2011 Buick Lacrosse Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
May 7, 2011

The 2011 Buick LaCrosse hits new levels of style, sophistication, and driving engagement without alienating the brand's comfort-oriented customer base.

While the LaCrosse was already a different kind of Buick than the Park Avenue models it succeeded, GM gave this full-size sedan a new attitude for 2010—by moving it to a more modern platform, upgrading powertrains, and bringing out the modern, somewhat sporty, internationally flavored interpretation of luxury (honed in the Chinese market, in part) on which GM is betting Buick's future.

For the 2011 model year, the former base engine, a 3.0-liter V-6, has been completely replaced by an Ecotec 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine as standard and with a 3.6-liter V-6 remaining an option. Also new for 2011 is the addition of optional all-wheel drive on models equipped with the 3.6-liter V-6. With direct injection, it delivers 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque and achieves, with the six-speed automatic, an EPA-rated 19 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway—making LaCrosse one of the most fuel-efficient cars in its segment.

Behind the wheel, the new LaCrosse is a transformation compared to past models. While the classic Buick ride quality isn't compromised—it's still as comfortable as anything in its class—the LaCrosse offers much more competence in the curves than its predecessors. Fitted with the optional magnetic adjustable suspension, the LaCrosse can be enjoyable to the mildly enthusiastic driver, though its two tons and nose-heavy weight distribution will never make it a BMW-chaser.

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The cabin of the 2011 Buick LaCrosse is very accommodating for five, and can even fit three adults across in back thanks to its width, and there's adequate legroom for all. Ride quality is absorbent but not floaty, and nearly all road and wind noise are filtered out; our only complaint is the coarse, unbefitting engine note you get with the V-6. In TheCarConnection's drive tests, the 17-inch-equipped models rode noticeably more comfortably and quietly than the 18- or 19-inch models, where stiffer sidewalls transmitted a bit more road noise into the cabin.

Top-notch crash-test ratings from both major test agencies makes the 2011 LaCross a top pick for the safety conscious, and you can get safety-tech options like a blind-spot warning system, adaptive cornering headlamps, and rear side thorax bags. Also available is a head-up display.

The level of equipment—and for that matter, the feel of the 2011 Buick LaCrosse—varies greatly with the trim level. Base CX models don't feel any more extravagant than a mid-range Chevy (albeit with somewhat more stylish design). But the CLX AWD and CXS models can feel like entry-level Cadillacs, with an upgraded instrument panel, hard-drive navigation, and a Harman Kardon sound system. All LaCrosses except the base CX feature hands-free Bluetooth phone connectivity, remote start, eight-way adjustable seating, and dual-zone climate control. 

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2011 Buick Lacrosse

Styling

The 2011 Buick LaCrosse is flowing and graceful, if not downright elegant.

When it was last redesigned for 2010, the LaCrosse was at the front of a new styling ethos for Buick—shutting the door on cataract-friendly gauge fonts; padded vinyl roofs; and squishy bench seats and setting a new, more European-flavored direction for the brand.

The overall exterior design of the LaCrosse is smooth and graceful, with a soft shoulder line and some chrome to gently punctuate. The styling and comfort of the does walk a careful line, though; it's not likely deter the brand's older core buyers, but Buick is hoping the LaCrosse will attract a younger set as well.

The four models—CX, CXL, CXL AWD, and CXS—can only be easily differentiated externally by their rear-mounted badges and varying wheel sizes and styles. We'd like to say that the tacky 'portholes' have been thrown to the design dustbin, too, but they're back, this time in the upper hood area in the CXS.

Inside, the design feels a little more traditional, but if you let any old GM biases fall away before stepping in, it's everything a Lexus shopper might expect and more, with a modern, curvy dash design. Base CX models especially can feel just a little bit simple and plasticky, but on other models there's nice detailing and surfaces, and well-done ambient lighting that really sets a sophisticated mood by night. 

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2011 Buick Lacrosse

Performance

Don't expect the responsiveness of a sport sedan, but in V-6 form the 2011 Buick LaCrosse will surprise you with its fleet-footed feel.

With the discontinuation of the 3.0-liter V-6 versions, the 2011 Buick LaCrosse is offered in two very different flavors, set by which powertrain is underhood. The base CX and CXL models come with a 182-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, while standard on the CXS and CXL AWD (and available on the CXL front-wheel drive) is a 280-hp, 3.6-liter V-6. All models come with a six-speed automatic transmission, which really does its best to help the four-cylinder feel sprightly; but it's hard to mask the laws of physics here, and the four-cylinder model can feel quite wheezy with a full load or on long grades. The V-6 is essentially the same engine featured in the Buick Enclave crossover, tuned here to 280 horsepower; it can make the dash to 60 mph in under seven seconds, and here especially the automatic is very smooth and responsive.

Overall, it's probably appropriate not to approach the 2011 LaCrosse with high performance expectations—as it's no sports sedan—but it can hold its own as a daily driver and highway cruiser. And in CXS form, the LaCrosse does add a host of hardware that really does lead to a sportier, more buttoned-down feel. A front HiPer strut suspension gives the LaCrosse more body control and finesse, while it also gets upgraded V-rated tires and an improved magnetic, variable-effort power steering system. 

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2011 Buick Lacrosse

Comfort & Quality

The 2011 Buick LaCrosse has a comfortable, quiet, high-quality interior and in its upper CXL and CXS trims feels every bit a luxury car.

The 2011 Buick LaCrosse is a very spacious large sedan, and its generous proportions pay off especially for rear-seat passengers, where the seats are adult-sized and you can actually fit three adults across. Cargo room is ample as well, though nothing close to Town Car standards.

Front seats in the LaCrosse are nothing to grumble about—they're a bit soft but long-distance comfortable nevertheless. A wide range of materials, including plastic, wood and leather, with quality rising as you move up the model line—although the faux wood in some models feels a little out of place. Faux stitching on the dashboard and well-upholstered and bolstered seats make for a more luxurious setting than might be expected from the LaCrosse's mid-market pricing, and the top-level CXS gets upgraded perforated leather and ventilated heating and cooling features, along with more adjustability and memory settings.

Ride quality is impressive, and the interior is very well hushed from road and wind noise. There's only one nit: The 3.6-liter V-6 is a little raspy-sounding in this application and its character doesn't marry so well with the otherwise sophisticated and supremely muted and isolated feel of the car. 

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2011 Buick Lacrosse

Safety

With top ratings from both test agencies and available rear side thorax airbags, the 2011 Buick LaCrosse is about as good as it gets with respect to safety.

Crash-test ratings have been phenomenally good for the Buick LaCrosse, and its combination of vaultlike construction, all the expected occupant-protection features, stable handling, and good outward visibility make the LaCrosse a top choice for shoppers who demand top safety.

In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests, the LaCrosse has earned top 'good' ratings in all categories—including frontal offset, rear, side, and even the new roof strength test. And in the federal government's NCAP program, the it's earned five-star ratings in frontal and side categories, as well as five stars overall. Electronic stability control, six airbags, and four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes are all standard, while an unusual (and welcome, for those who plan on putting adults in back) available safety feature is the available side thorax airbag system.

Also available for those who consider some additional investment in safety-tech well worth it are a blind-spot warning system and adaptive cornering headlamps that automatically help illuminate around dark corners. 

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2011 Buick Lacrosse

Features

Serious luxury-car comforts as well as high-tech conveniences are available, but they all drive the price of the 2011 LaCrosse well into true luxury-car territory.

The level of equipment—and for that matter, the feel of the 2011 Buick LaCrosse—varies greatly with the trim level. Base CX models don't feel any more extravagant than a mid-range Chevy (albeit with somewhat more stylish design). But the CLX AWD and CXS models can feel like entry-level Cadillacs.

The LaCrosse offers a great combination of value packages from the entry-luxury sector, including a range of high-tech features and quality interior design and materials. All LaCrosses except the base CX feature hands-free Bluetooth phone connectivity, remote start, eight-way adjustable seating, and dual-zone climate control.

A new high-resolution digital center instrument panel screen is also available, as is a Heads-up Display (HUD), pushing the LaCrosse's feature set into the high-tech realm. A 40-gigabyte hard-drive-based navigation and entertainment system can also be fitted. The LaCrosse CXL and CXS get a standard Harman Kardon sound system that sounds pretty great no matter what the music.

Wheel configurations are one of those key differences; they range from standard 17-inch steel wheels with plastic covers in the base CX up to large 18- and 19-inch machined, painted, or chrome-plated alloys. 

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2011 Buick Lacrosse

Fuel Economy

The 2011 Buick LaCrosse is about typical for its class—neither a gas guzzler nor particularly green.

As it stands, the LaCrosse's fuel economy figures of 16 to 19 mpg in the city and 26 to 30 on the highway are pretty typical for a large sedan. It also ranks about average in the EPA's air pollution and greenhouse-gas scores.

For 2012, the LaCrosse will do much better—returning up to 37 mpg on the highway—with the introduction of GM's eAssist mild-hybrid system as standard on the four-cylinder LaCrosse. 

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May 13, 2016
2011 Buick Lacrosse 4-Door Sedan CXL FWD

Still Honeymooning

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I usually get bored with cars after a couple of years, but I'm nowhere near bored with this one. After 5 years of just performing routine maintenance, I feel confident in the reliability of this car, the... + More »
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November 15, 2015
2011 Buick Lacrosse 4-Door Sedan CXS

Great Car.

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I love my car. Get compliments on it all the time. Whether someone riding in it or just observing it. Bumbed my head getting out of it and into it a time or two because of how close it's built on the driver... + More »
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8.2
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Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 10.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy 6.0
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