If the Buick LaCrosse is any indication of General Motors' future, then the company should soon be able to start paying back its government loans. This entry-level luxury sedan invites adjectives long since abandoned when describing Buick: sleek, modern and nimble come to mind. Can a younger demographic be far behind?
Appearance: We could mention the waterfall grille, the wraparound headlights and the lines that give the LaCrosse an eye-catching look. We could mention the nine-spoke alloy wheels and double chrome tailpipes. But this says it best: Several people were surprised when they asked us what kind of car it was and we said "Buick." Peter saw it next to its larger sibling, the Lucerne, at the Tampa Auto Show and it made that sedan look dowdy.
Performance: The LaCrosse is fun to drive. Fun. When was the last time that word was used for the Buick driving experience? When you start it, which you can do remotely, the first thing you notice is . . . nothing. The 3.6-liter, 280-horsepower V-6 is extremely quiet. But step on the gas and, boy, does it fly. You'll feel some torque steer because of the front-wheel drive, but the acceleration exceeded our expectations. The overall feel almost says performance sedan. (All-wheel drive is available in the CXL, but you'll lose a bit in power.) The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly, so Peter found the manual mode superfluous. The mileage is respectable: 17 city and 27 highway. Oh, and it takes regular gas.
Interior: We liked the elegant, curvy design. And it's finished in attractive materials, such as a wood-grain steering wheel partly wrapped in leather. The LaCrosse uses GM's ambient "ice blue" lighting on the doors, console and simple, yet eye-pleasing, gauges. (We've liked it on the new Camaro, and it works even better here.) The front seats, with their perforated leather, are extremely comfortable and have the right amount of hug for when your foot gets heavy. There's plenty of head room, even with the large sunroof. The back seats aren't cramped — a priority for Buick's large Chinese market, from what we've read. Lyra found the roomy rear seats useful for another reason: Her son had space to spread out his toys. She liked that the child safety lock for the rear doors is controlled from the front-door cluster. The rear window even has a power sun shade that seems tailor-made for Florida. The trunk space is adequate. As much as we liked the LaCrosse (which surprised us both), we did have some nits: Peter said the window and mirror controls on the armrest felt and looked a bit cheap compared with the rest of the cockpit. Also, he would have liked a sunglasses holder. And because of the car's sleek styling, Buick should consider offering a blind-spot warning system. Lyra found the door pull/armrest a bit cumbersome. And the buttons in the center console are a bit of a jumble. But the LCD display is clear and the Bluetooth for the phone works well.
Our 3 favorites
Performance: Quite simply, this car is fun to drive.
Styling: Finally, a Buick you could actually picture Tiger Woods driving.
Interior: The cockpit feel echoes the sleek exterior.
Steering wheel: The leather/woodgrain combo feels nice to the touch. And it can be heated.
Ambient lighting: Loved it on the new Camaro and love it here, too.
Styling: Sleek design is like a luxury-car mashup.
The bottom line: Buick is targeting buyers of the Lexus ES350 — wow, times are changing — and that's not an empty boast. It really does measure up. We can't wait to see the upcoming Regal.