2014 Buick Lacrosse Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 29, 2014

Great on gas or long on comfort and refinement--the Buick LaCrosse can be either, though we'd steer you toward the premium editions.

The Buick of yesterday isn't the Buick of today. Look for a 2014 Buick LaCrosse in The Villages, or Shady Pines, or any other neighborhood with "assisted" in the name, and you might be looking for a while. The LaCrosse has gone premium, along with the rest of Buick, and that's meant leaving the softly sprung past in the past, and a turn to more sporty and more shapely alternatives to the brand's heritage.

The Buick LaCrosse is one of the sharper reminders of how much change that's brought. It has enough of the vintage Buick styling cues to recall the connection--but the way it drives is almost entirely disconnected from the past, from its controlled ride to its available mild-hybrid drivetrain.

The graceful LaCrosse has lots in common with the new Chevy Impala--but the LaCrosse was here first, and the impact of its soft-shouldered, snappily creased body panels hasn't faded. It's been tweaked a bit for 2014 with new LED eyeliner and taillamps, but the pleasantly thick shape has always had most of the details down pat. If we worked at GM, we'd personally pry every fake porthole off its hood and banish them forever, but there's not much else to find fault with on the big Buick. The cabin's revamp this year remolds the center stack into a less complex shape, and an Ultra Luxury package slathers it in tamo wood and wraps the cockpit in semi-aniline leather.

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There's almost no change to the LaCrosse's two distinctly tuned visions of performance. There's a base model with GM's eAssist mild-hybrid technology; it returns respectable, refined performance while earning an EPA highway number of 36 mpg. The 304-hp V-6 version is our idea of a more traditional luxury-car experience, and probably yours too. The LaCrosse is no performance car, but it does handle better than its predecessors. In Touring guise, with the optional magnetic adjustable suspension (and included V-rated performance tires and variable-effort power steering), the LaCrosse gains a more responsive feel that doesn't come at the expense of ride quality.

With space for five, as well as a back seat that's good enough for three, the LaCrosse has a level of seating comfort that's a step above compared to mid-size sedans. Interior appointments and standards of refinement in the LaCrosse's cabin are truly luxury-car caliber. Upper models also get upgraded perforated leather and ventilated heating and cooling features, along with more adjustments and memory settings; and across the lineup, Buick's 'Quiet Tuning' philosophy reflects in a tight, near-silent interior. 

The LaCrosse earns some of the best safety scores in the entire GM family, with eight standard airbags and top safety ratings from both U.S. agencies. Blind-spot warning system, adaptive cornering headlamps, and rear side thorax bags are all available, as is a head-up display (HUD). This year, the LaCrosse also bolts on new safety technology that buzzes, blings, and vibrates to warn of impending danger--some of it useful, like forward collision alerts, and some with less certain payoff.

It's a premium sedan, not a luxury one--at least, that's how the 2014 LaCrosse is billed. And yet, the most expensive models can be trimmed out like Cadillacs, with Bose audio and an upgraded instrument panel. The IntelliLink touch-screen interface updates to a new edition that's essentially Cadillac's CUE minus the haptic feedback--it has 60 favorites slots and space for a thousand contacts, to go with connectivity with smartphones for hands-free or streaming audio functions, as well as access to apps for Pandora or Stitcher audio. It's advanced technology that would have been light years ahead of the archetypical Buick customer of the past--but falls right in step with the drivers taking a second look at Buick today.


2014 Buick Lacrosse


Buick's styling reset from a few years back has paid off in the handsome, contemporary LaCrosse.

Buick led its design renovation of a few years ago with the Enclave crossover and with the LaCrosse. Ditching the bench-seat set and adopting a muscular, elegant new theme has paid off handsomely.

The LaCrosse is graceful and soft where it needs to be, at the roofline and around its shoulders. But there's enough bulk down low (the 20-inch wheels now available are beefy well-fillers) and enough starch in its creases to lend it presence. It even has some of the stance of a classically proportioned sedan despite the fact that it's a front-driver--the long nose helps, a lot, and so does the small new decklid spoiler.

For the 2014 edition, Buick's added active shutters to the grille for smoother aero, and cooler headlamps with LED wings bookended by LED taillamps. What it could have used, at the same time, is a pry bar for the fake portholes still stuck to its reshaped hood. They're an unwelcome echo of the past, almost the only reminder of where Buick was just a decade ago.

The LaCrosse cockpit pulls off a swanky, traditional feel in all but the very base editions, where it's a bit less nice. The modern arc of the dash divides it into two tone zones, with an upper tier that swoops its way around the cabin, flowing neatly into redesigned door panels to form an interior beltline. Warm interior hues and premium-feel materials in most versions complete a welcoming look and feel, and ambient lighting brings a pleasing nighttime aura. If you let any lingering GM biases shake off before stepping in, it's worth pointing out the LaCrosse hits the target that, say, a Lexus ES aims for.


2014 Buick Lacrosse


Four-cylinder eAssist versions lead the LaCrosse down a high-economy road, but the V-6 is a strong straight-line performer.

Buick splits the LaCrosse into two quite distinct versions. One's pitched for efficiency's sake, while the other tackles Buick's traditional reputation for smooth moves.

The base powertrain takes a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and couples it to an "eAssist" mild-hybrid system made up of batteries and an electric motor. It's not a full hybrid--it's not able to cruise on electric power alone--but the eAssist setup does feed some of its net 15 hp to the drivetrain to smooth six-speed automatic shifts and to run some accessories, as well as to restart the engine after it's automatically stopped at longer pauses. With a net 182 horsepower, this base powertrain is quite smoothly integrated and perfectly adequate, though not all that enjoyable. Although eAssist helps smooth out shifts most of the time, the system still has moments of roughness and indecision.

For those who want an experience that's closer to that of a traditional luxury car or a traditional Buick, a 304-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 is available. Mileage dips significantly, but it's strong and smooth, with plenty of reserves for passing--which perhaps makes it the best choice for those who plan to carry a full load on highway trips. There's also an all-wheel-drive option, engineered by Haldex, that can shuffle some power to the rear wheels when the fronts lose traction.

The LaCrosse is no performance car, but it does handle the curves better than its predecessors. Its electric power steering has a better sense of stability and on-center tracking than some of the brand-new large sedans we've driven this year. And in Touring guise, with the optional magnetic adjustable suspension (and included V-rated performance tires and variable-effort power steering), the LaCrosse gains a more responsive feel that doesn't come at the expense of ride quality.

This year, the LaCrosse has new tire choices, as well as 20-inch wheels and tires on the options list for the first time. When we're able to spend more time with the retuned model, we'll update this section.


2014 Buick Lacrosse

Comfort & Quality

The LaCrosse has a premium feel--not quite luxuriant, but well turned-out, with great back-seat space.

With the LaCrosse, Buick suits up its largest sedan with room for five people--five real people, three across the back seat, without the coach-seat cramp of most mid-size sedans. It's a step above that class of cars, and not just in price.

The first impression of the LaCrosse from the driver's seat isn't necessarily of spaciousness, though. The roofline is tall enough for good head room, but the console design is fairly tall and wide--more so than in the related 2014 Chevy Impala. The seats are supportive but soft to the touch, and adjust eight ways even in base trim. Upper models also get upgraded perforated leather and ventilated heating and cooling features, along with more adjustments and memory settings.

The back seat is where the LaCrosse makes its case for premium status, above and beyond Buick's smaller Regal, and above some of the more popularly priced family four-doors. Head room remains rather regal, and the LaCrosse is wide enough and long enough for two adults to sit very comfortably, and for a smaller adult to ride comfortably in between. It's still ideal for four adults, but can pinch-hit capably for a crossover when it needs to.

The console and glovebox are big enough for the usual collection of CDs, owner's manuals, pens, sunglasses, and bagfuls of change. A huge trunk, as well as folding seatbacks, can hold plenty of cargo or accommodate larger items.

The interior appointments and standards of refinement in the LaCrosse's cabin are truly luxury-car caliber. Across most of the interior, materials are lavish, with fine detailing, ambient lighting, and nicely done faux-stitching on the dashboard, along with plenty of soft-touch surfaces. The materials have been updated for the new model year, along with the seats, with a new "Ultra Luxury" cabin option with a less heavily treated leather and a new woodgrain trim complementing a slightly reshaped center stack.

Only the base models can feel just a little bit simple and plasticky, and the woodgrain trim can seem a little out of place in some of the models. But otherwise there's a wide range of materials, including plastic, wood and leather, with quality rising as you move up the model line.

Ride quality in the LaCrosse fits the premium look and feel, with the measures of Buick's 'Quiet Tuning' philosophy damping out nearly all wind and road noise. The only thing we've noticed with V-6 models is that they tend to have more of a raspy sound under acceleration than you might expect from a quiet luxury car.


2014 Buick Lacrosse


Buick's LaCrosse has been a safety standout, and we don't see anything changing that.

The LaCrosse is already one of the safest sedans you can buy, but for the 2014 model year, Buick's adding two new packages of safety gear that pack even more technology into its four-door body. Some of them may be a case of too much information, depending on your driving skills and driving budget.

First things first. For the 2014 model year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has only ranked the LaCrosse at five stars for front-impact protection, and four stars for rollover resistance. Last year, it gave the LaCrosse five stars overall for crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2014 LaCrosse a "good" score for frontal impacts, but without a small-overlap score, it doesn't qualify for its former Top Safety Pick award.

Forward visibility is in good supply from the LaCrosse's driver's seat, though the thick rear pillars and smaller rear glass create big blind spots to the rear.

Those flaws can be muted with the available safety gear. Eight airbags are standard, though a rearview camera is not, and should be. Blind-spot monitors and adaptive headlights can be ordered, too.

New on the docket are more exotic features like forward-collision alerts, lane-departure warning and lane-change alert systems, adaptive cruise control, and collision-mitigation braking. All these systems use cameras and radar to judge the situation around the car's perimeter, and to try to predict if a crash is imminent--whether you're changing lanes, or if another driver is approaching quickly in the lane you'd like to be in next. Outfitted properly, the LaCrosse will buzz and beep and light up and even vibrate the driver seat to warn you of the danger--more useful information to some, expensive distractions to others.


2014 Buick Lacrosse


More like Cadillac in content and Chevy in price, the Buick LaCrosse gets better at infotainment this year.

The Buick LaCrosse approaches Cadillac levels of standard and optional equipment. The line blurs even more this year, as the big sedan gets a lighter version of the Cadillac infotainment system--an advanced version of Buick IntelliLink that's shared with this year's new Chevy Impala.

The standard LaCrosse comes with the usual power features, cruise control, climate control, and AM/FM/XM/CD player. There's remote start, eight-way adjustable front seats, and Bluetooth with audio streaming, a tech feature that might not mate up with the core Buick audience of yesterday, but thinks ahead for the customers it needs to attract.

It's when it's trimmed out into Premium or Touring trim levels that the big Buick turns out Caddy-style feature content--features like a nicer instrument panel and an optional head-up display. Other options include a power sunroof, Bose audio, and a DVD entertainment system.

This year, the LaCrosse revamps the IntelliLink system it's offered for a few years, and made it standard on all models. As before, IntelliLink connects with smartphones for hands-free or streaming audio functions, and enables access to apps for Pandora or Stitcher audio.

With a cleaner, more colorful interface, this year's version of IntelliLink gets more and better functionality. Users can define up to 60 favorites from any IntelliLink function--a favorite destination, a radio station from any band, etc. The system will hold up to a thousand contacts, and it understands natural-language commands, for safer operation when driving. The home screen can be reconfigured in Apple-like fashion. And if the LaCrosse is outfitted with the optional navigation system, it's possible to enter a destination in one pass--a great shortcut that cuts through some of the cumbersome screen touching and voice steps that plague some other systems. The major difference from Cadillac's CUE system is the lack of haptic feedback--the subtle vibration from the screen that signals gestures.


2014 Buick Lacrosse

Fuel Economy

With eAssist, the Buick LaCrosse posts fairly impressive gas mileage numbers.

Official EPA numbers underscore the progress Buick has made on gas mileage.

The LaCrosse comes in two models, one specifically geared toward higher fuel economy, the other with more ample luxury-minded performance. For 2014, the eAssist mild-hybrid powertrain delivers an EPA-rated 25 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, for a combined gas mileage figure of 29 mpg. That's a very good number for a large sedan, and in real-world driving, our editors have seen about 30 mpg in 270 miles of mixed driving.

A word of caution, though. While we've been able to come close to replicating the LaCrosse's 36-mpg highway rating, we've found it challenging—virtually impossible—to see the EPA test's 25 mpg in city driving. The trip computer's figures in typical city driving have been more in the 19 to 21 mpg range.

With the available V-6 engine, the LaCrosse's fuel economy is less impressive. Its EPA figures come in at either 17/26 mpg or 20 mpg combined for the all-wheel-drive version, or 18/28/21 mpg for the front-drive V-6 car.

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2014 Buick Lacrosse 4-Door Sedan Premium II FWD


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