FIRST DRIVE: 2014 Buick LaCrosse
What your father's Buick should have been.No Comments
It pulls nicely, although the near two-ton weight of the V-6 model does drag on acceleration.
Remember when Buicks, especially large front-drive Buick sedans, were derided as old man's cars? Something you'd get right after the AARP card arrived in the mail, and right before you bought your first pair of Sansabelt slacks? A car with a large backseat for hauling not your kids, but your grandkids?
Well, your author does - he had exposure to at least one mid-'90s LeSabre in all its whitewall and chrome wire-rim glory. Soft, comfortable, large - it was the car that drove the perception.
Buick, of course, wanted to change that perception, and while the first LaCrosse didn't help the brand shed its old image, the second-generation car, launched in 2009 as a 2010 model, did.
For 2014, the LaCrosse gets a refresh with mild exterior updates, a more significant interior change, and some added features. We set upon Dallas to see if the LaCrosse could continue to change Buick's brand perception while still providing upper-crust luxury for the aging middle-manager who can't spring for a Caddy.
Our drive was exclusively urban, so we didn't get much chance to test handling, but from what we could tell when hustling up an on-ramp, the LaCrosse's main mission remains to take four grown adults to dinner, as opposed to, say, the Pacific Coast Highway. For the most part the steering felt nicely weighted, but it did exhibit traits of overboost at times. Accuracy was hard to gauge, but from what we could tell, it wasn't exactly pin-point. No matter, since the LaCrosse won't be driven that way by most owners. Buick buyers who want to have fun and luxury will go for the Regal GS.
Ride is what matters to this customer, and the LaCrosse gets it mostly right. It's a little on the soft side, but it never descends into float or wallow. Potholes feel like they're miles away, and the car never feels rattled. We didn't trek across North Texas to Ft. Worth or other points on the compass, but our jaunts to and from DFW were pleasant cruises. Long commuters, listen up: The LaCrosse won't leave you feeling worn out by the time you get to work.
The new eight-inch driver's info screen/instrument cluster works well - it's easy to read and it's not hard to scroll through menus to find what you need. Buick's Intellilink infotainment system also works well, with the possible exception of a navigation system that sent us on a wild goose chase around Dallas looking for a Starbucks - never mind that every listed location had closed. Frequent updates may be necessary.
There are plenty of new safety features baked into the car (lane-departure warning, lane-change alert, blind-spot alert, forward-collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, and automatic collision preparation), but thankfully we never had to test them out - except for the blind-spot alert, which does its job in normal freeway driving, and does it as well as any other system we've tested.
Large sedans should also be adept at hauling cargo, and the LaCrosse is - the trunk easily swallowed two suitcases plus an overstuffed backpack.
There's stiff competition in this segment - the Lexus ES, the Ford Taurus, the Hyundai Genesis (redesigned for 2015), and GM's own Chevrolet Impala are all in the competitive set. The LaCrosse doesn't outshine any of those models (well, maybe the Taurus) but it doesn't lag behind, either.
It's a solid choice - and unlike Buicks of old, you won't endure any whitewall/AARP/wire wheel jokes.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drive Wheels: Front-wheel-drive
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway
Base Price: $38,810 (excludes $925 destination fee)
As-Tested Price: $46,090
Available Features: USB port, navigation, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, infotainment system, Bluetooth, satellite radio, blind-spot monitoring, heated steering wheel, rear parking assist, forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, head-up display, fog lamps.