Buick LaCrosse — Taking it up a notch

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Buick has taken a giant step forward with the all-new 2017 LaCrosse — more sophisticated and refined than any full-sized Buick sedan in recent memory including the last generation LaCrosse.

The new LaCrosse comes much closer to fulfilling "world class" claims from exterior styling, a quiet and tasteful interior, the newest technology, and overall driving dynamics while maintaining a comfortable — but not floaty — ride that traditional Buick buyers have come to expect.

While there are hints of award-winning Chevrolet Impala exterior styling, especially from the side, we think designers did a commendable job in giving the Buick a more sophisticated and elegant stance. The LaCrosse also takes in styling cues from yet another award-winner, the Avenir concept featuring a new grille design with a large opening distinguished by the return of a three-color – red, silver and blue – Buick tri-shield insignia, accented by wing-shaped elements set against darkened waterfall grille bars.

The LaCrosse comes in four trim levels — Base, Preferred, Essence and Premium — with the Premium having the $2,200 option of all-wheel drive. The base model starts at $32,990 with destination charge, which includes the new and performance-oriented 3.6-liter V-6 generating 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission.

The V-6 gives the LaCrosse the type of performance expected of a full-size luxury sedan with a published time of 5.9 seconds from 0-to-60. That puts the Buick in the same performance ballpark as the Lexus ES 350, Lincoln MKZ on the luxury side and Toyota Avalon and Kia Cadenza on the mainstream side. And Buick has bragging rights over its gas mileage statistics — 21 mpg city, 31-highway and 25 overall.

Our Premium trim test sedan was infused with abundant power, but straight ahead acceleration is not the only trait the sedan displayed. We were delighted to discover that the LaCrosse also handled the twists and turns of rural roads with a dexterity not usually found in four-door luxury transportation. Helping keep body roll in check was the electronically controlled active suspension called Dynamic Drive that comes in two selectable modes — Touring and Sport.

Note that while the standard start-stop system is mostly unobtrusive, it cannot be turned off by the driver. We know people who find stop-start annoying, and the fact it cannot be disabled could be a deal breaker.

The large, spacious interior is whisper quiet at all speeds projecting a luxury persona. But beyond that, the interior materials are first class and the standard leather seating surfaces in our top-of-the line test car proved very inviting. The front seats are comfortable and there was never a problem finding the optimum driving position with the power driver's seat. Rear seat legroom has been improved over the outgoing model because the wheelbase has been stretched 2.7 inches.

The new electronic shifte takes some getting used to and we can imagine long-time owners of Buick sedans cursing over how to get the darn thing into reverse. Buick says the new setup has opened up more storage room below the center console.

Most of the vehicle functions are run through the eight-inch center screen or by using steering wheel controls. Climate controls can be accessed through more traditional buttons. Although we would also like buttons for audio controls, the Buick IntelliLink infotainment system is relatively uncomplicated.

While an array of 10 airbags and a rearview camera are standard safety equipment, you will have to invest $405 in the Driver Confidence Package #1 on all but the Premium trim to get blindspot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane change alert. To get adaptive cruise control, a feature that is gaining rapidly in popularity, you will have to invest another $1,690 across the lineup for the Driver Confidence Package #2. We think in a sedan with luxury aspirations some of these features — led by a blindspot monitor — should be standard equipment.

One problem with the new LaCrosse is the wide disparity in pricing, ranging from the base price of $32,290 to a well-equipped Premium edition that can top out at $50,000. For instance, our Premium test car carried a base price of $41,950 and a bottom line of $48,395 including $6,405 in options.

Some buyers may find the well-equipped base model with considerable standard equipment is all he or she needs. It comes with such things as xenon headlights, rearview camera, keyless ignition, an eight-speaker sound system, 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, simulated leather upholstery, power front seats, and dual-zone climate control.

Base price: $32,290; as driven, $48,395
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 310 @ 6,800 rpm
Torque: 282 pound-feet @ 5,200 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 114.4 inches
Length: 197.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,598 pounds
Turning circle: 38 feet
Luggage capacity: 15 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 15.8 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 21 city, 31 highway, 25 combined
0-60: 5.9 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Lexus ES 350, Lincoln MKZ, Toyota Avalon

The Good
• Excellent performance from V6
• Good fuel economy on regular gas
• Quiet, luxurious interior
• Impressive styling

The Bad
• Wide disparity in pricing from bottom trim to top trim

The Ugly
• Popular safety equipment optional