Thumbs Up: Like Cadillac, Buick’s progressive styling doesn’t look like anything else on the road.
Thumbs Down: Ecotec 2.4 liter motor isn’t powerful enough to move two tons of car well.
Buy This Car If: You love the styling and are on a tight budget; otherwise step up the the Lacrosse CXS, which comes with the 3.6 liter V6.
My first chance to drive the new Buick Lacrosse came at this year’s Barrett-Jackson auction in West Palm Beach. It was a Lacrosse CXS, top-of-the-line, and I was very impressed with interior comfort and build quality. Unlike Buicks of a decade or so back, the new Lacrosse felt like it was chiseled out of granite, and assembled by people who took pride in their work. Sure, it still handled like a Buick, but that’s what buyers of GM’s mid-level luxury cars want and expect. I remember thinking that the Lacrosse CXS would really be able to give Lexus a run for their money.
When I learned that I’d be getting the entry level Lacrosse for evaluation, I was probably more excited than most sports car guys would be. A brief drive on an autocross track is one thing, but how would the new Lacrosse do in a week of real world driving? Has Buick really hit their mark in targeting a younger buyer and pirating sales from Toyota and Lexus?
I’ve got good news and bad news on that. Let’s start with the bad news: the Ecotec 2.4 liter motor, good for 182 horsepower, is merely adequate around town and noticeably underpowered on the highway. Worse, the motor didn’t return particularly high mileage; in fact, I got 18 mpg around town and 24 mpg in a mix of highway and city driving. Moving two tons of car takes more effort than the Ecotec motor is capable of, so that alone would take the base model Lacrosse off my short list.
I’m not the target demographic for the Lacrosse, since I much prefer my sedans with a harder edge, but there’s a lot of good news to report on Buick’s mid size sedan (even the base model). Take build quality, for example: my tester was as solidly built as any Lexus I’ve ever driven, and it was quiet as a tomb. Can’t sleep because your neighbor is hosting a three-day-long Sex Pistols retrospective? No problem, just hop into the front seat of the Lacrosse and hit the recline switch. Even on the highway, at speed, there is no noticeable tire noise or wind noise, and that’s not a minor feat of engineering.
Then there’s the exterior styling. Simply put, the Lacrosse is a beautiful design, with muscular flanks and flowing character lines. The hood sports Buick’s trademark portholes, although they’re no longer authentic (my tester had three per side, which should have signified a six cylinder engine). Even the doors are sculpted, with chrome body side moldings sitting low on the doors. The side and rear views reveal a car that looks futuristic, but still manages to pay homage to Buick designs of the past. I really do commend GM’s stylists for their work on the Lacrosse, and looks alone will bring a younger buyer into Buick showrooms.
The inside is also heavy on style, and as you’d expect, heavy on comfort. The Lacrosse CX comes with cloth seats, and GM deserves praise for not jumping on the “synthetic leather” bandwagon that other automakers have adopted. I still favor cloth seats, even over leather, and the fabric seats in the Lacrosse are as comfortable as you’ll find. Don’t expect a lot of side bolstering, but that’s OK, since the Lacrosse’s mission isn’t about high cornering speeds. The seats are all-day-long comfortable, which makes the Lacrosse a good choice for those who spend a lot of time behind the wheel.
The dash and controls will be familiar to anyone who’s driven a contemporary GM product. Textured plastic, offset by faux stitching and woodgrain trim, gives even the base Lacrosse an upscale feel. Instruments are clear and concise, and consist of a speedometer / temp gauge flanked by a tachometer / fuel gauge. Splitting the two is GM’s superb driver’s information center, whose controls and display should be an industry standard. The center stack contains the stereo and HVAC controls, both of which are intuitive enough that even new buyers won’t need to consult the owner’s manual for operation. The console mounted shifter (with its leather and wood trimmed knob) allows the driver to shift for themselves, necessary with the Ecotec four cylinder motor. The Lacrosse even includes GM’s electronic parking brake, which gives the driver more footwell room than a traditional, pedal style parking brake.
On the road, think comfort and you have the right idea. As I’ve already mentioned, the Ecotec four really isn’t up to the task of powering the Lacrosse, and zero to sixty takes somewhere around 10 seconds. The six speed automatic transmission helps, but shifts are designed for comfort and not speed. Ride quality, on the other hand is superb, thanks to a combination of revised four wheel independent suspension and a tire sidewall height more akin to an SUV than a passenger car. Rough roads, potholes and railroad tracks are no problem for the Lacrosse, which rewards its passengers with a smooth ride regardless of road conditions. Back seat passengers have plenty of head and leg room, and even get their own HVAC vents. You could travel cross town or cross country in the Lacrosse’s back seat, and not have any complaints at all.
The trunk is substantial and features a pass though for odd-shaped or long items. A cargo net is included, which helps to keep groceries in place on the trip home from the store. Rear seats fold in a 60/40 split, allowing the Lacrosse to transport oversized cargo with ease.
My 2010 Lacrosse CX had a sticker price of $26,995.00, including the destination charge. The only options on my were the 17” machined aluminum wheels, which added $350 to the price, for a total of $27,345. That slots it in below the base Toyota Avalon ($28,695), which is probably it’s biggest competitor in this trim level.
Buick’s been successful in lowering their average customer’s age from 72 a few years back to the current 65. The Lacrosse should go a long way towards drawing younger buyers into the showroom, and those concerned more with comfort than handling will probably find the Lacrosse to their liking. It’s a bit too soft for me, although I wouldn’t complain if given the keys to a Lacrosse, any Lacrosse, at a rental car counter. The Lacrosse is well positioned to pirate sales of the Toyota Avalon and the Lexus ES350 (in higher trim levels like the CXS), and I find it the best looking car of the bunch. If Buick can continue to draw in younger buyers while still catering their core customer, they’ll be well positioned in the market for years to come.