Let’s be honest here, Buick has not had the best of decades.
OK, the staid General Motors brand did survive this year unlike Pontiac, Hummer and perhaps Saab, but that doesn’t mean it is out of the woods…not by a long shot.
Sure in China Buick is one of the up-and-coming brands that hundreds of millions “yet to be wealthy enough to buy a Buick” Chinese long after, but that’s little comfort in the U.S. where Buick’s recent no longer golf playing pitchman apparently drives (and poorly at that) a Cadillac Escalade.
So that doesn’t leave a lot of good news for Buick which, like every car manufacturer in the world, has seen American new car sales almost stall to a stop in 2009.
Good thing that Buick builds the LaCrosse.
When all else fails, GM can always try selling cars the old fashioned way…by building a good car.
And the Buick LaCrosse is just that…a good car. It’s not a great car, but it has that potential. Better yet, some buyers and reviewers consider the LaCrosse as best in class.
Let’s start with the great bits.
Buick’s, and thus GM’s, touch screen is one of the best in the biz.
I drive a wide variety of cars, and I spend a lot of time figuring out how to heat and cool the car, hook up my cell phone to the car’s Bluetooth communication system, reset the odometer, figure out the navigation system, and do it all while listening to my favorite satellite radio station.
This can be a huge pain the butt, or as in the case of the Buick LaCrosse, a pleasure that makes my day.
GM deserves special mention for the intuitive satellite radio controls and their intuitive and easy to navigate navigation system.
Other class leading design and engineering features of the LaCrosse include heated and cooled seats that could fry or freeze an egg. A heated steering wheel that I still send love letters to after our passionate week-long love affair, and all-wheel-drive that easily took on the worst snow and ice that Colorado could throw at it. As much as I tried, and believe me I really tried, I could not get the LaCrosse to put a tire in the wrong spot when the snow fell and the roads turned into an ice skating rink.
I must also confess I really think that the Buick designers nailed the sweet spot when it comes to the car’s ergo dynamics and design themes. Both of these all-important elements look and feel effortless and thoroughly modern without drawing attention to themselves…which in my book is the hallmark of greatness.
Of course this would not be a very fair review if I didn’t point to some obvious shortcomings.
First and foremost the LaCrosse CXL’s 3.0L VVT middle of the line engine is just that…middle of the line. It doesn’t offer enough power to justify the rather thirsty 18.1 mpg (as test), nor is it small and economic enough to justify the somewhat lackluster performance.
This may be a case of when the middle option is not the best. The Lacrosse comes in three engine choices including a 2.4L in the CX model and a 3.6L in the top of the line CXS model.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing really wrong with my testers 256 HP 3.0L VVT engine, but in a world where the all-wheel-drive Lexus GS 350 comes with a 303 horse power road burning six cylinder, the LaCrosse CXL all-wheel-drive needs to step up to the plate just a bit further.
Is it fair to compare the LaCrosse to the Lexus GS? You bet…the Buick is that good.
And unlike the Lexus the Buick costs thousands less, has a tons more room, and even competes with the Lexus in terms of quality…at least if recent customer satisfactions surveys are a sign of a growing trend.
So that only leaves on one last and perhaps most important question…how does the LaCrosse drive.
In a world where every new car now seems to be designed to take on the Nürburgring in Germany (regardless of whether they need to or not), I’m happy to report that the LaCrosse still maintains its American roots.
If I wanted a car to drive like a BMW, I’d buy a BMW.
The Buick’s road manners are well sorted, but not necessarily for blazing down the autobahn…not that there is anything wrong with that.
I appreciate a car that can easily swallow the vast distances between American States, and not communicate every itty-bitty bump in the road to me.
When driving a Buick I want to get to my destination in pampered comfort. This of course does not mean that I want the car to swoon and float over every bump like the American road yachts of days long gone, but I do except well controlled comfort.
And guess what…the LaCrosse delivers on all counts.
So yes, the LaCrosse CXL is not your father’s Buick. It is a much better car.
And you what?
I can’t help but wonder if Tiger Woods would have avoided that fire hydrant and tree had he been driving the much smaller and more nimble LaCrosse…instead of the Escalade.
2010 Buick LaCrosse CXL AWD
Price as Tested: $38,090.00
Engine, Transmission: 3.0L V6 VVT Direct Injection engine with 6 speed automatic
EPA Fuel Economy Estimates
City: 16 mpg
Highway: 25 mpg
Combined: 19.0 mpg
As tested: 18.1 mpg
CO2 per year: 11,179 lbs
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Roman Mica is a columnist, journalist, and author, who spent his early
years driving fast on the German autobahn. When he's not reviewing cars
for the active set, you can find him training for triathlons and
writing about endurance sports for, EverymanTri.com.