2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium Review

Say adieu to the once geriatric American land barge


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Finally a truly handsome Buick flagship sedan, ample grunt, solid fuel economy numbers, great exhaust note.
Negatives: Huge center console reduces space, weird rubberized cabin material, small climate control font, gets expensive in higher trim.
Bottom Line: The all-new LaCrosse makes the last car seem like a dinosaur in terms of looks and driving dynamics. It's almost hard to believe this is a sister car to the much cheaper Chevy Impala. The car is quick and entertaining to drive for a big sedan, and it certainly looks the part. Unfortunately, the car needs more space and better controls, along with a second look at the rather high price tag.
Buick is faced with a big challenge. Retain its big but older customer base while enticing new customers who are still interested in luxury but also with better styling, improved technology and a more rewarding driving experience. It seems the two endeavors are mutually exclusive. Buick sales are going like gangbusters in China where luxury matters most, and sales are also strong here, so it behooves the tri-shield brand to keep its loyalists while also not resting on its laurels too much at the risk of failing to adapt to the times.

Enter the new LaCrosse flagship, and it couldn't come soon enough. The old car was bloated, ugly and horribly dull to drive. The new car is sleeker, sexier and pretty damned fetching for a Buick, really. Add all-wheel drive and upgraded suspension, and you actually have an American luxury car that's pretty great to drive. We helmed it for a week and walked away with some pretty strong feelings on both sides of the review fence. Read on for the important details.

Driving Experience

8.8

 

Though there's only one engine choice for the LaCrosse, it's a good one. The 3.6-liter V6 is potent and responsive thanks to the quick-shifting dual clutch transmission. With AWD and the upgraded suspension, the LaCrosse drives remarkably well in a segment where floaty and vague isn't abnormal. The suspension tuning in the Premium model is very good, compared with the lower trims. The 20" wheels certainly help in this regard, as well. What's more, the overall driving experience is far more engaging than the outgoing model.

Ride Quality: Smooth and comfortable without being as dull as toast. It absorbed bumps but didn't utterly insulate you from the world outside.

Acceleration: Strong thanks to a powerful V6 that's standard across all trims. The all-wheel drive kept wheelspin in check, as well as potential torque steer from the 310 horses. 0-60 comes in less than six seconds, and the car feels fast.

Braking: Good brakes that modulate well. The pedal was progressive with no ascertainable dead spots or mushiness.

Steering: A good balance of feel and effort that's right for a car in this class. Light but not vague, either.

Handling: The LaCrosse's adaptive dampers and GM’s HiPer Strut front suspension, as well as the chassis work well together to keep body roll to a minimum. It provides confidence where little is expected.

Technology

7

 

Buick's Intellilink System is pretty good, but it's the rest of the controls and tech we're annoyed by. Small climate control buttons and small fonts make things tough while driving, and the weird electronic shifter is a pain to use for reverse. The robust set of amenities like the clear eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and 4G LTE connectivity round out the package well.

Infotainment System: The screen is clear and easy to see, and the Buick infotainment system works well.

Controls: We really hated the tiny font on the physical buttons that would utterly frustrate Buick's older customer base. Seriously, why? The up and left motion required to put the car in reverse is not intuitive and an extra, unnecessary step. We're guessing it's a response to the FCA system that has caused death and injury to occupants.

Bluetooth Pairing: Easy to pair and re-pair upon entry. Music streaming was excellent.

Voice Call Quality: Great, thanks to a good system and the Buick's interior quietness.

Styling

9

 

If the last LaCrosse looked awkward, the new car is quite the opposite. Borrowing some important styling cues from the absolutely stunning Avenir concept car, the redesigned LaCrosse is a real looker from tip to toe. The car shares the same platform as the Chevy Impala, but you'd never guess since the LaCrosse looks that much better than its less expensive mate. Inside, the car could use some rethinking, but the change in the cabin is much better than its predecessor.

Front: Instead of a mishmash of shapes like the previosu LaCrosse, the new car is very attractive with a shorter but wider grille, complementary lean headlights and properly placed hood creases without those awful faux hood vents we thought would never go away.

Rear: Clean wing-style taillights look great, and the rear end has just the right amount of chrome. Thankfully, that part wasn't overdone.

Profile: Long and lean, the LaCrosse's body looks fantastic with some well-placed rear haunches that are less prominent than the Impala's that are too angular for our tastes.

Cabin: Much improved but still needs work. Overall, the interior is more sophisticated, but the material choice in the center console is odd. Rubberized plastic instead of wood seems like a bad choice.

Comfort

7.5

 

We're not sure what Buick had in mind when they created the wide center console that's in the way of getting a luxurious, spacious feel for the front occupants. It's almost obnoxiously wide with a bizarre lower storage section that's hard to reach (and see). The overall layout is good, as are the aesthetics, but the rubberized plastic surface from the climate controls down to the shifter is weird NS inconsistent. Buick needed to spend a little more time thinking through the interior because it's not on par with the outside.

Front Seats: Comfortable and supportive seats are compromised by the huge center console that's far too wide for a car that should feel spacious inside. Totally unnecessary.

Rear Seats: Ample space for rear passengers and good headroom in spite of the sloping roofline.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The LaCrosse is quiet and well-built like you'd expect a Buick to be. Good management of noise and no vibrations whatsoever. Minor wind noise by the outside mirrors at highway speeds was our only complaint.

Visibility: Visibility is good out front thanks to a good seating position, but the rear visibility is compromised by a high shelf.

Climate: The climate system works very well in spite of small-ish buttons. The heated and ventilated seats are excellent.

Safety

6

 

Unfortunately, the LaCrosse doesn't nab high marks from crash tests, but that doesn't mean it's not safe. There are also plenty of standard safety features and optional crash avoidance technology that should help keep you out of potential accidents.

IIHS Rating: The LaCrosse for 2017 has only been tested in the areas of moderate overlap front and side crashes but not for rollover roof strength and head restraints/seats. It scored a "good" in its two tests.

Standard Tech: The Premium trim level boasts Ultrasonic Rear Park Assist, forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, lane change alert with side blind zone alert, head-up display, and a rear vision camera.

Optional Tech: The accident avoidance tech includes nice features such as Adaptive Cruise Control with full speed range, Automatic Parking Assist, Automatic Front Braking, Front Pedestrian Detection

Storage/Cargo

6

 

This is one area where a car the size of the LaCrosse should do really well, but it's just ok. It's really the odd center console storage space on the lower deck that makes no sense to us.

Storage Space: The center console space is hard to see and reach and results in stuff getting sloshed around when driving. It might look cool, Buick, but it doesn't work. Door pockets and armrests have good space, but their benefit gets dwarfed by the fact that you'll never use the center console space for anything you need to reach regularly.

Cargo Room: 15 cubic feet of trunk space with the rear seats in place isn't small or huge. The Impala that shares the same platform as the LaCrosse gets a huge 18.8 cubic ft.

Fuel Economy

8.9

 

It's an aspect that the LaCross excels at, especially in light of the segment, size and power. Our mileage numbers were sub-par because of our aggressive driving habits, so we expect the LaCrosse to do very well on the highway. The stop/start system is seamless (except that you can't turn it off), and the cylinder deactivation help the LaCrosse get solid mileage numbers.

Observed: We attained 17.6 mpg in combined driving.

Driving Factors: We drove in Sport Mode most of the time and simply wanted to hear the engine growl from most stoplights. Most drivers will be able to attain the EPA rated 20/29 without a problem with more conservative habits.

Audio

8.8

 

The upgraded Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound system from the Sights and Sounds package is a good one, though it's disappointing that you have to pay $1,145 to get it and the navigation on a premium vehicle that's not cheap. The sound system is full and clear, at least, and a joy to listen to.



Final Thoughts

We were really looking forward to getting behind the wheel of this all-new LaCrosse, and we walked away happy but not totally wowed. It's easily Buick's best looking car, and a rightful flagship in terms of design. The fact that it drives incredibly well for a luxury sedan is a huge bonus and should lure younger drivers, while still not alienating the older set. But the interior needs work, as does the high price tag. Consider the fact that you can get an opulent Jaguar XF Prestige for only a few thousand more than a fully optioned tester like ours. That being said, Buick has done a very good job in replacing the old car, and it at least points to a more hopeful future for the brand.
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