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A Lexus? Not quite. But a new middle American standard? Definitely. That’s a good way of looking at the ’05 Buick LaCrosse sedan, one of the “new” Buicks GM’s almost-luxury division hopes will appeal to a younger generation of buyers without alienating the AARPers who have become Buick’s customer base.
The LaCrosse replaces two ancient but still popular models, the Regal and Century — cars that may not be high on the automotive totem pole in terms of status or curb appeal, but which nonetheless have sold in their many tens of thousands to senior citizens and rental fleets everywhere.
The problem for Buick, of course, is that eventually the 55-up buyers it relies on won’t be there to rely on — and unless the division wants to fade away like Oldsmobile, it must claw its way back to a more youthful clientele and become a serious alternative to 40-something family cars like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Or maybe even entry-luxury brands like Lexus that have done such a seamless job of melding plushness (a Buick specialty) with refinement and a degree of sportiness.
Coulda been a contender?
The LaCrosse is a contender in that class. On looks, it comes off very well against both the Camry and Accord, which have overtaken the Buick in stuffy, nondescript exterior styling. The designers who fleshed out the shape of the LaCrosse managed to retain the overall look of a Buick — the trademark ovoid grille opening and gentle elliptical shapes — while at the same time giving the finished car a less gray-haired mien. A married guy in his 40s won’t feel like he’s borrowing grandpa’s car anymore. But an older person will likely not be put off by the appearance, either.