Buick has been going through a bit of a resurgence lately. After years of disappointing products and nearly being shuttered by GM during their bankruptcy and restructuring, Buick has been creating a full suite of competitive vehicles into the market. We decided to take the current flagship sedan, the Buick LaCrosse for a spin to see if Buick really has upped their game.
When it comes to looks, the LaCrosse is leagues ahead of the previous Buick offerings. We are really digging the new squat styling and stout proportions. The sharp lines on the front combine with the waterfall grille and HID headlamps to provide a commanding face. The side profile features chrome trim across the beltline and the bottom of the doors. A character line swoops gracefully downward until the rear door where it swoops it back up across the rear fender. The rear finishes with chrome trim on the LED taillamps and the trunk. The tail also features integrated exhaust outlets with chrome trim, giving a nice finished look.
The interior of GM products have been the butt of all jokes, and universally disdained. They always managed to tread the fine accountant’s line, forever disregarding any thoughts of ergonomics, or quality. There have been great strides lately, but the LaCrosse has to be one of the best efforts yet. The design features a double cockpit design with lots of leather and wood slathered on everything. We really enjoyed the tan and gray color scheme of the whole interior. We do get bored of the dark interiors most luxury cars are given. The interior has also been treated with a nice ambient light treatment in which many of the edges and seams of the trim pieces glow with a soft blue light. It looks very futuristic and we found it mildly soothing.
Soothing is actually a very good term for the LaCrosse. The entire machine feels like it was built to move things from point A to point B with nothing in between but marshmallows. The ride is very soft and coddling, and the leather seats are well cushioned. Buick says they are trying to attract younger buyers, but the LaCrosse still feels built for an older generation than my own.
If there is one redeeming feature of the way the Buick drives, it’s the engine. Our tester came packaged with the 3.6-liter V6, putting 303 horsepower and 264 lb/ft of torque at the call of my right foot. With a FWD drivetrain this can make for some fun, but the big Buick doesn’t exhibit as much torque steer as you might expect. We also have to give major kudos to the suspension engineering team; this big floaty boat doesn’t understeer nearly as bad as you would expect, not that it’s a canyon carver by any stretch.
This overall “meh” experience is a great way to sum up my entire time with the LaCrosse. It was never a bad car, but it was also never a great one. I could never find anything about the car that really made me want it, and it wasn’t for a lack of trying. To give this Buick the best chance to woo me, I loaded up the wife and a few bags and headed off on a road trip. We were headed to visit family in Wilmington, NC; a near 500 mile trip. I thought the miles of long open interstate would help the Buick makes it case for existence, but it was for naught. The cabin is quiet and the seats are comfortable, but they never stood out as exceptional. And for its unique and modern styling, the LaCrosse has absolutely zero interior storage space. There are a few microscopic cubbies in the door, two cup holders, and small space under the armrest. We don’t know how far Buick’s traditional customers drive on road trips, but for our preferred long hauls we need space to put things. While not technically in the same class, the Ford Taurus we has a few weeks ago is a prime example of great storage space design.
While the trip to Wilmington and back only helped to solidify my nonchalant relationship with the Buick, it did reveal a real-world fuel economy number of 26.4 mpg. With an EPA-estimate of 27 mpg, we came away quite impressed. Other features that impressed us were the harmon/kardon stereo system and the rear power sunshade. The stereo was very powerful and featured a very smooth overall tone. Many automakers tend to fall towards an overly bass heavy mix or a shrill high end, it was nice to finally have a nice mid-level arrangement. Of course you still get the IntelliLink system with its Pandora integration, but to be honest, we could take it or leave it. When heading to Wilmington, I spent much of the trip with the sun directly behind me, and that power sunshade dramatically improved comfort and visibility.
On paper, this Buick looks to be a big winner. It has more interior space than the Maxima, new MKZ and ES350, beats all three in horsepower and it has a near perfect crash-test score. Besides this, the Maxima is a more engaging drive and the Lexus is more refined. We don’t want it to seem like the LaCrosse is a bad car – far from it, actually – but it is not a great car. It feels like GM and Buick tried very hard to make the most generic car possible. It is better than every Buick to come out for the last twenty years, but that was never a hard target to beat. We just wish GM would have taken a few more risks and made a car that was a little more memorable.
Make no mistake, this is one of the best Buicks ever made, but in today’s hyper competitive market the best Buick just isn’t good enough.