Tepid Buick

Okay guys here’s a question I already know what the answer is but what the heck!

I purchased that “little old lady” car recently at a great price. A 2007 Buick Lucerne CXL with a V6, it only has 4,700 miles on it! It is only about 200 horsepower. This is my wife’s car. Our problem is that this car is replacing her 2006 Nissan Maxima. That car has/had 265 horsepower. After driving the Maxima for all these years the Buick seem sooooooo very slow. I know we’ll get used to it, and we aren’t drag racers, etc… But…

My question is this. Is there any REASONABLE modifications we can make to the engine to eek out a few ponies out of this granny grocery getter? Please don’t laugh, it is a serious question.


John (aka jr4488)

Nope, there is no legitimate (or cheap) way to eke out additional power without negatively impacting emissions and/or gas mileage. I suppose that you could add a turbocharger, but if the engine wasn’t built with the beefed-up bearings that are needed for that type of modification, then you are going to shorten the life of the engine.

You may see ads for chips that will–supposedly–add additional power, but the companies selling those chips are essentially just a bunch of charlatans who are tying to loot your wallet.

That 3.8 engine design dates from the 1960’s. Your Maxima engine had dual overhead cams, a tuned intake manifold with long runners, and was simply designed to be a higher revving, freer breathing engine. The 3.8 still uses pushrods and 2 valves per cylinder. The Lucerne is also a much larger heavier car.

On the other hand the 3.8 (aside from some plastic intake manifold problems) is virtually bulletproof and in my opinion one of the 2 best American V6 engines ever made.

You’ll never get the Buick to be the sprightly driver the Maxima was.

Leave it alone; your wife will soon get used to driving it. My wife went from a 352 cubic inch V8 Ford Granada to a 1.6 liter 4 cylinder Dodge Colt and ended up liking the Colt better.

Make sure it’s in proper running order and keep reminding her about the great price…

You would have to change the engine and control modules associated with it. The more powerful engine available that year was a 4.6L V8 that put out 275 HP at 295 lb-ft of torque. I’m sure it would be more cost effective to buy that car instead. i had a 1998 Regal with the same engine and it did not seem underpowered. Actually, it had good power from a standing start. Passing power was a bit anemic though, if that is what you mean. Just enjoy the new ride.

@Docnick It’s hard to imagine somebody actually liking a Dodge Colt

But I suppose it’s all relative

@jtsanders Isn’t OP’s Lucerne a little heavier than your 1998 Regal?

The Colt went through a whole bunch of generations. Some of them were perfectly pleasant small economy cars. They weren’t quick or luxurious, but they were inexpensive, very reliable, and drove OK. My brother drove courier routes in three of them for a decade and sold many of his co-workers on their virtues.

@db4690, yeah, it is heavier. My father in law owns a Le Sabre with the same engine and he never talked about lack of power. I guess it is all in what you are used to.

The Colt went through a whole bunch of generations. Some of them were perfectly pleasant small economy cars. They weren’t quick …

Surely I’m not the only one who remembers the early-80s Turbo Colt, which was amazingly quick.

…or luxurious, but they were inexpensive, very reliable, and drove OK.

Even the Rally/Sport non-turbo versions had extremely good power for just a sportied-up econobox.

I had at least three 3800’s that I can remember and they all had plenty of power. I even pulled a camper with them and never had any problem on the straights or mountains. Maybe they just don’t rev as quick or something. I’d just make sure it was not all carboned up and maybe new plugs but otherwise leave it along.

There are handheld tuners that will work with your engine. You might be able to eke out another 10-30 HP, and improve response and your transmission’s shifting by using one of these, though you will probably have to use a higher octane gasoline as a penalty. You must be cautious when using these as well. The mild performance tunes that are included with these are usually well tested and pretty harmless, but you can destroy your engine if you mess with settings without knowing what you’re doing. I would not use one on a car if there is any warranty left, and you’ll want to revert to the ‘factory tune’ if you take your car to a dealer for service.

Another possibility is to put a more free-flowing exhaust system on the car, but this is likely going to be more expensive than you would want and will likely only improve things at higher RPMs.


So for sake of argument, I get the upgraded exhaust and maybe a cold air intake…that will be say 10 horsepower, 20? 30 on a good day? Any estimates?

I’d say you might make 10 hp on a lucky day with those changes but then the thing would be so ugly loud you’d never want to drive it. I’ve never heard a cold air intake that sounded good.

Both the cold air intake and exhaust are only going to meaningfully increase horsepower at the higher end of the RPM range. If you’re really insistent on increasing HP, I think a tuner might be the cheapest way to do so. But you’re not going to dramatically increase HP without a supercharger, hotter cam, or other major mods that just aren’t worth doing to your Buick IMHO. Might I ask how does the car handle? You could boost HP but if the chassis isn’t up to handling the increase, there’s not much point. The last Buick I had (as a rental) was peppy, comfy, had great A/C, and (wish I’d thought of this line but) it handled like a “hippo on wet clay”. This car really isn’t meant to be a screamer. If you want a sport sedan, you might be better off trading for a sport sedan. Why did you get rid of the Nissan?

I know, I know. The Maxima just spoiled us with it’s engine and great torque. The Buick is just such a sloth off accelerator tip in. I don’t want a sport car, I just would like a bit more inertia when I hit the throttle. I don’t see us doing those mods. We sold the Maxima due to 93,000 miles and the Buick fell into our laps cheap with only 4,500 miles. It was pure economics. I guess I was /am surprised that the Buick engine is so outdated considering it’s sticker price is/was 4-5 grand more than our Nissan.

I guess you have to ask yourself when you would need or want that extra push? On the freeway cruising at 70, coming out of the grocery store in town, accelerating on and on ramp? I just rented a Jeep with a 4 cyl and I was surprized that it really had plenty of power and acceleration for anything I needed for normal driving.

Gee I had that engine’s little brother (3.3L V6) and thought it was pretty spry in my 92 Cutlas Ciera! And a pushrod engine (with more displacement and torque per HP) ought to shine at low RPM grunt, if not high RPM speed.

It literally was the only good thing about that car…