Buick isn’t talked about a lot here in The Garage, but as they are one of GM’s remaining four core brands, the all-new LaCrosse points to where Buick is headed. With Cadillac firmly entrenched against BMW and Mercedes-Benz sport sedans, Buick is aiming for the luxury market, and in the case of the LaCrosse, think Lexus ES350 and Lincoln MKZ.
Over the past three decades, Buick styling has varied from wallflower (Century, LeSabre) to weird (the 90’s fish faced Riviera) but with the new LaCrosse, this is the most handsome Buick built in my lifetime. The shape is well-proportioned and modern, but there are nods to the glory days of 1940’s and 1950’s Buicks, such as the prominent waterfall grill, and the elegant ‘spear’ that begins at the headlights, swoops over the fender, crests under the outside mirror, falls across the doors and kinks up just shy of the rear door handle. Simple, but so elegant. The ventiports on the hood are for decoration only, but I doubt any buyers will really care. It’s great to see Buick recapture some of the swagger that once defined the brand.
Inside the LaCrosse, the emphasis on style continues, but presents itself as a little more subdued compared to the exterior. The gauges feature an art deco font, with cool blue lighting. It is elegant and chic, and I applaud the original thinking by Buick. The center console, housing buttons for audio and climate control Ã‚Â and other functions required some time to study before I knew what the button did, to understand the pictogram, or when all else failed, just push the button to see what happens. The screen for the audio and climate controls did not appear to be any different from the Chevy Equinox we recently tested. It’s perfectly usable, but in a luxury car, you expect better.
Our tester was the top of the line CXS, which came with a boatload of luxury features like passive entry, Harmon Kardon audio, heated/vented leather seats, dual zone climate control, power rear sunshade and heated leather steering wheel. Surrounded by all this luxury, I was a little disappointed that I had to manually adjust the tilt and telescoping steering wheel. These are minor complaints-overall, the LaCrosse interior is a comfortable place to eat up mile after mile on the interstate. And with an as-tested price of $33,960USD, the LaCrosse CXS is quite a value too.
The LaCrosse CSX offers the most potent engine of all three models (CX, CXL, and CXS) with a 3.6L V-6 rated at 280hp, coupled to a six-speed automatic. The LaCrosse accelerated with authority, and passing situations on the highway were never an issue. But the theme here is quiet. Only under full throttle one could hear a soft, pleasant sound from under the hood. The steering was responsive, but had no road feel, and was a bit too over-boosted, as I could steer the LaCrosse through corners with my index finger.
With the steering so isolated, you would be safe to assume a suspension that rolled over and played dead once the road gets twisty. You would be wrong. This is no sports sedan, but on twisty roads, when I first thought I’d better slow down, I let the Buick press on at speed, and the car managed to keep its composure. Buick does offer a touring package for the LaCrosse, which will get you a sport suspension mode as well as continuously variable real-time damping. Also included are 19″ painted alloys. The CXS comes standard with 18″ chrome-plated wheels-not a look everyone loves. If the bling of chrome rims turns you off, you have to buy the touring package. Buick, if you are listening, give your buyer a choice of painted or chromed rims at no cost.
When I watched the LaCrosse pull out of my driveway today, I felt positive about Buick. I’ll call the LaCrosse a modern interpretation of American Luxury. In the recent past, with so many brands and models within GM, it was hard to define Buick’s role. Now that the ugly work of shedding brands is nearly done, Buick has finally been given the breathing room it needs to re-establish itself and create a brand identity that will keep Buick loyalist’s coming back, and more importantly, encourage new buyers to give Buick a chance. The LaCrosse is up for the challenge.