Buick LaCrosse — Quiet luxury

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

This fall we discovered what we learned years ago — the current-generation LaCrosse is the best large sedan Buick has produced in years including a stylish exterior that that has lost none of its luster since its 2009 introduction, a handsome cabin with upgraded technology, strong performance from a 3.6
-liter V-6, and a smooth and quiet ride.

Now in its fifth model year, Buick determined a major refreshening was in order. The 2014 LaCrosse has been endowed with a new sculpted hood, a larger waterfall grille, restyled headlamp housings,
a new rear fascia wearing a full-width chrome accent, wraparound LED tail lamps, and a new trunk lid with integrated spoiler. The interior has also undergone modernization, but retains its elegant appearance with sweeping lines highlighted by LED accent lighting.

The real focus of Buick's refreshening was on technology updates in the form of adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, blind spot warning, lane change alert and lane departure warning that uses GM's new vibrating seat alert system, and rear cross traffic alert. Most of these safety and convenience features are optional equipment with the two Driver Confidence packages. The point is Buick has taken safety to its highest level if you elect to subscribe to it.

What haven’t changed are the two drive-trains. Standard on the base and front-wheel-drive Leather trim models is a mild hybrid eAssist powertrain that pairs a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with an 11-kilowatt electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. The result is a combined 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque mated to a six-speed automatic. Aided by aerodynamic improvements including controlled shutters behind the grille, the 4-cylinder delivers an excellent EPA rating of 25 mpg city, 36 on the highway, and 29 combined.

As you might expect, the performance is rather leisurely, but adequate, with published 0-to-60 times of around 9 seconds. If fuel economy is of extreme importance than the mild hybrid version is the way to go. As a bonus, it also comes with a lower purchase price starting at $34,060 including destination charge. It can also be purchased in the Leather trim level with a few more standard features starting at $36,135.

We think the 303-horsepower V-6 is more befitting the LaCrosse. We found that the V-6 exhibited steady, smooth and quiet performance measured at a reassuring 6.5 seconds from 0-to-60. Shifts from the six-speed are smooth and seamless, and when it comes time to stop, brake feel is solid and confidence-inspiring.

Perhaps even more rewarding, the ride is luxury-class comfortable, without the traditional Buick wallow of yesteryear. This Buick is no sports sedan, but we found it mildly entertaining on our winding back-road test routes.

Open the door and — most dramatic after dark — the interior is bathed in ice-blue light. Everything from the gauges to the inside of the door handle enclosures to a thin light bar that runs from door-to-door across the top of the dash feature the same ice blue lighting. All this soft light could have turned the Buick interior into a glitzy sideshow, but the stylists pulled off a very sophisticated and luxurious look, a rich and soothing nighttime atmosphere.

The door-to-door dashboard layout is generally first class and fit and finish is first rate and one of the most attractive in the industry. Buick has addressed a couple of issues we had with the original version. The center arm rest has been re-positioned for comfortble arm support, and a very useable storage cubby has been added up front. We found ourselves using the drink holders to store our odds and ends in the 2010 edition.

You will be riding in one of quietest cars on the road thanks to double-pane windows and additional firewall insulation. And you will be resting on comfortable front seats that we think will work for long-distance trips. Rear-seat passengers are pampered with vast stretches of leg room, and when necessary the rear seat will accommodate three across.

While passenger space is generous be forewarned, the trunk is rather small for a vehicle in the large sedan classification, measuring only 12.8 cubic feet in the V-6 edition. That number drops to 10.8 cubic feet with the mild-hybrid powertrain to make room for the battery pack.

The LaCrosse comes in four trim levels — Base, Leather, Premium 1 and Premium 2. All-wheel drive can be added to the V-6 models. Our Premium 1 test vehicle with both Driver Confidence packages 1 and 2, power sunroof and upgraded audio carried a bottom line of $45,595.

Base price: $34,060; as driven, $45,595
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 303 @ 6,800 rpm
Torque: 264 foot-pounds @ 5,300 rpm
Drive: front wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 111.7 inches
Length: 196.9 inches
Curb weight: 4,065 pounds
Turning circle: 38.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 12.8 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 28 highway, 18 city
0-60: 6.7 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Toyota Avalon, Kia Cadenza, Acura TL

The Good
• Smooth, quiet ride
• All-wheel drive is available
• Cutting-edge safety features available
• Elegant interior styling

The Bad
• Leisurely performance from 4-cylinder

The Ugly
• Small trunk for full-sized sedan