2016 Buick Lacrosse Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Editor
June 11, 2016

In any trim, the Buick LaCrosse is comfortable and well-appointed, but serious buyers should consider Premium versions.

The 2016 Buick LaCross sets the table for the sedans that will follow it. The handsome exterior gives way to a quiet interior that's underlines the brand's "premium" mission without stepping on the likes of Cadillac. And yet, the most expensive models can be trimmed out like Cadillacs, with Bose audio and an upgraded instrument panel. The IntelliLink touchscreen interface is essentially Cadillac's CUE minus the haptic feedback. It has 60 favorites slots and space for 1,000 contacts. It can also connect with smartphones for hands-free or streaming audio functions, as well as access to apps for Pandora or Stitcher audio. In the past, such advanced tech would have been wasted on the typical Buick customer. But today, it falls right in step with drivers giving the brand a second chance.

Buick's mid-size to large LaCrosse flouts the brand's trend toward upmarket vehicles without abandoning its reputation. Unlike your father's Buicks, 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 fuel economy as a mild hybrid.

While it has lots in common with the Chevy Impala, the LaCrosse came first, and the impact of its soft-shouldered, snappily creased body panels hasn't diminished. It features LEDs next to the headlights and inside the taillights, and the pleasingly thick shape has most of the details down pat. Give us a job at GM and a $10 pry bar and we'd rip every fake porthole off the LaCrosse's hood, but there's not much else to find fault with on the big Buick.

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Buick offers two powertrains. The more practical choice is the four-cylinder with GM's eAssist mild-hybrid system; it returns respectable performance while still getting 36 mpg on the highway. We, however, would choose the V-6 version for a more traditional luxury experience. Even with the larger engine, the LaCrosse is no performance car. The closest it gets is with the Touring package which adds magnetic adjustable suspension, V-rated tires and variable-effort power steering. Ride quality doesn't suffer, but drivers will notice a much more responsive feel.

Five adults can fit in the LaCrosse, but four will be much more comfortable. Seating comfort is on par for a full-size sedan and refinement is truly luxury-car caliber. Trunk space, however, is small for the class. Upper level trims get upgraded, perforated leather seats that are both cooled and heated. An Ultra Luxury package slathers the cabin in Tamo wood and wraps the cockpit in semi-aniline leather. "Quiet Tuning" is Buick's catchphrase for its tight, near-silent interiors, and that extends to all models.

Eight standard airbags help the LaCrosse earn some of the best safety scores of any GM vehicle. Available safety tech includes blind-spot monitors, adaptive headlights and rear side thorax air bags. A second tier of available gadgets includes collision preparation braking, adaptive cruise control and a seat vibrator that alerts an inattentive drive to potential safety issues.

In 2015, the LaCrosse added modern technology that's becoming a necessity in its price class. A rearview camera is standard, and Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system can give directions to your iPhone through Siri Eyes Free. The LaCrosse can also come equipped with a 4G LTE connection, though GM's OnStar telematics system. It includes the ability to broadcast a wi-fi data connection inside the vehicle.

The EPA says the all-wheel-drive version should get 17 mpg city, 26 highway, 20 combined. Those numbers rise to 18/28/22 mpg for the front-wheel-drive version.

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2016 Buick Lacrosse

Styling

Contemporary and handsome, the LaCrosse is an able flagship for the Buick brand.

A few years ago, Buick embarked on a design renaissance with the LaCrosse sedan and Enclave crossover. The brand has seen that dedication to handsome, elegant styling pay off in spades.

For 2016, Buick has added three new color choices for LaCrosse buyers: Dark Sapphire Blue Metallic, Graphite Gray Metallic and Ebony Twilight Metallic. The only other change since 2015 is the availability of 20-inch wheels on all-wheel-drive models.

In 2014, Buick added active shutters to the grille for smoother aero, and cooler headlamps with LED wings bookended by LED taillights. We still believe the exterior design could benefit most from the addition of a pry bar for the fake portholes still stuck to its reshaped hood. They're a trite echo of the past, one of the few reminders of Buicks less-than-stellar design past.

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 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 most of the time—the long nose helps, a lot, and so does the small rear spoiler.

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.

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2016 Buick Lacrosse

Performance

The mild-hybrid 4-cylinder isn't the smoothest, but it saves fuel, while the V-6 is a strong performer.

The Buick LaCrosse is by no means a performance car. While it handles curves better than its predecessors, it will probably never appear at a track day. In Touring trim, the LaCrosse can be outfitted with optional magnetic adjustable suspension that comes with V-rated performance tires. That gives the big Buick a more responsive driving feel without affecting ride quality.

LaCrosse buyers can choose from two drivetrains. One will satisfy the eco-conscious while the other is for the driver wanting smooth highway sailing.

The 304-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 will most closely replicate the grand road cruiser Buick is most known for. It's a strong, smooth engine with plenty of power in reserve at the cost of lower fuel economy. It's the best option for carrying full loads on long trips. Haldex all-wheel-drive is optional.

Lower-end models are available with a 2.4-liter inline-4 mated to a mild-hybrid system General Motors calls "eAssist." A 15-hp electric motor is used to smooth out the 6-speed automatic's shifts as well as run some of the car's accessories. It's also used to restart the engine when stopped at traffic lights. The 182-hp inline-4 is adequate, though not all that enjoyable. While eAssist does help smooth shifts, the system still shows some roughness and indecision.

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2016 Buick Lacrosse

Comfort & Quality

The LaCrosse is nicely appointed and features a roomy back seat but a small trunk.

Buick's "Quiet Tuning" philosophy does a superb job of damping out wind and road noise in the LaCrosse and contributes greatly to the car's premium ride quality. Owners of V-6-equipped LaCrosses however, might find the engine raspy under acceleration compared to other luxury cars.

On base-models, the interior pieces can feel simple and plasticky, and the wood grain trim seems out of place in some models. Otherwise, you get what you pay for. The quality of the plastics, wood trim, and leather rise as you move up through the model line.

Otherwise, interior refinement is luxury-car caliber. Materials are mostly lavish and finely detailed. Soft-touch surfaces are abundant and the faux-stitching on the dashboard is nicely done. For less heavily treated leather and Tamo Ash wood trim, choose the Ultra Luxury package which also adds a synthetic suede headliner.

Jump in the back seat to find the LaCrosse's biggest reason for claiming premium status above both its Regal sibling and other popularly-priced family sedans. The big Buick's conservatively styled roofline allows for an abundance of headroom in the back seat, which is plenty wide for two normal adults and sufficient even for a third, smaller person. That makes it a capable crossover pinch-hitter when needed.

Supportive seats covered in soft-touch surfaces adjust eight ways, even on the base model. Upgraded models get perforated leather with heating and cooling and even more adjustments. While head room is ample, the LaCrosse's console is fairly tall and wide—more so even than the related Chevy Impala. 

The large console means it can hold even more than the usual collection of car clutter. At 13.3 cubic feet and 10.8 cubic feet in the mild hybrid, the trunk is small for the class. With folding seat backs, however, the car can accommodate those tricky, longer items.

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2016 Buick Lacrosse

Safety

The 2016 LaCrosse does well in NHTSA crash tests, but hasn't been evaluated by the IIHS yet.

The NHTSA gave the 2016 Buick LaCrosse five stars across the board, except on rollover safety where it received four stars.

The IIHS gave the 2016 LaCrosse "Good" ratings in every category tested with a grade of "Advanced" on front crash prevention when optionally equipped. Since the LaCrosse wasn't subjected to the small-overlap test, the agency couldn't award it a Top Safety Pick.

For 2015, Buick gave the LaCrosse several high-tech safety options including forward-collision alerts, lane-departure warning and lane-change alert systems, adaptive cruise control, and collision-mitigation braking.

From the driver's seat, visibility forward is nice and clear, but thick rear pillars and smaller rear glass combine for nasty blind spots. Available safety gear can help alleviate those, though.

Eight airbags, stability control, traction control and a rearview camera are standard on all models. Blind-spot monitors and adaptive headlights can be ordered, too.

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2016 Buick Lacrosse

Features

The infotainment system gets updated for 2016 for easier use and is one of the many upscale touches giving the LaCrosse a premium feel.

While most of the LaCrosse's tech carries over for 2016, Buick has upgraded its IntelliLink system to be "more intuitive" to use its 8.0-inch screen and now includes two USB ports for personal-device integration and charging.

The LaCrosse's OnStar system comes with 4G LTE and the ability to broadcast wi-fi inside your car. Be careful, though: high data use comes with high data charges.

The Buick LaCrosse approaches Cadillac-like standard and optional equipment. It features a lighter version of Cadillac's infotainment system, an advanced version of Buick IntelliLink that's shared with the Chevy Impala. IntelliLink also works with Siri Eyes Free that can read your text messages out loud.

Users are able to define as many as 60 of their favorites from any IntelliLink function: a favorite destination, preferred radio stations, etc. The system holds up to 1,000 contacts and comprehends natural-language commands. The home screen can be customized 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, which is a great shortcut. The only thing Cadillac's CUE system has that the LaCrosse doesn't is haptic feedback—the vibration from the screen that signals gestures.

Choose the standard LaCrosse and you'll get the common power features, cruise control, climate control, and AM/FM/XM/CD player. There's also remote start, eight-way adjustable front seats, and Bluetooth with audio streaming from your personal electronics.

When trimmed into Premium or Touring levels the big Buick turns out Caddy-style feature content, including features such 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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2016 Buick Lacrosse

Fuel Economy

Opt for the eAssist LaCrosse sedan if fuel economy is a concern.

The fuel mileage ratings by the EPA for the 2016 LaCrosse are identical to its results from the 2015 model year.

Equip the LaCrosse with the available V-6 and fuel economy isn't stellar. The EPA says the all-wheel-drive version should get 17 mpg city, 26 highway, 20 combined. Those numbers rise to 18/28/22 mpg for the front-wheel-drive version.

If the LaCrosse is the car for you, but you're concerned about fuel economy, go for the eAssist mild-hybrid version. The EPA ratings are 25/36/29 mpg. For a large sedan, that's not bad, and in real-world driving, we've seen as high as 30 mpg in 270 miles of mixed driving. While we've been able to replicate the eAssist's 36-mpg highway number, we've found it virtually impossible to hit 25 mpg in city driving. In fact, we were only able to manage 19-21 mpg.

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Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 8
Features 8
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