2005 Buick LaCrosse CXS Review

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SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Buick

MODEL:  Buick LaCrosse CXS
ENGINE: 3.6-liter V6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 240 hp @ 6,000 rpm/230 lb.-ft. @ 3,200 rpm 
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 110.5 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 198.1 x 73.0 x 57.4 in.
TIRES: P225/55R17 all-season
CARGO: 16.0 cu. ft.
ECONOMY: 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway/20.1 mpg test
PRICE: $33,650 (includes $660 destination charge)

The Century and Regal are gone from the Buick lineup for 2005, replaced by the LaCrosse. In a sense I miss the Century, because the Olds version of that car kept my wife in wheels for 14 years. But the old platform was long in the tooth (Pontiac dropped the 6000 a long time ago), and was due for replacement.

At first glance you might think the LaCrosse is just another Buick. The styling sure resembles other Buick models. But the subtle styling changes are best seen when the LaCrosse is parked next to another model. For example, coming out of church one Sunday, we saw a LaCrosse parked behind a slightly larger LeSabre. Both were silver in color, so there was an excellent chance to observe the differences. The LaCrosse has a much more modern headlight design, and there is a sharper rise over the rear wheels that evokes memories of 1976 models, but in a modern design. The tail lamps are changed as well.

The styling changes are simple, but effective.

Under the hood of the LaCrosse CXS we tested is a 3.6-liter V6 rated at 240 hp. The base LaCrosse comes with the venerable old 3.8-liter V6 that delivers a surprisingly low 200 hp. All are hooked to a 4-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels. There is no manual gate to the gearbox.

Unlike the car in the church parking lot, our tester was painted Cardinal Red Metallic, an attractive color. While the silver parking lot car may have been more “Buick,” the red was jazzier and more attractive.

The CSX also has a stiffer suspension than the base LaCrosse. This aided in handling on my favorite twisty mountain road. This car didn’t have a “g-meter” that you can get with the Corvette or some Cadillac models, but I’m certain it handled the hairpin turn at the base of the mountain almost as well as the more sportier cars. The ride quality is not compromised on the highway in order to get better winding road handling.

Aiding the cornering capabilities of the LaCross was optional Stabilitrak, a $495 option.

Inside, the LaCrosse is all Buick. There’s tasteful wood trim on the dash, doors, console and shifter that gave the car a hint of luxury. The instrument panel (white-on-black analog dials) was clear and tasteful, while the center stack, containing the audio and HVAC controls, was flush with the surface. I enjoyed the XM satellite radio (a $325 option plus $9.95 a month). I also enjoyed the heated seats ($295) when the soccer game I was reporting on was held in cold rainy weather and I could gain refuge (and warmth) inside. Our tester also had remote start ($150), so I could fire the engine as I approached the car and it was a bit warmer by the time I got there.

There were audio controls on the steering wheel, as well as cruise control switches and the HVAC temperature control. With the change in cruise control, I noticed the wiper controls were still on the turn signal stalk.

The leather front seats offered good comfort. Rear legroom was tight, however, with the front seats moved back. In the rear there is a folding armrest with two cupholders. Otherwise, there is nominally room for three passengers back there, but I’d make them small passengers.

The trunk is listed at 16.0 cubic feet. It’s good size and held my golf clubs with no problems. The rear seat backs don’t fold to increase trunk capacity.

Under the hood, all the fillers and dip sticks are clearly marked. I was impressed by the cleanliness of the under-hood design. There is an air strut to hold the hood in place. With the hood up you notice the large crumple zone in front of the radiator.

Our tester came equipped with a “gold convenience package” ($1,150) that included the fancy leather steering wheel. 6-way power passenger seat to match the driver’s rear park assist (a beep when you get too close to something behind you) and rear reading lamps. The power sunroof added $900, and chrome-plated 17-inch wheels another $650.

I thought the LaCrosse was, like the commercials, a quiet car, both on the highway and when being driven aggressively on hills. It is a car that says “Buick” all the way, and that’s not a bad thing.

2005 The Auto Page Syndicate

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