|The freshly restyled 2017 Buick LaCrosse is one handsome looking devil. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Considering Toyota is Lexus’ parent automaker and therefore shares many of its components and some platform architectures, at least when it comes to the premium marque’s lower end product, choosing it for second place makes sense too, but this is only true for Consumer Reports. Instead, J.D. Power gives the runner up position to Porsche, leaving Toyota in third. I’m guessing you can figure out which brand slots into CR’s second rung. Buick, of course. The General Motors division
|Rear styling cues look downright Volvo-like, and by that I mean current S90-like. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Depending on how we choose to classify Buick as a brand, its standing moves up within each of these third-party analytical firms’ surveys. Buick kind of rides the fence between the mainstream volume and premium sectors because of models like the little Encore subcompact crossover SUV that starts at just $23,495, and the recently departed Verano compact sedan that was available for only $24,190 earlier this year, but the majority of its models are justifiably premium by price as well as build quality and features, even if the brand’s cachet may have lost a little shine since the ’60s.
|The new grille design is certainly more modern than the old chromed waterfall. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Buick has crafted some stunningly beautiful models lately, although the 2016 Avista and 2015 Avenir concepts remain in automotive dream car wonderland, which
|Stylish HID headlamps look nice, but full LEDs would be better. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I recently had the new 2017 LaCrosse at my disposal, which I must say is a far cry more attractive than the original 2005 LaCrosse that I initially drove as part of its launch program in late 2004, albeit in Canadian-spec Allure trim. It was a pleasant looking car, but it wasn’t something that could compete head-on with global luxury brands. Heck, it didn’t even do all that well against Toyota and the rest of the mainstream imports, but this new 2017 LaCrosse can certainly give an Avalon a run for its money, and could even be cross-shopped by Lexus ES 350, Acura RLX, and possibly even Volvo S90 buyers.
|A sporty lower valance makes for the raciest flagship Buick yet. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
In many ways the LaCrosse is more advanced than the cars just mentioned, while it’s nearly as premium-like as the arguably higher end luxury-branded models, especially with respect to interior finishings, materials quality, electronic interfaces, comfort, quietness, mechanical components and driving dynamics, whereas its styling, inside and out, will come down to personal taste as always. I find it quite handsome, but to Buick’s credit and this car’s critics, it’s no Avenir.
|Elegant 18-inch alloys look the part. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The base LaCrosse is actually priced lower than Toyota’s flagship Avalon in its entry-level trim, yet this top-tier 2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium AWD model costs considerably more than the fully loaded Toyopet due to its many more features. Alternatively, if you still want to step up to an ES 350 you’ll need to add a few thousand loonies to the finally tally, plus you’ll be forced to remove a number of fine features from its roster.
I don’t mean to criticize Toyota’s flagship per se, as I truly like it, but the ES 350, which
|These LED taillights suit the LaCrosse’ overall design well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The Avalon and ES 350 share the same 268 horsepower 3.5-litre V6 with 248 lb-ft of torque, as well as identical six-speed automatic transmissions with shift lever-actuated manual mode, plus Toyota’s large mid-size front-wheel drive architecture, whereas Buick steps things up a significant notch thanks to a 3.6-litre V6, this powertrain boasting 310 horsepower and 282 lb-ft of torque, a more sophisticated eight-speed automatic with sportier steering wheel-mounted paddle-shift actuated manual mode, and in the case of my tester, all-wheel drive. The LaCrosse definitely has the advantage in the performance department.
|Twinned tailpipes merely hint at the big Buick’s full performance potential. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
In many ways the LaCrosse can compete in either class, the powertrain easily falling within premium expectations as noted, even including auto start/stop that shuts off the engine when it would otherwise be idling in order to save fuel and reduce
|Buick has really upped the ante inside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Proximity-sensing keyless access lets you inside, while pushbutton ignition gets things going, with additional standard features including an advanced electromechanical parking brake, illuminated vanity mirrors, a universal garage door opener, stylish metal sill plates, a high-quality leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, dual-zone auto climate control, a large high-resolution 8.0-inch Buick IntelliLink infotainment touchscreen featuring a very good backup camera with active guidelines, state-of-the-art Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone integration, Bluetooth streaming audio, rare 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability, dual USB ports, eight-speaker audio, active noise cancellation, eight-way powered front seats,
|A large colour TFT display gets flanked by classic analogue dials. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Standard safety items include all the usual active and passive features plus a teen driving mode, tire pressure monitoring, and 10 airbags comprising an unusually welcome set of side-thorax bags for rear window seat passengers and knee airbags for both front occupants.
There are two additional trim levels between base and as-tested Premium, including the $40,130 Preferred Group and $42,790 Essence Group, the former adding an elegant set of “Ultra-Bright” machine-finished
|Plenty of woodgrain and metallic trim adds to the LaCrosse classy motif. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
My Premium-trimmed tester upped the ante yet further with a really helpful head-up display that projects key info onto the windshield, plus a heatable steering wheel
|Fully stocked Buick IntelliLink infotainment is one of the LaCrosse’ strong points. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Believe it or not there are still option packages available above this, my Black Onyx painted tester upgraded further with the $1,860 Driver Confidence Package #2, which adds adaptive cruise control for much more enjoyable road trips, safety enhancing autonomous emergency braking and front pedestrian detection, plus semi-autonomous
|This electronic shifter is a bit hard to get used to, but the standard steering wheel paddles are a nice touch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Additional options that weren’t added to my test car include various colour upgrades ranging from $495 to $1,195 (Black Onyx is a base colour), two additional no-cost interior motifs including Light Neutral (beige) with Dark Brown Accents and Brandy (saddle) with Ebony Accents, 20-inch alloy wheels on 245/40 all-seasons that come as part of a $1,495 Dynamic Driver Package which also boasts
|These ultra-comfy seats include massage action. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As it is, my tester came to $53,145, not including freight, dealer fees or taxes, which while slightly higher than the price noted earlier still represents very good value for what you get. Of course, it can only be considered good value if Buick stuffs all this impressive kit into a car that’s on par or better than the majority of models mentioned earlier, and while it might still want to shy away from the old-school premium European brands when it comes to eye-popping interior design and materials quality used for some surfaces, in many respects it measures up to these highfalutin types, and in many more exceeds its mainstream flagship rivals.
|The overhead console is filled with features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
That big multi-information display is filled with attractive graphics and useful features such as average fuel economy, which was showing a rather gluttonous 15.8 L/100km average after a week’s mostly casual city driving (don’t believe it as my real numbers were closer to the advertised city rating). There was an instant fuel economy readout too, plus graphs for the former, one for Eco mode usage, and
|Optional panoramic sunroof adds airiness and headroom. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
This in mind, the LaCrosse comes with all the expected touchy, feely luxury extras, such as fabric-wrapped roof pillars and soft pliable synthetics across the dash top, instrument panel, door uppers, inserts, and even down the sides of the centre
|No shortage of space back here. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Likewise, the LaCrosse’ steering wheel stalks are a bit commonplace, while the rest of the switchgear is tightly fitted and well damped, but not made from the industry’s highest quality composites. It all works well, however, including the superb infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack.
|Big car equals big trunk, the LaCrosse’ measuring 425 litres. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
A straightforward HVAC interface sits just below, including dual-zone auto controls, buttons for the three-way heatable and cooled front seats, and a really handy quick access “CLIMATE” button that puts all of the above and more on the infotainment screen.
|Accommodating 60/40 split-folding seatbacks expand on the trunk’s usefulness. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I’m sure you’re more than well aware that Buicks have long been low hanging fruit for performance critics, and while the LaCrosse doesn’t tackle sharp, twisting canyon roadways with the same surefooted prowess as the equivalent Swabian luxury sedan, it nevertheless provides very capable handling when pushed hard. In fact,
|The LaCrosse’ 3.6-litre V6 makes 310 healthy horsepower. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
During some short testing stints I pushed it harder than I would normally with another car, because it’s a Buick and I needed to find out how far the new LaCrosse had been driven beyond its floaty, floppy past. It held up very well, with a nice predictable balance between comfort and sport, while it’s certainly more capable than the cars it comes up against most often, such as the ES 350, Avalon, and possibly even the new Maxima. Where the Maxima can be harsh and unforgiving, particularly in its sportiest SR trim, the LaCrosse manages similar athletic feats while simultaneously pampering its driver and passengers with a smooth, comfortable ride, not to mention wonderfully hushed quietness throughout, a Buick trait.
|The new 2017 LaCrosse is certainly worth a closer look. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Truly, I could happily live with the new 2017 LaCrosse, especially as suited up in Premium AWD trim. It’s a wonderful luxury sedan with impressive performance, plus many more features than most of its peers. More importantly it’s a good well-rounded package that combines high quality with excellent functionality at a great price point, if only it’s timing wasn’t so poor.
It’s simple bad luck that Buick shows up with its best-ever luxury sedan when the market wants its best-ever flagship crossover SUV, and while the new Envision delivers high on that scale within the compact SUV class, and the brand’s next-generation Enclave will no doubt satisfy its leagues of fans now waiting patiently for a much-due update, the large four-door sedan market segment is on a bit of a downer. Then again, if Buick managed to incorporate more of the Avenir Concept’s design cues into this already handsome model, luxury buyers might not be able to resist.
Either way Buick has come a long way with its LaCrosse, a car that should be seriously considered by those snubbing the SUV status quo and opting for a large luxury sedan.
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