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Car Review: 2005 Buick LaCrosse

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

By Autoline Detroit

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Buick

General Motors is spending $3 billion to give Buick a complete make-over, much like it did with Cadillac. Buick’s goal is to make its cars more powerful, quieter, with better ride and handling and elegant styling. And the first car out with the new look is the LaCrosse, a mid-size sedan that replaces the Buick Regal and Century later this fall.

The first thing you notice on this car is the front end, especially the headlights. They have a more jewel-like appearance and are sculpted into the hood and fenders. But they also have kind of a pinched look to them. The tires fit tighter in the wheel openings because they’re about 5/8 of an inch closer than on the Regal or Century. And the rear end has a clean, fresh look to it.

Inside, the LaCrosse features lots of soft-touch surfaces, as well as plenty of chrome and woodgrain accents. The seat surfaces use more expensive stitching, what they call a French seam pattern. And the non-seating surfaces are covered in a new material called "protein vinyl," in which vinyl and silk are milled together to create a surface that feels like leather, but is said to be more durable.

The base engine is actually the larger one, GM’s tried-and-true 3800 V-6, while the optional engine is the new 3.6 liter V-6 that offers variable valve timing and most of the other features you’d expect in a high-tech engine.

Buick claims the LaCrosse handles a lot better thanks to springs that are about 20 percent stiffer than before. The steering was retuned for better response and on-center feel. The car has larger brakes and wheels, and it also has rebound bumpers on the dampers are four times longer for improved cushioning.

Cadillac has enjoyed an amazing resurgence and GM is hoping it can now replicate that success at Buick. And it’s counting on the new look of the LaCrosse to kick it all off.