2015 Buick Lacrosse Review

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The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 28, 2015

The Buick LaCrosse is both supremely comfortable and excellent on gas, but we'd point you to the Premium versions if you're seriously considering one.

The Buick LaCrosse is now the GM brand's largest sedan, and in many ways it's the only Buick left in the lineup that feels like the brand's past. Buick's gone upmarket and upscale, and has shrunk its car and crossover line in quick succession.

The mid-size to large LaCrosse flouts those trends, but unlike Buicks of the past, it doesn't wallow in the past. It may be big, but it accelerates briskly and handles well in V-6 form, and offers fairly good gas mileage as a mild hybrid.

The LaCrosse shares much in common with the Chevy Impala, but the Buick is more graceful, and was here first—its soft shoulders and creased body lines haven't faded since its arrival. It was reworked a little last year with LED taillights and eyeliner, but the thick shape has always had the details right. We'd like to remove every fake porthole from the LaCrosse and banish them forever, but that's the only fault we can find in the big Buick. The revisions this year also include work on the center stack to make it simpler, and the Ultra Luxury package drapes tamo wood and semi-aniline leather into the creases of the cockpit.

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Buick stops short of calling the 2015 LaCrosse a luxury product, it's a premium ride for now. The most expensive models can be trimmed like Cadiallacs, with an upgraded instrument panel and Bose audio inside. The IntelliLink touchscreen has been updated to mimic the Caddilac CUE system, but without the haptic feedback, it boasts Bluetooth connectivity for smartphone calling and audio streaming, and access to internet radio streaming apps such as Pandora and Stitcher for on-the-go entertainment. It's features that many familiar with old Buicks might find foreign, but it's light years ahead of where Buicks were in the past—it's right in line for where the automaker would like to go for the future in search of younger buyers.

Two powertrains offer distinct views on the LaCrosse's approach to performance. The base model can be equipped with GM's mild-hybrid technology, dubbed eAssist, and it returns respectable performance and an EPA highway figure of 36 mpg. The V-6 version is closer to our ideas of what a luxury car should feel like, and with 304 horsepower on tap it's probably closer to your definition too. The LaCrosse won't be confused with a performance car any time soon, but it handles better than its predecessors, which we felt were too soft. In Touring trim, the optional magnetic adjustable ride (with V-rated performance tires and variable-ratio power steering) adds a more responsive feel that doesn't sacrifice ride quality.

The LaCrosse comfortable seats five, including a back seat that's roomy enough for three, and it's more comfortable than comparable mid-size sedans. The big Buick may punch above its weight class in terms of interior refinement and luxury appointments. Top-trim models get upgraded heated and cooled front seats with perforated leather, including power adjustable seats with memory functions, and Buick's QuietTuning efforts throughout the lineup result in a quiet cabin that we appreciate.

The LaCrosse has earned top safety scores from federal and independent testers and ranks among the top of the GM family with good active safety features and eight standard airbags. Blind-spot monitors, rear side thorax airbags, a head-up display for the driver, and adaptive headlights are all available as options. The LaCrosse also features a newly developed driver's seat that buzzes and vibrates to warn of side- or front-impact collisions, which we've found useful in some circumstances.

For 2015, the LaCrosse adds some modern technology that's becoming a necessity in its price class. A rearview camera is now standard on all LaCrosse sedans, and Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system can give directions to your iPhone through Siri Eyes Free. The LaCrosse now can also come equipped with a 4G LTE connection, which includes the ability to broadcast a WiFi data connection inside the vehicle.

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2015 Buick Lacrosse

Styling

The LaCrosse is contemporary and handsome, and leads the Buick lineup well.

Buick's design renaissance began a few years back with the LaCrosse sedan and Enclave crossover. A splash of handsome, elegant styling has paid off in spades for the brand.

Most trims of the LaCrosse dutifully execute a premium, traditional feel in the cabin, while base models feel a little spartan to us. The arc of the dash divides the cabin into two areas: the upper zone circles the cabin and neatly flows into the door panels to form a visual line all the way around the interior. Warmer interior colors and good materials complete an inviting look and feel inside, and it's enhanced by mood lighting at night that gently bathes the cabin in soft interior hues. It caused us to rethink our approach to GM interiors, and the LaCrosse's cabin nails the details in the same way that a Lexus ES does.

Active grille shutters added last year help smooth the grille for better aerodynamics and fuel economy, and cooler LED headlights and taillights bookend the upscale sedan. We say GM designers stopped short; the fake portholes affixed to the body don't add any functionality and they detract from an otherwise smooth shape. "Ventiports," as they're called in Buick speak, are unsightly echoes of the past and remind us of a time that Buicks weren't so elegant or graceful.

The LaCrosse is soft where it should be: at the roofline and shoulders, but carries enough visual heft down low to announce its presence. Big, beefy 20-inch wheels only underscore its bottom-heavy size, and it has some of the stance that we'd typically associate with rear-drive sedans, even though the LaCrosse is a front-driver most of the time. The long nose adds to that shape, and a small decklid spoiler at back adds some length.

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2015 Buick Lacrosse

Performance

V-6 versions are strong straight-line performers; the mild-hybrid four-cylinder is much better on fuel.

There are two drivetrains available in the 2015 LaCrosse. One is focused on the brand's reputation for smooth sailing and highway cruising, while the other gets the most out of each gallon of gas in the tank.

We don't think the LaCrosse will be confused with a performance car anytime soon, but it handles curves better than its predecessors. Electric power steering has been tuned for a confident ride and a large on-center spot makes tracking better than other large sedans that we've driven this year. In Touring trim, the optional magnetic adjustable suspension, uprated tires, and variable-effort power steering, help the LaCrosse feel more responsive without abandoning its ride quality.

The standard powertrain is a fuel-efficient approach for the Buick sedan. It's a 2.4-liter inline-4 that's mated to a mild-hybrid system that GM calls "eAssist" comprised of batteries and an electric motor. The electric motor delivers 15 hp to the overall drivetrain, so it's not capable of powering the sedan on its own, but the batteries help power some accessories and restart the engine after long pauses at stoplights or in traffic. The total system power output is pegged at 182 horsepower and it's mated to a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic. Power here is adequate for the sedan, although not that enjoyable. In our experience, eAssist helps out shifts most of the time, but the system still needs some smoothing around the edges to be perfectly seamless.

Traditional luxury-sedan shoppers may be more satisfied with the 3.6-liter V-6, which is a more traditional feel for Buick sedans. Mileage takes an expected hit, but the V-6 is strong and smooth, with enough power leftover to make passing a breeze. We also suggest that the V-6 be the preferred pick for people looking to carry several passengers on long trips. The V-6 is also the only powertrain where all-wheel drive is available, a Haldex system that routes power to the rear wheels when the front tires begin to slip.

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2015 Buick Lacrosse

Comfort & Quality

The LaCrosse has very good back-seat space, and it's well-fitted and finished.

We've long admired the LaCrosse for its premium ride and feel, and Buick's "QuietTuning" approach has paid off in making the sedan quiet and serene inside. Our only gripe is with V-6-equipped models, which have a raspy engine note while accelerating than we'd expect from a luxury car.

The interior appointments are befitting a luxury car, according to our eyeballs. Across most of the dash and interior, the materials are superb with excellent attention to detail, ambient lighting, and faux stitching along the dash on soft-touch surfaces. Interior materials were upgraded from last year, and the seats were overhauled for a better feel. A "Luxury Cabin" option boasts semi-aniline leather and a new woodgrain trim that complements an upgraded center stack.

Base models are the only ones that feel simple and plasticky, and the woodgrain inside feels out of place. Spend more and get more, with upstream models and trims getting better interior appointments and quality inside.

The LaCrosse comfortably fits five adults, with room for three across the big back seat. The rear seats don't suffer from the coach-seat cramp that we find in other mid-sizers, and the LaCrosse is a step up in terms of space—but not in price.

From the driver's seat, it might be easy to miss the spacious qualities. The roof is tall enough for decent head room, but the console is wide and tall—more so than in the related Chevrolet Impala. The seats are supportive, but soft, and adjustable in eight ways even in base cars. Upper trims get upgraded heated and cooled perforated leather, along with power adjustability and memory settings.

The back may have the best seats in the house, as far as we're concerned. The LaCrosse is more spacious than Buick's smaller Regal, and it's roomier than similarly priced family four-doors. Head room is plentiful in the back and the LaCrosse is wide enough for two adults to stretch out, three-across is fine in a pinch—and the LaCrosse is a perfectly acceptable crossover replacement—but four adults won't fight for space anytime soon in the big Buick.

Interior storage is well placed, with enough cubbies and bins for most loose change, maps, music, or cords. A large trunk is vast and wide, only made bigger by the spilt-folding rear seats that give the LaCrosse a cavernous cargo hold.

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2015 Buick Lacrosse

Safety

The LaCrosse earns great crash-test scores, but the IIHS isn't done with it yet.

Both safety agencies have rated the 2015 LaCrosse, and it receive high marks, similar to the 2014 model.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awards the LaCrosse five stars in all categories save for a four-star rollover-resistance rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), meanwhile, gives it Good scores in all performed tests--but since it hasn't been put through a small-overlap test, the LaCrosse does not earn a Top Safety Pick award.

The LaCrosse is already one of the safest sedans you can buy, and last year, Buick added 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.

Buick has added more advanced safety features to the LaCrosse's repertoire including forward-collision warning with accident avoidance, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and lane-change alert systems. The systems use a combination of cameras and radar to monitor the car's surroundings and avoid crashes. When equipped the LaCrosse uses a rumble seat to alert the driver, which we've found useful in some situations—but not all. Blind-spot monitors and adaptive headlights are optional.

Outward visibility is generally good, though the rear pillars and smaller rear glass can be a challenge for some. A standard rearview camera can help.

Eight airbags are standard for when things go pear-shaped and a crash may be unavoidable.

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2015 Buick Lacrosse

Features

An improved infotainment system was new last year, and it's one of the many nice touches that make the LaCrosse feel upscale.

This year, Buick adds a little extra horsepower to the OnStar system with 4G LTE data speeds, and the ability to broadcast WiFi inside your car. Be careful, though, because liberal usage of that data comes at a cost, just like it would with your mobile phone. Buick IntelliLink now also works with Siri Eyes Free, and it can read out your text messages, too.

The LaCrosse can encroach on Caddilac-levels of interior equipment, even as standard. Further blurring the lines between the two brands is the infotainment system, which Buick calls IntelliLink, which is cribbed from the Cadillac CUE system.

Up to 60 favorites can be programmed into the system, and they span a wide range from functions: destinations, radio stations, etc. The system stores up to 1,000 contacts and understands voice commands spoken naturally—not in a complex system of commands determined by programmers. The home screen features useful and easy-to-understand icons that wouldn't be out of place on a smartphone. When fitted with the optional navigation system, the LaCrosse offers easier destination entry, which we appreciate and can plague other systems. The biggest difference between Buick's setup and Cadillac's is the lack of haptic feedback—a gentle vibration on the screen to confirm your selection.

On every LaCrosse, the usual complement of standard features includes power windows, doors, and mirrors; cruise control; climate control; remote start; Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming; and an AM/FM/XM/CD audio system.

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.

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2015 Buick Lacrosse

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage is strong with the eAssist-ed LaCrosse sedan.

The EPA has carried over the fuel economy for the current Buick LaCrosse to the 2015 model year.

With the available V-6 engine, the LaCrosse's fuel economy doesn't necessarily blow our minds. The 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.

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.

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7.8
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 8
Features 8
Fuel Economy 6
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