by Joe LaMuraglia
Thursday, July 16, 2009 – I am in Plymouth, MI to drive the new 2010 Buick LaCrosse. This vehicle is the first to launch under the umbrella of the ‘New GM’ and as a result, will be under a considerable amount of scrutiny from both the automotive and general media. Of course work on the Buick LaCrosse started over 5 years ago but most people won’t take that into consideration.
The 2010 Buick LaCrosse is the next generation of the entry-level luxury sedan from Buick and will be a pivotal vehicle to establish Buick as one of the core brands in the ‘New GM’. When its predecessor arrived launched in 2005, Buick held no punches and claimed it was a Lexus fighter. It was considerably quieter and arguably more stylish than any Buick at the time but the general consensus was that Buick fell short of its mark in taking on Lexus. Enter the 2010 Buick LaCrosse.
This time around Buick seems to have more substance and a LOT more style to help them take on their competitors. I’ll be attending the press event and driving the LaCrosse around the suburbs of Detroit today and using Twitter to record and share my opinions. If you aren’t following me on Twitter, you can do so by clicking HERE.
Friday, June 17, 2009 – Ok, I had it all set up, I was going to use Twitter to feed into the site so my readers could get a first-hand read of what I was experiencing. I had it all ready to go and then forgot to hit one lousy button. The result? Everyone following me on Twitter was able to see what I had to say but readers of the site were left staring at a gray box that said “upcoming event”. Hey, we all can’t be perfect.
So, I’m going to write a recap of the day I spent in the 2010 Buick LaCrosse. For those of you that want to see what I actually wrote yesterday, you can see my Tweets all in one place by clicking HERE.
Buick’s LaCrosse is the first vehicle in the U.S. to utilize GM’s global midsize platform. The architecture for the vehicle was designed in Europe, the interior was designed in China and the exterior and vehicle integration was handled in the U.S. The result is a competitive entrant (finally!) in the lucrative entry-level luxury segment in this country and arguably one of the best looking Buicks to date.
Let’s start with the design; I’m no expert but visually this is a very interesting vehicle. The front end is pure Buick and pulls in strong design influences from the very successful Buick Enclave. The waterfall grill and strong headlight treatment takes the Enclaves elegance and butches it up a bit. The LaCrosse is a fencer to the Enclave’s Ballroom dancer. Both are athletic and sophisticated but far from a dirty-hot UFC fighter – and that is a good thing. I’m a huge fan of signature styling cues but personally could do without the signature ports on the LaCrosse. I “get it” but they stand out too much from a very attractive front end.
In looking at my Twitter feed from yesterday, I mentioned that the rear end reminds me of the Lexus GS. On my ride home I realized it was a combination of Lexus GS and Lexus LS. Neither are known for ground-breaking styling but their popularity has caught the attention of the Buick designers. It is a good looking rear end that breaks away from the “old” stodgy image of Buick and hints at newer luxury brands. Not original, but good.
The interior of the LaCrosse looks wonderful in photos and it is equally as attractive in person. For me color is very important and in driving various trim levels of the LaCrosse, the best looking color combination was the Ebony interior with black leather. The lighter color combinations looked less sophisticated and the Ebony really allowed the poplar wood detail and contrast stitching to pop.
It isn’t all perfect in the LaCrosse. We found a few dimensions to be tight, a few ergonomic oddities and one visibility issue that may bother some. The snug cockpit design may be too cozy for some buyers. The center console impedes on leg room up front for the driver and at 5’10” I found it to be acceptable but I fear taller drivers may have issues. The only justification I could come up with is the largest market for this car will be China and 40% of the people buying the car will never see the driver’s seat. Who cares if the chauffeur is snug? Incidentally, the rear leg room is quite generous.
The ergonomic missteps revolve around the armrest/cupholder/shift lever. All LaCrosses have a 6-speed automatic that can be shifted manually. The only issue is, once the shift lever is in D, it is too far back for a natural hand position to shift up or down. The driver has to move his/her arm back to a slightly awkward position to operate the lever. Probably not a huge issue as the buyer for this vehicle will most likely put it in Drive go. The armrest and cup holder are right where you’d expect them to be but if you move the armrest forward, it will fight for space with anything in the aft cup holder space. Again, not a huge issue. The biggest issue I have with the interior is the very large “A pillar”. When looking at oncoming traffic at a t-junction, you realize how big it is and actually have to look around it. Not a deal breaker for sure but still noticeable.
It Looks Good But Can It Move?
Buick isn’t pretending to play against the boys from Germany. Rather, they are going after the buyers that grew up experiencing the joys of European handling and driving dynamics but want an something a bit softer and coddling without paying through the nose. Fuel economy and available AWD are also important and Buick did a good job checking all the boxes.
When the LaCrosse goes on sale in a few weeks it will be available with a choice of two six-cylinder engines: a 255 HP 3.0-liter and a 280 HP 3.6-liter. Both are mated to a 6-speed automatic. Later this year a 182 HP 2.4-liter 4-cylinder will enter the lineup and will be the fuel economy champ with an estimated 30 MPG on the highway. We drove the two 6-cylinders with a combination of FWD and AWD.
Both engines were smooth and quiet with the 3.6-liter easily being the most entertaining in the CXS trim. A front-drive base LaCrosse with the 255 HP V6 was good but when you added the AWD system, you could feel the additional weight. It will be perfectly acceptable to the target customer but won’t be winning over any sport sedan owners any time soon. Our favorite was CXS with the 3.6-liter engine and touring package. It was tight, almost sprightly and during the final trip to the airport was getting an indicated 31 MPG on the highway.
It’s a Contenda!
It is always difficult to pass final judgment after only spending a few hours behind the wheel of a vehicle. The 2010 LaCrosse is a huge leap ahead for Buick and it finally gives them something to compete against the Japanese luxury brands. On paper and from a brief time behind the wheel it seems to have everything the entry-level luxury buyer wants wrapped in a very distinctive and attractive package. Other than the styling and OnStar though, it really doesn’t offer anything that its competitors don’t already have. That means it may be a long hill to climb to get new customers into the brand. But the ‘new GM’ seems primed and ready for the fight and now they at least have a worthy contender in their corner.
Photos Courtesy of General Motors