New & Used Buick LaCrosse: In Depth
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The Buick LaCrosse is a mid-size four-door sedan that has a foot in both the luxury and mainstream worlds. The base car is a mild-hybrid four-cylinder, the upgrade a powerful V-6. All-wheel drive is an option on six-cylinder models.
The Buick's primary competition comes from sedans like the Acura TLX, Volvo S60, Lincoln MKZ, and Lexus ES.
MORE: Read our 2015 Buick LaCrosse review for more information, including pricing with options
One of the first vehicles to usher in the latest era of Buick style and size, the LaCrosse effectively replaced the old LeSabre sedan when it was new in 2005. That first version was quite different from today's car: it was much like a smaller version of the Lucerne, epitomizing the old American view of a floaty, conservatively styled luxury Buick. Powered by a 3.6-liter V-6, a 3.8-liter V-6, or a 5.3-liter V-8, the first-generation LaCrosse was neither sporty nor fuel efficient, though the V-8 model packed some solid highway muscle. In any of three trims--CX, CXL, and CXS--the car was front-drive only and offered features that came up somewhat short of the competition.
To help remedy that problem, Buick added the Super trim in 2008, featuring magnetic adjustable shock absorbers, larger brakes, a revised suspension, projector-beam fog lights, wood grain interior trim, and new leather seating surfaces. The 2009 model year was the last for the first-generation LaCrosse.
Today's Buick LaCrosse
The second-generation LaCrosse is a completely different prospect, with a striking design and much-improved materials, build quality, features, and ride. Introduced to the market in 2009 as a 2010 model, the new LaCrosse quickly garnered praise for its looks and featured a new range of engines, including a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, a 3.0-liter V-6, and a 3.6-liter V-6. The four-cylinder was added in the second year of production and intended to grab great fuel-economy figures for LaCrosse, while the V-6s provide some thrust for the large sedan.
Initially, the LaCrosse was available in three trim levels—CX, CXL, and CXS. At first, the new LaCrosse was packaged to suit a variety of tastes and budgets. The base CX featured standard OnStar and the 255-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 engine, with cloth interior, single-zone automatic climate control, and available entertainment and comfort & convenience packages. The CXL stepped up with dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats, variable-effort power steering, and an available luxury package. The CXS added to this with the 280-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 and memory-setting seats. The all-wheel-drive LaCrosse was only available in CXL trim with the 3.0-liter V-6. All of these LaCrosse sedans featured a six-speed automatic transmission.
For 2011, GM axed the 3.0-liter V-6, leaving the more powerful and similarly efficient 3.6 as the lone step-up engine. It remains the optional engine to this day, now making 304 hp. In the same year, the 182-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder became the LaCrosse's base engine. It was a stopgap measure, lasting just a year until the Buick LaCrosse eAssist was introduced in the 2012 model year.
The current base engine is GM's eAssist four-cylinder, which is a mild-hybrid affair that makes use of a belt-driven starter/generator. It is more refined than the unassisted four-cylinder it replaces, provides more power, and also returns better EPA mileage figures—25 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. The electric motor allows the engine to shut off at stoplights and refires it when you lift off the brake, and also provides some boost when accelerating. The four-cylinder is only available with front-wheel drive.
Those previous trim levels are now gone, replaced by packages that carry no on-vehicle badging. There's the base LaCrosse, then a LaCrosse with Leather Group, LaCrosse with Premium I Group, and also a Premium II Group. Each adds more equipment, while both of the Premium groups include the V-6 as standard equipment.
The IntelliLink touch-screen connectivity system was new to the LaCrosse lineup for 2012 and combined phone and media-player connectivity with the capability to stream audio through Pandora or Stitcher apps; it was made standard for 2013. At the same time, Buick integrated the navigation system with IntelliLink, and topped off the GPS' features list with XM Travel Link services, including real-time traffic reports.
For the 2014 model year, Buick gave the LaCrosse a mild facelift, adding LED running lights and taillamps and reshaping the hood and dash. New interior trim options included an "Ultra Luxury" package with wood and lightly treated leather, while a new Bose audio system becomes an option. The powertrains were carried over, while 20-inch wheels and tires are a new option. The IntelliLink system also was upgraded to add more functionality--it can hold 60 user favorites, and 1000 contacts, and it now has the user-configurable home screen and other functions found in Cadillac's CUE system, minus the haptic feedback.
For 2015, the LaCrosse adds some modern technology that's becoming a necessity in its price class. A rearview camera is now standard on all LaCrosse sedans (and all Buicks for that matter), and Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system can pass commands to your iPhone through Siri Eyes Free. The LaCrosse now also comes equipped with a 4G LTE connection, which includes the ability to broadcast a WiFi data connection inside the vehicle for an extra monthly fee.
A new LaCrosse is likely a year or so away. The same basic formula should carry through, with improvements likely coming to the infotainment and powertrains. Buick's recent Avenir concept gives an idea as to the brand's future styling, although the LaCrosse will probably keep its front-drive architecture, while the Avenir envisioned a larger, rear-drive model for the brand.