Sunday, December 7, 2014


The LaCrosse is a competitive large sedan, with a refined and powerful 3.6-liter V6 that returns 20 mpg overall. The four-cylinder eAssist mild hybrid delivers good performance and 26 mpg overall, shutting off at idle to save fuel. The ride is steady and supple, and handling is responsive. The interior is luxurious and well finished, and rear-seat room is generous. But the exterior styling compromises visibility fore and aft, and the cockpit is narrow. The interior has simplified controls and the seats are well-padded and comfortable. A rear-view camera is standard for 2015. Reliability of the V6 has improved to average and the four-cylinder is above average. 

Four trim levels are available: the base model, the literally labeled Leather edition, and the Premium I and Premium II. (Details on pricing can be found here.) Standard features include dual-zone climate control, a high-res center screen, remote start, next-generation IntelliLink connectivity, and an eight-way power driver’s seat. A redesigned center stack ditches the smorgasbord-like layout of the previous car, reducing the number of infotainment hard controls from 17 to a mere seven. It’s still a bit weak on storage cubbies, however, with most personal items—keys, phones, etc.—fighting for space in the two cup holders.

To make life easier for buyers who want it all, there’s the Ultra Luxury package, which pairs Buick-exclusive Sangria (code for deep purplish) and Ebony leather on the seats and door and console armrests with a synthetic suede headliner. The treatment makes for a pleasing, but dark, environment. Turn up the color intensity a few notches, and it could pass for the interior of Prince’s tour bus.

Buick has worked hard to keep the cacophony of the harsh outside world at bay, employing acoustical laminate on the windshield and front side glass, expanded baffles in the roof pillars, and melt-on sound deadeners throughout the lower body, essentially creating a rolling anechoic chamber. Buick calls it QuietTuning, and the deafening silence was only occasionally penetrated under hard acceleration or on particularly broken pavement.

Two direct-injected engines carry over for 2014: the 182-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder with electric eAssist mild hybridization and a 304-hp, 3.6-liter V-6. We drove the latter, in front- and all-wheel-drive guises. The V-6 car’s acceleration is best described as adequate; if it’s raw performance you are seeking, you probably have other vehicles on your wish list. The tone from the V-6 car’s twin exhaust outlets is pleasant, if not refined, until about 4100 rpm, when the engine NVH increases. The ruckus isn’t overwhelming, but it is more prominent than, say, the sound of the 3.5-liter V-6 in the competing Lexus ES350. Shifts from the six-speed automatic are enacted with no fuss, just soft transitions from gear to gear. Note: When shifting manually in Sport mode (it comes with V-6 front-wheel-drive models equipped with Premium packages I and II), the transmission will hold a gear up to the 6800-rpm redline before interfering with a shift of its own.

Our front-wheel-drive Premium II test car had the HiPer-strut front suspension, which helps tame torque steer that would otherwise come with big throttle inputs. The HiPer struts also help make the steering feel more linear and less twitchy just off-center than that of the previously mentioned ES350. The Premium LaCrosse also offers electrically controlled dampers and, in Sport mode, gives tightened-up electrically assisted variable-effort power steering and quicker throttle response. Long, gentle highway sweepers are the LaCrosse’s forte, tracking true through repeated 80-mph bends with a level body and stable footing. An engineer riding shotgun explained that the strut mounts have been reworked in an effort to maintain precise steering while providing for a slightly smoother ride. In-town maneuvers are handled with equally drama-free capability.

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