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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.
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.