxury cars of just a few years ago.
Limited buyers can choose a $730 Driver Confidence Package. In addition to self-sealing tires and a head-up instrument display, this package includes StabiliTrak, the electronic vehicle-stability system. The head-up display projects speed and other information onto the windshield in front of the driver's eyes and it comes in handy. More important is StabiliTrak, and we highly recommend getting it. Stabilitrak helps the driver maintain his or her intended 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 Stabilitrak adds a margin of safety by partially correcting driver errors.
Buick prides itself as a maker of premium American cars. For not much more than the price of a mid-size car, the LeSabre delivers room for five or six and many luxury conveniences. Its ride is as comfortable as you'd expect and the friendly interior make being in the Buick LeSabre a pleasant experience.