Now that Buick is officially part of the General Motors survival plan, the upscale brand must enhance its relevance to younger buyers.
A big part of that effort is the 2010 LaCrosse, an elegant but sporty sedan that bears little resemblance to the first generation model.
The new LaCrosse rides on the Epsilon platform, a global chassis that is completely different than the predecessor's.
The original LaCrosse, introduced in 2004 as a 2005 model, replaced both the Century and Regal in Buick's lineup. Ironically, the car is sold in Quebec as the "Allure" because "LaCrosse" has an unfortunate double meaning in French slang.
The 2010 LaCrosse turns heads with a swept design somewhat reminiscent of the 1950s models, in that the front end is sharp and the back end is blunt and hefty, suggesting a projectile that might be fired from a slingshot.
The bulk of the back end is accentuated by a high waistline and reduced ratio of glass to sheetmetal, a trick Chrysler put to good use in its 300 sedan.
"It is instantly recognizable as a Buick, with its signature 'sweep spear' body-side styling, portholes inside the character line on the hood, and waterfall grille," said Ed Welburn, vice president of GM Global Design.
Although pricing has not been announced, it would be very surprising to see Buick transcend current pricing by much, given the weakness of the market. The 2009 LaCrosse retails in the $26,000 to $33,000 range.
The 2010 model will sell in front-drive or all-wheel-drive with three trim levels: CX, CXL and CXS. Shipments to showrooms should begin in early summer.
Two engines will be offered. The base 3-liter V-6 will produce 255 horses and travel 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway. The 3.6-liter V-6 is tuned to turn out 280 horses and cover 17 mpg in the city, 26 on the highway. Both engines send torque through a six-speed Hydra-Matic transmission.
The direct injection engines create more power with less fuel and reduce vehicle emissions through greater combustion control, according to Buick engineers. Cold-start emissions fall by about 25 percent.
In addition to the sculpted exterior, Buick is emphasizing workmanship and fine materials in the interior. The leather seats in the top trim level are durable but soft to the touch. The wood trim is rich and dark.
The two-tone interior features flowing lines that wrap around the instrument and door panels. Maintaining its reputation for producing a quiet, tranquil ride, Buick applied an engineering process to reduce, block and absorb interior noise.
The ambience at night is seductive with blue accent lighting from the center console, instrument panel and door panels.
Technology was another area of emphasis, with benchmark digital connectivity and personal technology such as in-dash navigation, Bluetooth, an auxiliary audio input and a USB port. Rear-seat passengers get a power rear-window sunshade and a DVD entertainment system, with two display screens embedded in the seatbacks as an option.
The LaCrosse also provides a head-up display of speed in the windshield. At night, the optional adaptive lighting package can direct the high-intensity discharge headlight beams up to 15 degrees for enhanced illumination of the road and its curves. Another valuable option is Side Blind Zone alert that notifies the driver if a vehicle in adjacent lanes is traveling in the driver's blind spot. You can add a rear view camera, with the display integrated into the navigation system screen.