Road Test

ROAD TEST: 2015 Buick Lacrosse

LaCrosse's tasteful but distinctive styling stands out in a very conservative class

General Motors’ Buick division continues to outperform all its corporate cousins, especially Cadillac, which has been saddled with finicky technology that’s proven to be too clever by half. Buick seems to bring the right mix of sophisticated drivetrains and comfortable ride to a very loyal audience. Some say Buick fans may be a little too old, but the high average buyer age has also shielded the nameplate from overly critical feedback (studies show younger buyers are a harder cohort to satisfy).

The first-generation Buick LaCrosse was introduced in 2004, replacing the Century and Regal as a 2005 model. A version wearing different clothes and with unique powertrains was produced in Thailand for the Chinese market.

The car was initially called the Allure here in Canada, because of sensitivity over an unfortunate interpretation of the name in Quebecois-French slang. But clearer heads prevailed and the LaCrosse name was adopted for the 2010 model year.

That's when the second-generation model arrived, commonizing the North American and Chinese and supplanting the Lucerne as the brand's flagship sedan, at the fuzzy market edge between the full-size family sedan and entry-luxe markets.

This new LaCrosse was larger than the original, based on GM’s global Epsilon II platform which it shared with the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS.

Refreshed styling

The LaCrosse received a minor refresh for 2014 with restyled front and rear fascia, LED daytime running lamps and LED tail lights. Inside there were new seats and materials and the instrument panel and console were redesigned. A top-line luxury trim was introduced and the “IntelliLink” infotainment system became more functional.

The design is contemporary, yet stands out in this a very conservative class of vehicles. The heavily-chromed “waterfall” grill dominates the frontal appearance, clearly separated from the light units to either side.

The silly “ventiports” – fake portholes – on the sides of the hood were originally used on Buicks of the previous century, ostensibly to help extract hot air from the engine compartment. They are now nothing more than an affectation.

There are no visual changes for the 2015 model but technology has been bumped up a notch. The 2015 LaCrosse comes in four trim levels - base (1SB), leather (1SL) and Premium 1 & 2 (1SP & 1SL).

Extremely well-equipped

Buick sits one slot down from the Cadillac in GM’s hierarchy. As befits this position and its intended audience, the LaCrosse is extremely well-equipped. 

In addition to the usual array of features expected of a luxury car, my loaded Premium tester boasted a head-up display unit, blind spot monitoring, navigation, forward collision, rear cross traffic and lane departure warning systems, heated and cooled seats covered in ventilated leather, a heated steering wheel, parking sensors and a sunroof.

A rear-view camera is standard on all trim levels as is OnStar with 4G LTE, text message alerts and its very own wireless hot spot allowing it to serve as a mobile hub for drivers and passengers. The service is free for the first three months, after which a subscription is required.

Refreshingly light interior

The LaCrosse's interior features a pleasant blend of light colours, wood accents and aluminum trim, quite a departure from the dark interiors of many competitors. The instrumentation is crisp, clean and well lit day and night.


The centre stack is topped by a 20-cm full-colour infotainment screen, seven traditional buttons and two large knobs. The IntelliLink system, with its deeply inset screen, is not among the more intuitive systems on the market.

Another negative factor is a large round hump instead of a proper rest for the driver’s left foot.


Conversely the heads-up display is bright and easily adjusted to suit the driver's height. I also like the “haptic seat” which vibrates under the appropriate portion of one's rear end should you wander out of your lane or attempt to move into an adjacent one in the presence of another vehicle. It's far superior to the similar systems that use an annoying audible warning.

Buick is popular in the burgeoning Chinese market where it has a long-serving popularity among the wealthy, who enjoy being chauffeured around. That fact may help explain the especially roomy rear seat in the LaCrosse. There is room for three real adults back there, but at the cost of trunk space.

Three drivetrain choices

The 2015 LaCrosse comes with a choice of front or all-wheel-drive and four or six-cylinder engines mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The 182-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine comes in front-drive models only and features GM’s eAssist light electrification technology.

This system utilizes a separate battery in the trunk and belt-driven starter/generator that allows the engine to automatically turn off when the vehicles come to a rest and restart immediately and effortlessly when the driver’s foot is lifted from the brake pedal.  The system also supplies a modest power boost under full-throttle situations. 

The 3.6-litre V-6 engine comes in either FWD or AWD applications and has direct injection helping it produce 304 horsepower. My test car had the AWD which was much appreciated during the nasty winter conditions encountered during the test period. This engine is of the strong and silent variety with more than enough power for all purposes. 

Natural Resources Canada expects the V-6 AWD LaCrosse to average 13.8 litres/100 km in the city and 9.0 on the highway. My average for a week of mixed city and highway driving in winter averaged 10.9 putting it syrprisingly close to those numbers. Impressive.


Comfy highway cruiser

Buick is the oldest surviving American automotive brand. The name is associated with big, comfy highway cruisers capable of gobbling up huge distances with ease.

While slightly smaller than the Electra 225 of old, the new LaCrosse provides a very comfortable and composed ride sprinkled with a dusting of handling alacrity.

It is also extremely quiet, all but devoid of road or wind noise. Buick has made a concerted – and successful – attempt on this front with what it calls “QuietTuning”. Foam insulation and/or liquid sound-deadener is squeezed into every crack and crevice, acoustic glass is sued in the windshield and side windows and the headliner is extra thick.

The 2015 Buick LaCrosse offers all of the comfort and luxury worthy of the brand in a modern, spacious and efficient package.

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

Model: 2015 Buick Lacrosse Premium AWD

Price: $43,295 base; $51,825 as tested including freight

Engine: 3.6-llitre V-6, 304-horsepower, 264 lb-ft of torque

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Natural Resources Canada Fuel Consumption (city/highway): 13.8 / 9.0 L/100 km

Length: 5,000 mm

Width: 1,854 mm

Wheelbase: 2,837 mm

Competitors: Acura TLX, Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, Kia Cadenza, Lexus ES 350, Lincoln MKZ, Toyota Avalon, Volkswagen Passat.



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