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2003 Park Avenue Ultra vs Lesabre Limited Special Edition


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I was possibly entertaining the idea of trading in my '96 Ultra for the 2003 and

I discovered the 2003 Lesabre Limited. It has every option the Ultra has except for the supercharger and for about $8,000 less.

What do all of you think of the fully decked out LeSabre?

It makes me wonder if Buick is planning on phasing out the Park Ave.

Also, what happened to the Riviera???

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Guest my3buicks

Have you driven the two? Compared the two other than equipment? The Park is a Luxury car, the LeSabre as nice and as good of a car as it is, is not a Park. Have rented and driven both over long distances and the Park comes out ahead in every aspect. Yes, the Supercharger is a big part of that also. And going down the road, do you want to look like you have made it, or almost made it?

(bet I get called on the carpet for that snoby statement). It's Buicks flagship for some reason! Someone in car heaven decided that big luxury coupes didn't sell enough so goodbye Riv/Eldo, for now.

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Comparing a supercharged Ultra to a LeSabre isn't exactly an apples-to-apples comparision. A closer comparision is LeSabre to Park Ave. The addition of that supercharger changes a lot of the character of the Park Ave, and it will also require premium gas & synthetic oil. That may be OK if that's what you normally do though. From the driver's seat forward, the LeSabre & Park Ave & Ultra are the same size. The difference shows up in the rear seat leg room/head room and trunk space. The Park Ave has a higher curb weight, which by comparision, makes the LeSabre seem slightly peppier. The Supercharged Ultra more than makes up for the weight disadvantage. Between my father and myself, we've owned several of each. The concensous seems to lean towards the Park Ave. It has the room & the toys, and doesn't have the price penalty of the Ultra. Most of my driving is in suburban traffic, so, the extra speed isn't really needed (but it can be fun!).

I doubt that GM is planning to drop either car, but they may get renamed at the next redesign. The current Park Ave design has been around since '97, the LeSabre since the '00. I'm among those that would love to see them do a new Buick coupe & convertible. I REALLY liked my '89 Regal Ltd coupe, and that body would have made a slick looking drop-top.

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Great comments, tyesac.

If the LeSabre and Park Avenue were built from the same platform, comparing the LeSabre to the Park Avenue might have more merit, but the LeSabre shares its platform with the Bonneville and the Park Avenue is more Cadillac and Olds Aurora. If, perchance, the relationship between the LeSabre and Park Avenue was more in line to the differences in a Chrysler Concorde or LHS, such a comparison would be more in line with what you're thinking as both of those Chrysler LH cars are on the exact same platform and such.

Granted, the Park Avenue has been around in its current form a good while and the LeSabre was updated in 2000. Each are great vehicles but do have their own unique "feel", plus the standard and optional items which can also affect things.

National Car Rental usually has some of both in their fleets. You might peruse their larger airport locations to see who has some and then rent them for a weekend excursion to spend some time with them. That would be a rather inexpensive way to really compare both cars and would allow you to spend more time with them rather than a much shorter test drive with a dealership salesperson in the car with you. Getting into their Emerald Isle membership is a good deal too as then YOU choose your car instead of the rental agent (from those available in the designated Emerald Isle area).

The two cars are both Buicks, but their target markets are a little different and the character of the cars tends to reflect that. There is some justification for the higher prices of the Park Avenue over the LeSabre. You might also consider ordering a Park Avenue with the equipment you want or get the dealer to dealer trade for one with your equipment choices instead of just taking what's on the lot.

Happy shopping!

NTX5467

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Keith,

If you're really buying a car to announce that 'you've made it...', why on earth would you do it with a vehicle that you can rent from Budget? Spring the extra $13K and buy an E320. While you pay more out the door, you'll get most of that back when you sell. The depreciation on 3-5 year old Ultras is pretty frightening, where the E320 retains a relatively high resale value.

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Guest my3buicks

I guess I am from the old school, and still consider a Buick as a status symbol. Plus, I also think the Park Ave is also a very attractive car with great lines. Not everyone is into the foreign "stuff" as good as they might be. The depreciation I would loose on a Park, would probably be no more than the money I would spend in service and parts on the high end foreigns. And don't tell me they don't break down or that the are trouble free! I have owned a couple hi end foreigns!!!

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Don't waste your money at the Rental Joints! Just go to your local Buick Dealership, talk to a salesperson and ask him if you can take an extended test drive in each car. Hell, if the salesperson is "career" oriented, he will let you take the car over night. I bet he will do anything to gain your business.

Paul

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I have also owned both "import" and "domestic" vehicles. We could debate all day which is better. I own a 70 Electra 225 and enjoy it for what it is, a fun, classic car that requires a lot of service. I drive a 95 Nissan pick-up that is fun, not a classic, and requires little service. The same could be said for a 95 Park Avenue. Some of the time, you get what you pay for. But the attitude towards import and domestic is outdated. All domestic cars have imported parts, period.

My 95 Nissan was built in Tennessee by American, Union workers. Some 2002 Chevy S-10's are built in Canada. They are also a clone of the Isuzu Hombre. The new Chevy Duramax diesel is built by Isuzu because GM could not build a decent diesel for their pick-ups. There are more Honda's built in the US then Chevrolets! Pick up a copy of Consumer Reports and look at the Reliability Section over a four year period of cars and trucks and then talk to me about who has fewer problems. See all of the black circles next to most of the "American" cars? Here's a hint, that means above average reported problems. Personal preferences and opinions generally determine sales, regardless of scientific facts on what vehicles last longer. That's why Pontiac is in buisness. But I still drive a Buick too. Why, because the car has character. Something most imports don't have. And that, I will pay a little extra for!

Paul Urban

BCA # 38544

1970 Electra 225

4 door hardtop 455 four barrel

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Paul,

Well said. The first item in our family's daily transportation purchase decisions is the requirement for the best possible reliability. After that are performance, routine maintenance costs, style/color and expected resale. All those black circles take most of the Detriot products out of the running before the first showroom visit. I have to admit the Century has done pretty well in the past couple of years, but I just can't abide the lack of quality feel and handling, as a personal prefernce.

Cheers,

John

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Granted, we could fuel this debate of which is best for ages. Hondas, Toyota, and such may well be more trouble-free, but they certainly are NOT maintenance free. Back when Toyota had their "Cheap To Keep" deal going in the middle 1980s, I picked up one of their maintenance schedules with prices by them. It looked very nice and accurate. Those first years with free checks and inspections were good, but by the third year the price to start getting serious on the maintenance items drove the price of maitenance up greatly. They also figured a new battery in the 3rd year as they also figured in changing rear axle lube too, not bad and as I said, pretty accurate.

If you go by 100,000 mile durability standards, everything made today will match that with no problem, but when you get out of the warranty period, the cost of repair of the beloved "high durability" makes people pay a premium to own (not only in initial price but also in normal maintenance issues) will be a good deal higher than that of a domestic make. If something unordinary breaks, it'll cost a good deal just for the parts.

In those earlier days of the 1980s, it was clear that the best car to own for the long run was an rear wheel drive American car. The trim and paint certainly held up much better than any import back then and I have observed the same to be true now. If everyone who paid high labor costs for their imports knew how much time it really took to repair their cars, they might think twice, but as long as everything's still in warranty and such, then they don't have to worry about that.

I'd rather have a $20,000 Impala over a $20,000 Camry any day of the week. More car for the money (features and size) and a car that feels more substantial to me (the orientals still haven't learned how to build a decent sun visor yet). Just my preference. I respect yours too.

Everything has a price, whether it's a "buy-in" price for buying a maintenance intensive import (according to the factory maintenance schedule) or a domestic that is less money and with equal of greater reliability and lesser maintenance (but not NO maintenance) and will easily last well past 200,000+miles in the process.

I'll take that extra time I don't need to spend at the dealership getting an import maintenanced by the book and do something else.

Enjoy!

NTX5467

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I guess I must very lucky,I am on my 26th Buick and the only major problem I have had was a trans over haul on the 84 lesabre @ 150,000 miles.never touched the eng,a/c,every elect.option or brakes,except pads & shoes. Oil never went below full when I sold it at 177,000 miles .But that was an Olds eng.When I got my Regal turbo everybody said turbo,s are a big problem.I have never touched that eng or turbo either.112,000 miles,a lot of it pulling a trailer around the country too.I have normal problems like noisy u-joints,wheel bearings, carbs,ocasional water pump trouble but nothing that stopped me on the road.I suppose if I drove another make I might like it so I dont dare. Norb B. Flushing,Mi

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Paul, I completely understand your orientation, but those days are not what they used to be, especially in the metro areas. Just as finding a Buick dealership that sells just Buicks is the exception instead of the norm.

Most dealerships have specified test drive routes whether the salesman goes along or not. Most times, the salesperson must drive the vehicle from the lot and then switch and let the potential customer drive on the way back. There are valid reasons for this plus some insurance considerations too.

Just as with any other retail situation, the longer a salesperson spends with a customer the more desire there is for that customer to spend some money. A nice salesperson that gives everyone demo drives and makes no sales in the process is not making themselves or the dealership any money. Similarly, if you walked in and found the car you wanted and it was invoiced to that particular dealership (as evidenced on the window sticker) yet it had about 100 miles on it, the shopper might well suspect there was something wrong with it and you probably would too, hence lost sales for the dealership and the sales people.

Even if that salesperson is paid a straight salary with no commission, there is still a certain level of productivity that must be obtained by the salesperson. Just like any other retail/wholesale sales situation.

It is not unusual for a customer to take a vehicle overnight to show their spouse, but for that to happen there is a pretty sure idea that a sale of some kind will be made, whether with that particular car or another one.

For all of this to happen, the potential customer will first have to discuss many things with the salesperson as the salesperson basically builds a database on the potential customer. In some cases, the sales trainers now want the salesperson to know almost as much about the customer as their own mother does. This way, the salesperson will have something to engage the customer in conversation with when they later see them.

Extended tests drives of about 30 minutes are not unheard of either, but again, for there to be a deviation from the established test drive route, the potential customer will either have to have had prior sales experience at the particular dealership (i.e., established customer) or it be a "lead pipe cinch" that they will purchase the vehicle they are driving, especially if the sales person does not go along.

The reason for doing the rental car deal is to get the vehicle in actual use situations away from the "pressure" of the dealership. You can better see how it looks in the driveway after it isn't as glossy as it was at the dealership. You can see if all your luggage will fit in the trunk too, for example. The rental car, with up to about 20,000 miles on it can also give you an idea of durability after the new wears off. And there's not a salesperson looking on waiting for you to make a decision either.

All the car rental people want to happen is for you to bring their car back in the same condition as when you left with it (including a full tank of gas). To me, it would be a lot better to discover that a car you were considering just doesn't fit what you need before the contract is signed than afterward. You might also determine that some option upgrades are desireable too, whether in sound systems or engine options, for example.

I mentioned the National Emerald Isle deal as it has flexibility that isn't available from other rental companies. This is important as they rent a "class" of car and not a specific model of car. That's why reconnaissance to see what's in the local fleet is necessary. I also might recommend the national car rental chains over local rental car entities too.

End result it to make an informed decision on the purchase. The additional "seat time" in the rental car can be worth more than time spent with sales literature and buyers handbooks.

Enjoy!

NTX5467

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I am glad you responded with your view on the subject. You brought up some good points, but I do not agree all new vehicles will go 100,000 miles trouble free. The word "trouble-free" is a word most often used and abused when talking about automobiles. If a headlight goes out, someone could say that is trouble, but we are using the word in regards to major trouble such as expensive sensors, engine problems, transmissions, and the like.

I have yet to have owned a vehicle requiring a rebuild of the engine or transmission. My average ownership milelage of my vehicles are anywhere from 190,000 to 325,000 miles. My domestic vehicles were all pre-1988. My American made "imports" were up to 1995. All vehicles were sold due to aquiring another vehicle with less miles for the simple facts of having enough money to aquire another and the fear of having that many miles on the vehicle. Not one of the vehicles left me stranded at any time. This is an example that both import and domestic vehicles are capable, with equal maintenence, "oil,lube,hoses,fluid, not trans,engine, or major sensor failures," and the right models selected, can last.

In my unscientific studies conducted with my vehicles, large displacement domestic engines, 350 and above, were the only ones that lasted up to the imports four and V6 powered engines. The domestics had significant compression loss when passing the 100,000 mile barrier as opposed to the imports which held much higher compression at the same barrier. And yes, I mean rated compression for that engine, not the difference between stock four banger and 350 V8 compression. The domestics always leaked oil between 110,000 and 140,000 miles, imports were dry as a bone.

Body integrity "resistance to squeaks and rattles" were very poor in the domestic cars as well as resistance to corrosion. Also, electrical problems were common in domestics, not my imports.

Please note there are many, many, exceptions to my little study compared to professionals who study data from thousands of cars and owners. This is just my two cents, or four in this case. Every person has their own story. No one has the ultimate vehicle. I can just go by what I have gathered over the years from vehicle designers, mechanics, shop owners, and car owners. Some people lie about it, some don't. The truth is usually in between.

I also agree with you that things are not what they used to be in the automotive world. In this day and age of mergers and buyouts, individuality of car makers is rapidly declining. Nissan merged with Renault, Ford controls Mazda, Jaguar, ect. Mercedes controls Chrysler, GM has joint vehicle ventures with Toyota "the old Corolla and Chevy Prizm and most recently, Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe, the drivetrain is from Toyota."

Only one thing is certain, we love our cars. And all of us will own what we want. I'm glad we still live in a society that lets us share our views here in the forum. Thanks again for your input.

Paul Urban

BCA #38544

1970 Buick Electra 225

4 door hardtop 455 four barrel

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Thanks for your additional comments, Paul. I will strongly concur that "trouble-free" has many different interpretations just as "defect" does. When reading many of the old Consumer Reports car tests, anything that wasn't perfect was "defective", yet to me "defective" means that something broke because it wasn't manufactured as it should have been, for example a weatherstip isn't defective it it lets air by due to it being positioning incorrectly but it would be defective if it deteriorated much faster than normal.

Over the years, we've been led to believe that imports were the best things around. A close friend bought a new '82 Toyota Celica GT. A pretty neat car, but as time wore on it was not quite to the level of perfection in design I had been led to suspect it was. There were some service issues plus some others. When he got ready to sell it about 2 years later, he priced it about $500.00 less than others in the Auto Trader and got one call in 6 weeks of running it. He contacted the other guys that had the same cars in there and their reports were similar. Here was the Motor Trend Import Car of the Year (for its model year) and no one wanted a good, used one? That was a little suspect in itself. He finally traded it for an Alfa GTV6 coupe.

The imports have some great engineering in them, but to get the performance out of their engines it has to be that way. Oil leaks, or lack thereof, has more do do with the type of gaskets/seals than anything else. Admittedly, American manufactuers did not move to better gasketing until they had to. Also, when Chevy started painting their engines black in the '80s, out oil leak complaints went down sharply at the dealership level.

When we got the Chevy Nova (which was a Corolla with "home market" sheet metal), we found out some things that further proved the imports had problems too. Brake pads typically did not last past 20,000 miles and clutch cables would break out the firewall where they passed through it. Again, not what you would expect.

The other situation I feel sometimes kicks in with the imports it the "mystique" in owning one, especially a luxury make. Everyone had their own preferences, which I certainly respect, but I get the feeling that one reason a person buys a high level import probably has more to do with how it looks in the parking lot or driveway (and what it "means") than for the superior engineering or bells and whistles it might have. Such desiresability usually leads to higher lease residuals so they are cheaper to own. Those same owners never let it get out of warranty so they don't see all of the things the second or third owners do. Plus, if you ask them if they have bought a "good car" the answer probably will be "Yes" as they don't mention their service problems or whatever. Just my observations and suspicions.

Currently, I have a '77 Chevy Camaro Type LT (that I bought new) with the original 305 V-8. Along about 240,000 miles the Turbo350 decided it liked to drive in 2nd gear after it had been driven for about an hour. It was replaced with a NOS Turbo350 still in the crate for a '81 Z-28.

The 305 still has the same head gaskets and oil pan gasket that it came with. At 92,000 miles, I put a Cloyes Plus roller chain in it when the cam was slightly upgraded along with a 4bbl setup. Now, it just passsed 572,000 miles and is still ticking along. I did a mileage check the other night and it still hit 22mpg on the freeway route I took at "highway speeds" just as it did when new with the 2bbl. I did have to replace the rear axles and differential bearings recently too. Decent maintenance but certainly not the 3000 mile oil change sort of thing.Current

Granted, we normally don't keep our domestic vehicles for this total mileage so we don't know what they might be capable of. I do get amused when oriental import brand owners brag about their car lasting over 100,000 miles with no trouble. Typically, when we think of ultra high mileage vehicles, we think of Mercedes and such.

Since we've had Buicks in our dealership, we very seldom see one with any internal engine problems. One that came in with a knock still had the production black engine color oil filter on it at something like 50,000 miles. Northstars, with all of their complexity, don't break nearly as often as you might expect.

Every brand of vehicle will have their quirks and idiosyncracies and things which normally have problems. These things also seem to be somewhat cyclical too. Having been around the business for a looong time, each manufactuer's products will have their strong and weak points. In the '80s, a weak point of import vehicles was paint and trim. A friend that was a Mercedes parts manager for many years related about how Mercedes would not upgrade the air conditioning on their cars in the '80s (probably where the tinted window craze came from?) until their next redesign. In short, if there was not some activity with parts failures and such on the import vehicles, there would not be any need to have a parts and service department in those dealerships. If they don't make money on parts, it has to be on service and maintenance items. No rocket science there.

One way or another, there will be some costs to vehicle ownership. How each of us decide to allocate those costs in time and money are up to each of us.

Enjoy!

NTX5467

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