2010 Buick LaCrosse Finds a Sweet Spot
We recently spent a morning with Buick LaCrosse, the star of the Buick showroom for 2010MY. You know by now that Buick is one of the four core brands that GM retained post-bankruptcy. Wildly successful in China, the brand has challenges in the States, evidenced by Chevrolet Camaro outselling the entire brand in June 2009– an atypically high month for Camaro that also speaks to the sad shape of Buick sales today.
Buick needs to connect with buyers who have not hit exit-level, and they know it. Based on our first drive, the 2010 LaCrosse has product credibility to build on the success Enclave started. As Buick navigates a renaissance inspired by Cadillac’s success, the LaCrosse is a strong, firm step forward.
CXS Touring Most Rewarding
This LaCrosse offers two rear suspension setups; we drove the “more sophisticated” front-drive CXL and CXS with Touring package. The CXL delivers modern handling and ride, and appropriate for a modern mid-size luxury sedan. The CXL doesn’t put you to sleep, nor shake your teeth out. LaCrosse is up to the challenge of wooing Lexus ES350 buyers and encouraging Buick loyalists to join the modern age of transportation.
The Touring gets more steering effort, active suspension damping, nineteen-inch wheels, and a stiffer state of tune for more road feedback and control, less roll, and more involvement. Vehicle Line Executive Jim Federico expects Touring to be taken in small numbers, but that isn’t important. Buick will not turn off its old-man image only offering the most comfortable and least demanding driving experiences.
We spent time with the 255HP 3.0L V6 (CXL) and 280HP 3.6L V6 (CXS); an I4 arrives until late this year. All are mated to six-speed automatic transmissions. Given CAFE and today’s economy, LaCrosse is not due to repeat the Super V8.
The 3.0L is well matched and capable; most opting to save the $3000 will not be disappointed. At throttle, its noise is a higher-pitched and less satisfying than the grumble of the 3.6L V6, but its performance is a solid complement to the driving dynamics and well suited for the car.
Rewards for choosing the 3.6L include better engine sound, stronger acceleration, and notably more torque. Buick’s EPA estimates indicate the FWD 3.0L and 3.6L deliver the same 17/27 mpg, so there’s no fuel penalty for taking the 3.6L. AWD is offered with the 3.0L, but we’ve yet to test that setup.
Gorgeous, Quiet, High-Feature Interior
In the driver’s seat is where we really live with our cars. It is here that Buick hits its mark best and proves interiors in Enclave, Chevrolet Malibu, Cadillac CTS, and Chevrolet Equinox reflect a new corporate-wide understanding of how to please customers.
Engineers took Quiet Tuning to a new level. Front- to backseat conversation is comfortable at all speeds, and all manner of natural interior and exterior noises related to machines and their driving environments are managed, dampened, and blocked in seemingly every way conceivable.
Being frugal is in vogue, but not so that looks, quality, and basic convenience are sacrificed. Clipping coupons and finding deals is smart, buying less quality for less money isn’t. A LaCrosse CX dooms you to cloth seats and “only” seventeen-inch wheels, but most convenience needs can be met there and all of LaCrosse’s style, grace, and presence is included.
Standard equipment for this class must include cruise control, power driver’s seat, power windows-locks-mirrors, and traction control, which LaCrosse does. Options are smartly packaged, not forcing the top engine for the top features.
Supporting the overall stylish and upscale feel and look, all models get stitched dash and wood trim that gracefully highlights the dashboard and wraps around to the rear-passenger door trim. All get the same exterior and interior brightwork and accent trim (including LED taillights and wood accents).
LaCrosse does not push the envelope with new-to-market gadgets, but offers a strong technology suite. Options include parking sensors, rear-seat DVD dual-screen package, navigation, heated/cooled seats, head-up display, blind-spot detection, a huge sunroof, cornering headlights, smart key and remote start, Bluetooth phone, and USB port. LaCrosse even offers a rear power sunshade that automatically retracts when the car is put in reverse. The sunshade and the exceptional rear-seat room were inspired by its use as an executive chauffeur car in China.
The CX launches at $27,800 with the V6. The $32,000 CXL we drove hit a sweet spot between everyman features and price, though our fully contented CXS Touring topped $39,000.
LaCrosse is a worthy competitor. Now, it’s up to Buick-GMC boss Susan Docherty to get the word out and get “asses into seats” to get those conquest buyers.