2009 Buick Lacrosse Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
February 9, 2009

The 2009 Buick LaCrosse is a nicely equipped American luxury sedan that comes in two very different flavors.

To write this comprehensive review on the 2009 Buick LaCrosse, TheCarConnection.com's editors read through a number of reviews from reputable sources. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove the Buick LaCrosse and offer their observations regarding the vehicle to help you best make sense of conflicting opinions.

The Buick LaCrosse moves into the 2009 model year with minor changes that bring it more into alignment with its competitors. The LaCrosse was never intended to compete with the entry-level luxury sport sedans from Europe; it appeals especially to older drivers in need of a little extra comfort and quiet.

The 2009 Buick LaCrosse is available in three trims: the CX, CXL and the LaCrosse Super. The CX and CXL sedans come with a proven 200-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6 engine, and the LaCrosse Super is loaded with GM's small-block 5.3-liter V-8 that pumps out 300 horsepower. All trims are limited to a four-speed automatic transmission.

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The LaCrosse Super is the power lifter of the group, with a hugely entertaining engine turning the otherwise ordinary LaCrosse into a road-clawing machine. The big V-8 engine can propel the LaCrosse Super to 60 mph in under six seconds, yet has active fuel management, which deactivates four cylinders at cruising speed to save fuel.

The Super can be recognized on the outside by its hood "portholes," as well as a new waterfall grille, hood, and front fascia. Inside, the LaCrosse Super features a more bolstered seat covered in a woven embossed leather, as well as wood-grain-appearance accents on the instrument panel, center console, door, and gear shift knob. The Super also gets exclusive instrument cluster graphics, new front sill plates, and a silver finish on the instrument panel.

The chassis of the 2009 Buick LaCrosse Super is firmer and more responsive, while at the same time retaining the comfortable ride that traditionally has been one of the Buick's hallmarks. The LaCrosse Super features 18-inch wheels, as well. It feels great on the road compared to a non-Super LaCrosse.

Overall, the V-6 LaCrosse models offer good value for those who don't ever encounter curvy roads. Ride quality is top-notch, with that pillowy feel few cars today still offer—although it's not at all queasy like many of the rides of the past—and the interior is among GM's quietest.

The CX and CXL are the boulevard cruisers that feature loads of standard equipment. The LaCrosse CX has a standard leather-wrapped steering wheel, a theft-deterrence system, illuminated vanity mirrors, and a driver information center personalization. For 2009, the CX adds painted 16-inch aluminum wheels. The CXL has an available universal home remote, an available sunroof, and standard heated driver and front passenger seats. All LaCrosses feature XM Satellite Radio, remote start, a telescoping steering wheel, and dual-zone climate control.

For 2009, a number of changes to the Buick LaCrosse focus on safety and convenience. For the first time, heated side mirrors are standard on all trim levels, and Bluetooth hands-free is available for all models. For buyers who want the versatility of carrying larger items, a split folding rear seat is available.

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2009 Buick Lacrosse

Styling

The 2009 Buick LaCrosse continues to appeal to an older audience, and while not gorgeous, it maintains a sense of style.

The 2009 Buick LaCrosse has largely carried over its style from the last year, it's last significant shift was in 2007. The Detroit News wasn't hugely impressed, writing that the LaCrosse is nondescript, even though there are some styling touches in the headlights and stretched oval grille. Edmunds said the LaCrosse soldiers on with staid design cues on an aged platform. Automedia liked the Jaguar-like sculpting over the headlights that flank the oval grille.

Super models with a V-8 under its hood continue Buick's tradition of hood portholes, which may or may not be a good idea. The waterfall grille, hood, and front fascia of the LaCrosse Super helps it stand out against other models, and ForbesAutos reported that subtle differences in the bumper and more chrome should help passersby recognize the more potent version of the LaCrosse.

The interior has received mixed reviews. Car and Driver wrote that the plastic wood trim looks classier, and that the center stack's matte silver finish borrows heavily from Chrylser's playbook. The Detroit News wasn't so impressed, nothing that the LaCrosse is comfortable, but also boring. Edmunds went the opposite direction, adding that the clean and elegant lines was tasteful with a splash of style. The long expanse of wood is only interrupted by a gauge, and chrome touches were appreciated. LaCrosse Super editions get new seats, along with wood-grain-appearance accents on the instrument panel, center console, door, and gear shift knob.

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2009 Buick Lacrosse

Performance

The 2009 Buick LaCrosse knows its audience and, with the V-6, offers a pillowy ride at the expense of handling.

Almost universally, experts have praised the 2009 Buick LaCrosse and its balanced V-6—and nearly all agree that the Super trim and its V-8 is extraordinary.

In CX or CXL trim, the 2009 Buick LaCrosse is powered by a 200-horsepower 3.8-liter V-6. Kelley Blue Book wrote about V-6-powered cars that they may not be built to be sports cars, but daily drivers should find the power more than adequate for daily commutes. Consumer Guide went deeper, noting that the V-6 has good takeoff power, but lacked the grunt to pass in certain situations.

Autoblog starts in on the Super edition, by noting that its 300-hp 5.3-liter V-8 was a "major power boost" for the sedan. Car and Driver takes it further by noting that the Super's V-8 is currently found underhood the Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo SSs and Pontiac Grand Prix GXPs that were torque steering "toward ditches and road signs near you." Edmunds advises that for drivers looking for supreme power, they should consider the V-8, even though the V-6 is smoother. The V-6 may be a quieter ride, but the V-8 can shut off fuel to four of its eight cylinders while cruising to conserve fuel.

Every Buick LaCrosse is equipped with a four-speed automatic transmission, wrote Cars.com. Consumer Guide added more by saying that the transmission is smooth, but requires a "deep stab" at the throttle to execute a pass. Edmunds wrote that the four-speed unit was a liability overall, and added that many other competitors offer five- or six-speed autoboxes now as standard.

Fuel economy for the CX and CXL models is respectable at 17 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, Edmunds wrote. Super models come in slightly lower at 16/24, but Consumer Guide warns that V-6 models run on regular, while V-8 models run on more expensive premium-grade gasoline.

Drivers may notice that the LaCrosse specializes in a more comfortable ride, but not necessarily great handling. The base suspension setup swallows bumps on the roads, but tends to bound and pitch over ruts and bumps at highway speeds, wrote Consumer Guide. In the city, the car's big body rolled and swayed back and forth when accelerating or braking, according to the Detroit News. The paper went further, adding that it's comfortable and reassuring, but not super, and that the ride was soft and "squishy." (Their word, not ours.) Edmunds added that the sedan soaks up bumps, like you'd expect from a mid-size sedan, but noted that the handling wasn't particularly good.

LaCrosse models trimmed in the Super edition have a reworked suspension for better response and a firmer ride, but not without sacrificing much comfort. Autoblog noted the uprated Bilstein monotube struts and upgraded brakes, and Edmunds called the trim a step in the right direction. Automobile went further by writing that the LaCrosse sedan was still hyper-focused on providing more comfort than speed, and that by adding small touches like the suspension, steering rack, wheels, and bigger brakes, that the LaCrosse still kept its focus on over-the-road speed than superlative track lap times.

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2009 Buick Lacrosse

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Buick LaCrosse is a quiet, capable sedan that can carry five or six passengers in comfort. However, quality isn't stellar by all accounts.

Although the 2009 Buick LaCrosse offers generous amounts of passenger and cargo space and a soft, pillowy ride, its seats are disappointing and the interior is lacking in apparent quality, according to some reviews.

The editors at TheCarConnection.com have noticed a few complaints when it comes to ride quality. The Detroit News wrote that it was extremely quiet while driving down the road, but Consumer Guide added that wind noise coming from the road is apparent at 65 mph with thrumming over coarse roads.

Cars.com wrote that the LaCrosse can be configured for six, or five with front bucket seats. The Detroit News observed that the 100 cubic feet of passenger room in the cabin made the sedan "super sized," but Edmunds warns that while the flat seats make for easy entry and exit, the rear seats don't offer enough leg room for taller adults.

At 16 cubic feet of cargo room, stowing luggage and groceries in the 2009 Buick LaCrosse should be easy, Cars.com noted. Consumer Guide wrote that the low liftover and hidden hinges maximized the cargo space, but said that the opening is too small to stuff larger boxes in the back. Edmunds wrote that interior storage is plentiful in the cabin, with plenty of bins and cubbies to maximize space.

Overall, many have applauded the interior of the 2009 Buick LaCrosse by noting the build quality and soft-touch materials. Kelley Blue Book added that the interior of the LaCrosse was a shift for the automaker toward quality, comfort, and design. The dash and instrument cluster were notably better than older Buicks, they added, and small details such as the control knobs may signal a return to form. Edmunds wasn't so enthusiastic, noting that the plastics used for the console and door panels were "low-rent" materials. Consumer Guide said the LaCrosse was well constructed, with easy to read gauges and panels.

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2009 Buick Lacrosse

Safety

The 2009 Buick LaCrosse's side crash tests are bested by just about any other large sedan.

The 2009 Buick LaCrosse includes most of the expected safety equipment, but its side crash-test scores are just not up to snuff.

The LaCrosse earned five out of five stars for frontal impact protection, as well as four stars for rear side impact protection and rollover resistance from the federal government, but only three stars for front side impact protection—among the lowest scores of any vehicles for 2009 and a worrisome indicator for a large sedan. These scores are consistent with results from the more stringent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which gives it a top rating of "good" in front impact tests, but only a "marginal" rating for side impacts.

Cars.com reports that "antilock brakes and side curtain airbags are standard" on all Buick LaCrosse trims. Consumer Guide adds that the Buick LaCrosse 2009 lineup also offers "dual front airbags, curtain side airbags, antilock four-wheel disc brakes, tire-pressure monitor, daytime running lights" as standard equipment.

Electronic stability control—a lifesaving active safety feature that's strongly recommended by the editors of TheCarConnection—is standard on the Super model but optional for $495 on V-6 LaCrosse models. V-6 models come standard with a traction control system, which aids traction on snowy inclines but doesn't provide the same level of security and stability.

Visibility is not a serious issue with the 2009 Buick LaCrosse; Kelley Blue Book reports that "thin front and rear roof pillars keep blind spots to a minimum, but spotting the sloping hood's leading edge can be difficult" for someone in the driver's seat of this Buick LaCrosse 2009.

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2009 Buick Lacrosse

Features

The 2009 Buick LaCrosse offers loads of standard equipment, but the options list still lacks some key items.

Editors at TheCarConnection.com have studied the 2009 Buick LaCrosse and noted that the standard equipment is good—borderline lavish—and optional features make the car even better.

The three trim levels for the LaCross are CX, CXL, and Super, which was noted by Consumer Guide. Standard equipment across all trim levels include satellite radio, remote start, and dual-zone climate control, which was reported by Cars.com. Consumer Guide went further adding OnStar telematic-based assistance with one year of service, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with mounted audio controls, cruise control, cloth upholstery, power adjustable driver's seat, keyless entry, AM/FM/CD audio system, automatic headlights, and 16-inch wheels with wheel covers.

Moving up to the CXL trim gives buyers leather seats, woodgrain trim, heated front seats, alloy wheels, and power lumbar controls for the driver, according to Edmunds. Super trim tops the range and offers all of the above, including 18-inch wheels, V-8 power, an upgraded suspension and brakes, and leather seats with woven inserts, according to Popular Mechanic.

Kelley Blue Book notes the options may vary by trim and include a power adjustable passenger seat, spoiler, stability control, and a power sunroof. Consumer Guide noted a few more including rear obstacle detection, heated power mirrors, automatic adjustable rearview mirror, and power adjustable passenger seat. Cars.com noted that the Super trim gets its own unique gauges and center stack.

Navigation, which is a popular option for many sedans in this category, isn't offered in the LaCrosse.

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6.6
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Styling 6
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 5
Features 7
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