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2010 Buick LaCrosse Review

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2010 Buick LaCrosse

SEE ALSO: Buick Buyers Guide

Not For the Old at Heart

By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau Chief

My pretty blonde and I arrived a few minutes early at a retirement investment seminar this week in our new 2010 Buick LaCrosse test car. (I don’t expect to ever retire from this job, though, so don’t hold your breath waiting for me to relinquish these reins.) As the parking lot began to fill with gray and blue-haired attendees I noticed that more than half the cars were Buicks. The parking lot demographics were the same at my late father-in-law’s retirement home – half Buicks in the parking lot. GM has been trying to change Buick’s customer demographic for many generations of cars now, and with this one they may have made some serious progress.

In appearance, performance, ambiance and any criteria you care to mention, this new LaCrosse 5-passenger, mid-size (or full-size, depending on who you believe), front-wheel drive luxury sedan, will appeal, I predict, to a younger demographic. The 2010 LaCrosse has a fully modern look and most of the content we expect in a modern luxury sedan.

Our tester is the top-of-the-line CXS with few options. Even without options it’s mighty well-equipped at $33,015 with power, 8-way perforated leather seats for driver and passenger that are both heated and cooled, heated steering wheel, dual zone climate control, premium Harman/Kardon audio system, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth, driver info system, a 120V power outlet, beautiful ambient lighting inside, power rear sunshade, 18-inch chrome wheels, keyless start with passive entry, rear park assist, one year of OnStar service including turn-by-turn navigation and lots of other stuff. The only option on our test car is the $325 Red Jewel Tintcoat paint job. With destination charge it bottom-lines at $34,090.

The 2010 LaCrosse, introduced last summer, is way more car than its predecessor. While the old one was sort of mid-level in terms of luxury, performance and ambiance, this one is premium in all those categories. Even the base CX which starts at less than twenty-eight grand and mid-level CXL at thirty-two five give no ground to their more expensive competitors.

The new LaCrosse’s look is striking featuring a typically-Buick vertical bar grille with a particularly large Buick badge integrated therein. Proportionally, it’s much like the Lincoln MK-S with a shape that implies substance. A stylized version of the traditional Buick portholes are integrated into the hood rather than the fenders. The low roofline is steeply raked toward the hippy rear and the shallow greenhouse gives the body a hefty appearance. Graceful character lines carry the eye entirely around the car.

LaCrosse comes with any of three engines: a 2.4-liter, direct-injected, 182-horsepower I4; a 3.0-liter V6 making 255 horsepower and 217 pound-feet of torque; or this 3.6-liter V6 with 280 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque. The I4 is rated at 20mpg city/30mpg highway for this 4,000-pound car and the 3.0-liter V6 should get 17/26. The 3.6-liter is estimated at 16/25. For that one-mpg difference I’d certainly go for the 280-hp version, though I’m not sure what the cost differential is. All three come with an efficient 6-speed automatic transmission and all require only regular fuel.

We managed an average of 21.8 mpg during our one-week test and that represented only two short freeway jaunts. About 80% of our driving was city and suburban.

Suspension is fully independent and conventional in design with McPherson struts up front and a muli-link design in the rear. I found the CXS suspension tuning a bit stiffer than expected – stiff enough, I’m sure, to alienate many traditional (read elderly) Buick buyers - but not too stiff for me. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed pushing it hard through our cloverleaf freeway entrance with a too-short acceleration lane. With very little lean, no squeal and great thrust I was up to extra-legal speed easily before I had to enter the always-brisk flow of traffic.

I love the subdued engine noises that barely make their way into the cabin on full acceleration. Open the throttle and keep it there until the transmission forces the shift (that is in full automatic mode) and it sings a sophisticated tune. I’m guessing that it sounds impressive from outside through the dual exhausts as well, but I didn’t post an auditory evaluator to see.

Inside, this LaCrosse excels as well. The soft blue ambient lighting glows on the sides of the center console, the doors, in the foot wells and in a graceful line across the dash. I found that light across the dash to be a bit too bright during night driving but we could turn it down to a reasonable level. The overall design incorporates a variety of materials (including boldly stitched leather) and a variety of shapes and forms – but not so much as to make it busy or incongruous. Materials inside are excellent and the design is graceful and aesthetic, though it might be a bit busy for some. The chrome trim has a sort of pewter cast to it. The seats are well bolstered and comfortable even for someone as broad in the beam as I.

Interior volume is generous as well. It certainly feels like a full-size car. The seats are luxurious and rear seat legroom is amazing, though this may come partially at the cost of trunk space. This new one has only 12.8 (13.3 for CX and CXL) cubic feet of trunk space with a remarkably narrow opening. You certainly wouldn’t want to count on doing much significant hauling with this one. Also, unusual for a luxury car, there is not a remote trunk release in the cockpit. What’s up with that?

LaCrosse shares a platform with GM’s award-winning Malibu and comes from the Kansas City plant. In spite of that, it is listed as having only 60% U.S. and Canadian content. I wonder where the rest of it comes from. We’ll have to look into that.

The factory warranty covers the whole car for 4 years or 50,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 100,000 miles.

In competition with some mighty fine products like Acura TL, Lexus ES350 and Lincoln MK-S the LaCrosse more than holds its own. Plenty of great cars populate this genre. Some, including the LaCrosse, can be had with all-wheel drive.

So, if you’re in that market, check them all out. And as the tag line goes, “Let the best car win.”

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved