FIRST DRIVE: 2014 Buick LaCrosse
What your father's Buick should have been.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: April 21st, 2014
Remember when Buicks, especially large front-drive Buick sedans, were derided as old man's cars? Something you'd get right after the AARP card arrived in the mail, and right before you bought your first pair of Sansabelt slacks? A car with a large backseat for hauling not your kids, but your grandkids?
Well, your author does - he had exposure to at least one mid-'90s LeSabre in all its whitewall and chrome wire-rim glory. Soft, comfortable, large - it was the car that drove the perception.
Buick, of course, wanted to change that perception, and while the first LaCrosse didn't help the brand shed its old image, the second-generation car, launched in 2009 as a 2010 model, did.
For 2014, the LaCrosse gets a refresh with mild exterior updates, a more significant interior change, and some added features. We set upon Dallas to see if the LaCrosse could continue to change Buick's brand perception while still providing upper-crust luxury for the aging middle-manager who can't spring for a Caddy.
On the Road
LaCrosse buyers can choose between four-cylinder and V-6 power, and front- or all-wheel-drive powertrains. Our tester came with front-wheel drive and the 304-horsepower V-6. That's good, since the V-6 packs plenty of passing punch for urban driving, if you're willing to wait for the six-speed automatic to wake up and downshift. It's a smooth, quiet engine that doesn't make much ruckus even when your shoe is meeting the footwell carpet. And it pulls nicely, although the near two-ton weight of the V-6 model does drag on acceleration.
Our drive was exclusively urban, so we didn't get much chance to test handling, but from what we could tell when hustling up an on-ramp, the LaCrosse's main mission remains to take four grown adults to dinner, as opposed to, say, the Pacific Coast Highway. For the most part the steering felt nicely weighted, but it did exhibit traits of overboost at times. Accuracy was hard to gauge, but from what we could tell, it wasn't exactly pin-point. No matter, since the LaCrosse won't be driven that way by most owners. Buick buyers who want to have fun and luxury will go for the Regal GS.
Ride is what matters to this customer, and the LaCrosse gets it mostly right. It's a little on the soft side, but it never descends into float or wallow. Potholes feel like they're miles away, and the car never feels rattled. We didn't trek across North Texas to Ft. Worth or other points on the compass, but our jaunts to and from DFW were pleasant cruises. Long commuters, listen up: The LaCrosse won't leave you feeling worn out by the time you get to work.
The big exterior change is a winged looked to the headlamps. Yeah, that's about it. No matter, since the LaCrosse is a pleasant-looking car that looks like a Buick without being boring. We'd never call it gorgeous or stunning (and we don't know how to feel about the portholes on the front fenders), but it's not an ugly ride. Sadly, though, it is a tad anonymous. Our tester's Crystal Red paint job helped it stand out, but its lines don't. There are a lot of attractive but unremarkable mid-lux sedans out there, and the LaCrosse fits that category. It won't hurt your eyes, but it won't get you noticed, either.
Space is the name of the game here. There's loads of it, which is perhaps why the car felt right at home in Texas. Headroom and legroom upfront are never an issue for taller drivers and passengers, and the rear seat appears capable of actually transporting adults in comfort.
The new eight-inch driver's info screen/instrument cluster works well - it's easy to read and it's not hard to scroll through menus to find what you need. Buick's Intellilink infotainment system also works well, with the possible exception of a navigation system that sent us on a wild goose chase around Dallas looking for a Starbucks - never mind that every listed location had closed. Frequent updates may be necessary.
There are plenty of new safety features baked into the car (lane-departure warning, lane-change alert, blind-spot alert, forward-collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, and automatic collision preparation), but thankfully we never had to test them out - except for the blind-spot alert, which does its job in normal freeway driving, and does it as well as any other system we've tested.
Large sedans should also be adept at hauling cargo, and the LaCrosse is - the trunk easily swallowed two suitcases plus an overstuffed backpack.
The LaCrosse comes across as what your father's Buick should have been. It's still large and comfortable, but it's not quite as soft as it used to be. The look inside and out is modern, and the infotainment features work - they aren't just there to give buyers something to brag about. Buick no longer pretends that handling doesn't exist, even if the LaCrosse is meant more as a freeway cruiser.
There's stiff competition in this segment - the Lexus ES, the Ford Taurus, the Hyundai Genesis (redesigned for 2015), and GM's own Chevrolet Impala are all in the competitive set. The LaCrosse doesn't outshine any of those models (well, maybe the Taurus) but it doesn't lag behind, either.
It's a solid choice - and unlike Buicks of old, you won't endure any whitewall/AARP/wire wheel jokes.
Spec, Features, & Prices
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drive Wheels: Front-wheel-drive
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway
Base Price: $38,810 (excludes $925 destination fee)
As-Tested Price: $46,090
Available Features: USB port, navigation, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, infotainment system, Bluetooth, satellite radio, blind-spot monitoring, heated steering wheel, rear parking assist, forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, head-up display, fog lamps.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2014 Buick LaCrosse, click here: 2014 Buick LaCrosse.