New & Used Buick LaCrosse: In Depth
2016 Buick LaCrosse Sport TouringEnlarge Photo
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The Buick LaCrosse has a foot in both luxury and mainstream realms and even offers all-wheel-drive with V-6 models. In base trim the LaCrosse comes with a mild-hybrid four-cylinder, upgradeable to a much more powerful V-6.
The full-size, four-door, the LaCrosse competes most directly with cars such as the Acura TLX, Volvo S60, Lincoln MKZ and Lexus ES. Within the brand's lineup, the LaCrosse sits above the Regal and the compact Verano.
GM's eAssist four-cylinder is a mild-hybrid that makes use of a belt-driven starter/generator. It is more refined than the unassisted four-cylinder it replaced, 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 re-fires it when you lift off the brake, and also provides some boost when accelerating. The four-cylinder is only available with front-wheel drive.
The LaCrosse is offered with packages that carry no on-vehicle badging. There's the base LaCrosse, then a LaCrosse with Leather Group, LaCrosse with Premium I Group, and LaCrosse with Premium II Group. Each adds more equipment, while both of the Premium groups include the V-6 as standard equipment.
MORE: Read our 2016 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 end of the first-generation LaCrosse's run.
The second-generation LaCrosse was 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. It featured a new range of engines, including a 3.0-liter V-6 and a 3.6-liter V-6. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder was added in the second year of production to grab great fuel-economy figures for LaCrosse, while the V-6s were meant to provide some thrust for the large sedan.
Initially, the second-generation LaCrosse was available in the same CX, CXL, and CXS as the first generation. The base CX featured standard OnStar and a 255-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6 engine. The CXL stepped up with more equipment, while the CXS got the 280-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6. 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 for the 2012 model year.
Buick's 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 the 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 Bose audio system became an option. The powertrains were carried over, while 20-inch wheels and tires were a new option. The IntelliLink system was also upgraded to add more functionality. Today's version can hold 60 user favorites and 1000 contacts, and it has a user-configurable home screen and other functions found in Cadillac's CUE system, minus the haptic feedback.
For 2015, the LaCrosse added modern technology such as a standard rearview camera and Siri Eyes Free to go with the IntelliLink system. The 2015 LaCrosse also added a 4G LTE connection, which includes the ability to broadcast a WiFi data connection inside the vehicle for an extra monthly fee.
Upgrades for 2016 are minimal. They include a new 8-inch screen for IntelliLink with two USB ports and controls that have been changed to be more intuitive.
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, though the LaCrosse will probably keep its front-drive architecture and won't be as large as the Avenir.