The elegant, totally redesigned 2010 Buick LaCrosse
received an enormous PR boost late in 2009 when the four-door sedan was named one of three finalists for 2010 'North American Car of the Year,' a prestigious honor voted on by 49 auto journalists and coinciding with the annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
This award carries a higher impact then the hordes of similar 'top car' honors one trips across in magazines or on the web thanks in part to its distinguished, largely non-biased jury. Joining the 2010 LaCrosse on the podium was the 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid and 2010 Volkswagen GTI sedan. When the envelope opened revealing the Fusion hybrid as the winner, LaCrosse could still hold its hood...err, head high. When was the last time a Buick received consideration for top honors in anything, or carried a 'head-turning 'tag here in the States? While Buick enjoys aspirational brand status in Asia, here in the U.S., the brand fights mightily to shake its grandfatherly image.
If it's been a while since stepping foot inside a Buick or any General Motors dealership, give it a try with both feet. Quality and attention to detail are more apparent now than ever. One reason why LaCrosse achieved final-three status was the quantum leap from Generation One (LaCrosse debuted in the 2005 model year) to the 2010 show piece.
This second-generation, luxury sedan comes in front or all-wheel drive. LaCrosse underpinnings are borrowed from the well-regarded Chevrolet Malibu platform. Remember, the mid-size LaCrosse benchmarks Lexus and Acura competitors for quietness and elegance. Indeed, this Buick is as quiet as a church mouse. Helping din noise is recycled cardboard from a GM stamping plant in Indiana. The ground up cardboard can't be seen since its sound-deadening characteristics are stuffed between the headliner and roof.
Three trims are offered, CX, CXL and CXS. Only the mid-grade CXL is available in all-wheel drive. Currently, two six-cylinder engines are available; a 3.0-liter V-6 generating 255 horsepower and an up graded 3.6-liter V-6 with 280 horses (A CXS exclusive). This larger engine is similar to what powers Cadillac's well regarded CTS sedan and wagon. By March of 2010, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine becomes available in the entry CX. LaCrosse no longer offers a V-8, but I suspect few will miss it. No manual transmission is available as each engine is mated to a fuel-saving six-speed automatic.
The 3.0-liter V-6 sporting front drive generates 17 miles per gallon in city travel and 26 highway; subtract one mile per gallon for all-wheel drive. The front-drive exclusive 3.6-liter V-6 provides 17 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. Regular unleaded regular remains the recommended choice.
Our top-level CXS test vehicle included rear park assist (with audio beeps), secondary turn signal blinkers built into heated side mirrors, heated wood-grain and leather steering wheel, leather ventilated/heated (perforated) front seats and keyless, push-button start. These features are optional in CXL but not available in CX. Buick would be wise to include the secondary blinkers standard across the board; It adds to the safety factor and up-level ambiance.
Our top-level, front-drive CXS trim included a $33,015 starting price. With the optional in-dash navigation system ($1,995), oversized two-sectioned sunroof ($995) and red tint coat ($325), the bottom line totaled $37,080 with $750 destination charge. The lowest priced V-6 LaCrosse is the entry front-drive CX starting at $27,085. When the 2010 CX four cylinder arrives, expect pricing at $26,995.
Inside, Premium cloth seating adorns the entry CX while CXL upgrades to leatherette coverage. The non-partitioned glove box accommodates large items needing a home. The steering column manually tilts and telescopes; Buick should consider a power option at least in upper trims. Front doors opt for an alcove grab region when closing which takes some getting use to. Map pockets tilt out from the doors to accommodate items, but no cup holders are molded in the doors. Dashboard and doors sport soft-touch surfaces, a nice classy feel. The smallish back window limits rear-view mirror perception more than most competitors.
The dashboard's center stack is now more angled at the top down to bottom, morphing into the duel in-line, arched cup holders between the front seats. An electronic parking brake button is adjacent to the automatic transmission shifter in the same region. Also near by is a button to turn off the rear brake assist beep if desired. Our two-tone interior was accented with faux wood highlights and brushed aluminum nuances surrounding the center stack. A mono-tone Ebony interior is available in some models. Dual zone climate control comes standard in CXL and CXS while optional in CX. The instrument panel sports two independent, deep set gauges with large numbers and a small fuel indicator in the right side tachometer window. A cowl above the instrument panel nicely shades the sun while cutting glare.
All trims feature AM/FM/compact disc player with XM Satellite radio and MP3 capabilities. The first three months of XM satellite service is free; thereafter, a monthly subscription rate kicks in. The CXS sports 11 inside speakers while the other two trims get by with seven. Secondary audio controls, on the steering wheel, come standard in all trims. Bluetooth connectivity linking cell phones to the audio system is available in CX and standard in the CXL and CXS.
The 2010 Lacrosse retains a smooth ride historic Buick owners will enjoy but with eye-appeal enthusiasts of all ages can appreciate. LaCrosse does not adopt the hard-edge look opting instead for a smooth flowing body with an elegant front grille, not the polarizing Acura TL demeanor. Although the 2010 looks significantly shorter than its 2009 counterpart, the difference in length is only about one inch.
At 4,000 pounds, LaCrosse carries substantial weight for a mid-size. It's about 500 pounds heftier than the 2009; yet handling has gone from sloppy to snappy. When cruising at 65 mph or above, the 3.6-liter engine has plenty of torque left for quick passing maneuvers. When slowing, no heavy lurching is noticeable during down shifting.
The smallish 13.0 cubic feet of cargo room is a dimension usually allocated to a compact trunk, not a mid-size. The brake pedal sports average play with no sudden 'grab' when touching the pedal. While LaCrosse remains quite on the highway, the engine emits a low-tone growl letting drivers know it's at work. During a five hour ride to Detroit from Chicago, butt fatigue was a non factor; seats are supportive yet not overly soft with gentle side bolsters that are not overbearing. Height-adjustable seats In the CXS make the average head room seem more accommodating. Leg room is good both in front and back. Three adults could fit comfortably during expeditions to and from work.
As with most General Motors vehicles, LaCrosse comes standard with OnStar, the in-vehicle communications system as easy to use as a toaster. Just push a blue button on the rear view mirror to instantly connect with a live person 24 hours a day for directions or emergency assistance. It's high-tech made exceedingly simple. During the first year, OnStar waves the annual service fee. Other standard safety features include dual front air bags, curtain air bags for both rows, side impact air bags for front seat passengers, stability control with brake assist and anti-lock brakes. Adding to peace of mind is GM's five-year/ 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
General Motors assembles LaCrosse in Kansas City, Kansas while many exterior design elements were born in GM's European studios. At a quick glance, one could easily mistake this for a mid-size Lexus ES. This is a driving car to rival Asian imports.