By Casey Williams – MyCarData
In early October, I had the opportunity to drive all of the new Buicks at a press preview near Cincinnati. The primary reason for the trip was to drive the sporty Regal GS sport sedan. Yet, it was the LaCrosse with its updated style, simplified infotainment controls, and advanced safety systems that caught my attention.
LaCrosse is the most traditional Buick, large and proud. But, as appropriate for the flagship sedan of a brand that sells nearly three times as many vehicles in China as the U.S., much of the styling was undertaken in Shanghai. It’s a contemporary design, with a hint of its Asian influence, but identifies itself as a Buick with a chrome waterfall grille, ventiports, and sweep-spear side styling. Modern touches include 19” alloys, dual chrome exhaust tips, and elegant wrap-around LED taillamps.
As with other Buicks, LaCrosse’s interior focuses on technology and craftsmanship. Traditional Buick owners will love the woodgrain trim, stitched dash coverings, heated/cooled leather seats, and thick heated leather-wrapped steering wheel. Even the radio knobs are leather-wrapped. Three people can actually fit in the rear. The trunk is a cave.
The big Buick is also loaded with technology. Controls for the infotainment system are much more intuitive, allowing easy access to XM Satellite radio, Pandora, navigation, and Bluetooth calling/streaming audio. Bose speakers enliven the cabin. Drivers appreciate a reconfigurable dashboard (ala Cadillac/Corvette), color heads-up display, and gesture-recognition touchscreen.
A reader recently wrote and asked when Buick would introduce a hybrid. While Buick doesn’t play it up, the base “eAssist” powertrain in the LaCrosse is a gas/electric hybrid. It utilizes a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, lithium-ion batteries, regenerative braking, and start/stop technology to generate 182 horsepower and 25/36-MPG city/hwy. Our test car scamps with the optional 304 horsepower 3.6-liter V6 that enables tire-squealing thrust and 18/28-MPG city/hwy.
There’s no denying the LaCrosse is a big car as it shares architecture with the Cadillac XTS and Chevy Impala. However, with its electronic suspension system, it can ride comfortably or sweep through curvy backroads. On our preview in Cincinnati, I followed a Regal GS through hilly and curvy roads with the LaCrosse. The smaller car had an easier time with corners, but the LaCrosse’s electronic suspension and more powerful engine kept pace. It’s not a BMW, but it is no Park Avenue either.
Should the unfortunate happen, LaCrosse is loaded with safety features. Rear parking sensors and backing camera are a start, but our test car also came with Forward Collision Alert, Rear Cross Path Detection, and Lane Departure Warning systems. Adaptive cruise control maintains a safe distance on the highway, but can bring the car to a complete stop or creep through traffic. The “rump shaker” Safety Alert Seat notifies your underside of danger.
All of the changes add up.
“We evolved the interior and exterior design, increased luxury amenities and materials, and enhanced the safety and personal technologies to give customers more reasons than ever to rediscover Buick,” said Tony DiSalle, U.S. vice president of Buick Marketing.
LaCrosse sales have exceeded a half-million units since the car was introduced in 2009. U.S. sales exceeded 57,000 last year. Sales have tapered in 2013, but if our time with the car is any indication, it is likely to get a shot in the rump.
You can buy a LaCrosse with the eAssist hybrid for $33,135, but our relatively-loaded V6-powered test car came to a more upscale $45,595 (without the available all-wheel-drive system). Compared to cars like the Lexus ES, Lincoln MKS, Chrysler 300, and Hyundai Azera, that’s still a good value. Buick has work ahead, but respected quality, elegant styling, and the latest technology keep it in the hunt.
2014 Buick LaCrosse
Five-passenger, FWD Sedan
Powertrain: 304hp 3.6-liter V6, 6-spd auto trans
Suspension f/r: Electronic Ind/Ind
Wheels: 19”/19” f/r
Brakes: disc/disc fr/rr
Must-have features: Comfort, Technology
Fuel economy: 18/28 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Kansas City, KS
Base/as-tested price: $33,135/$45,595