- Eye-catching style inside and out
- Nimble handling for such a large vehicle
- Luxury grade ride quality
- Good value at the low end
- Preferred trim level feels like an afterthought
- Automatic emergency braking only on top of the line model
- Competitors offer hybrids
An excellent chassis and a nice interior mean the LaCrosse should be on your shopping list. At the low end, it represents an excellent value and should be on any full-size sedan buyer's shopping list.
The retiring Buick LaCrosse was a surprise hit for GM's tweener brand. It erased virtually all memories of its ugly duckling predecessor. Redesigned for 2017, the LaCrosse enters its third generation with a new platform, a new engine, more technology, a lower curb weight and a huge dose of refinement.
All in all, it is enough to make us almost wonder if a genuine luxury car is worth the money over this segment-buster positioned between mainstream and luxury against cars like the Lexus ES 350, Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Acura TLX, Hyundai Azera, and Chrysler 300.
The LaCrosse earns a score of 7.2 out of 10 thanks to handsome styling, a big interior, and strong V-6 engine There's room for it to gain on rivals, too, since no crash-test data exists. (Read more on how we rate cars.)
The LaCrosse is available in four flavors: base, Preferred, Essence, and Premium. A simplified lineup means that its predecessor's slow-selling eAssist mild hybrid is gone. Now, just one V-6 engine is on offer and buyers can opt for either front-wheel drive or, on the Premium only, available all-wheel drive.
Style and performance
The LaCrosse's revamped design was inspired by the Avenir Concept car that made its debut at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It is most distinguished by a dark finish version of the Buick waterfall grille that is bisected by a chrome bar with a three-color version of the Buick logo. It's the new face of Buick, the automaker says, and that's not a bad thing.
Overall, the new LaCrosse is slightly longer, lower, and wider, which gives it the sleeker shape of a rear-wheel-drive sedan. Standard niceties include a choice of two 18-inch wheel designs, HID headlights, and LED taillights.
The new car is just 0.6 inch longer and 0.4 inch wider, but its wheelbase grows by 2.7 inches and the track is up more than an inch all around. Despite the larger dimensions, the 2017 LaCrosse weighs 300 pounds less than the last model thanks to greater use of press-hardened high-strength steels in its platform. Lower-mass sound deadening materials also contribute to the weight loss, as does the move to a new V-6. Buick says the structural materials team with acoustic wheelhouse liners, standard active noise cancellation, triple door seals, and an acoustic-laminated windshield and front side windows to create a new threshold for the brand's QuietTuning.
The lighter weight and stiffer structure also improve handling. In base trim, the car comes with a MacPherson strut front suspension and 18-inch wheels. Essence and Premium offer GM’s HiPer strut front suspension, two-mode adaptive dampers and 20-inch wheels, the former of which is designed to quell torque steer and maximize grip. The advantages of HiPer strut are reduced torque steer and increased negative camber during cornering, which maximizes grip. Models come with a five-link independent rear suspension instead of the outgoing model's four-link setup.
Under the hood, the LaCrosse adds the next generation of GM's 3.6-liter V-6, rated here at 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque, a modest increase from last year. Paired with a new 8-speed automatic, the engine delivers robust acceleration via an especially easy to modulate throttle pedal. This V-6 is GM's first to have been designed with a start/stop feature from the get go, and it shows. The engine cuts out silently at traffic lights.
Buick rates the LaCrosse at 21 mpg city, 31 highway, 25 combined with front-wheel drive. Opting for all-wheel drive reduces that to 20/29/23 mpg.
The LaCrosse shares its optional all-wheel-drive system with Cadillac's XT5 crossover, and although it is relegated to only the Premium trim, it is a boon for those in wintry weather locales.
Comfort, safety, and features
The LaCrosse makes big strides inside with its elegant, simplified interior setup. Even the base model is well outfitted with pleasing leatherette trim on the seats, dashboard, center console, and doors. Opt for the Essence and Premium and the seats are swathed in a choice of three leather shades.
The Lexus ES is more interesting inside, but the LaCrosse hits the mark in most respects. The Buick isn't quite as roomy as its size might suggest, but two passengers should be plenty comfortable in its rear seat. Taller drivers and front seat passengers may find head room to be lacking with the available panoramic moonroof.
Centered on the dashboard is a new 8.0-inch "frameless" touchscreen covered with a new film designed to reduce the likelihood of fingerprints sticking around. That touchscreen operates an updated version of GM's intuitive Intellilink infotainment. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are standard across the line, but navigation is relegated to the two top trim levels.
GM's On Star with 4G LTE connectivity is standard on all, as is a new display indicating the antenna's signal strength. A wireless phone charger is integrated into the center console for so-equipped smartphones.
2017 Buick Lacrosse
If this is the new face of Buick, consider us sold.
Not only does the 2017 Buick LaCrosse weigh 300 pounds less than its predecessor, this new sedan looks like it hit the proverbial gym. Lower and sleeker than before, the LaCrosse benefits from a smaller, less chrome-laden grille and a distinctive series of creases that add character to its rear haunches.
The LaCrosse deserves a 8 out of 10 for its svelte, if a little subtle, eye-catching design. Its interior is good, but maybe underdetailed, and not as suave as the sheet metal. (Read more on how we rate cars.)
The only real fault we want to point out is that the LaCrosse's dinky chrome faux port holes integrated into its fenders look and feel like an afterthought.
What's especially nice is that even the base LaCrosse, at a hair under $33,000, looks and feels as rich as the range-topping Premium. That's because HID headlamps, LED running lights, and LED tail lights are standard on all, as are stylish 18-inch alloy wheels.
Popping for the Preferred trim level adds a slightly different 18-inch wheel and more color options—most of which command an upcharge—but the basic look is unaltered. Essence and Premium, offer stylish 20-inch alloy wheels, but they're wrapped in less rubber and thus slightly degrade the vehicle's ride quality.
2017 Buick Lacrosse
The LaCrosse sheds weight, adds power, and overall feels far more polished and nimble than before.
We can't universally say that less weight and more power makes a car better to drive, but the 2017 Buick LaCrosse helps solidify that hypothesis.
The LaCrosse scores a commendable 7 out of a possible 10 since it delivers excellent acceleration and a fine ride and handling balance. (Read more on how we rate cars.)
Lighter weight steel used in its new structure—underpinnings shared with, incidentally, the not-quite-as-upscale Chevrolet Malibu—have dropped the LaCrosse's curb weight about 300 pounds to a hair under 3,600 pounds. That's in line with most rivals since the outgoing car was rather pudgy.
A new five-link rear suspension delivers a better ride over rough pavement and it manages to make the car handle more confidently. That's not to say that the LaCrosse is anything near sporty, but it is remarkably polished for a large sedan. Light, accurate steering delivers up limited road feel, but, again, it endows the LaCrosse with more poise than a big sedan typically delivers.
Add the available 20-inch wheels to Essence and Premium trim levels and you'll also get adaptive dampers and GM's HiPer strut front suspension setup. The 20s should ride a bit stiffer because they ride on tires with smaller sidewalls, but the two-mode adaptive dampers negate any real difference. Pressing sport mode for the adaptive dampers tightens up the ride slightly and firms up steering effort, but there's ultimately little effect on the way the LaCrosse can be hustled down a winding road.
GM's HiPer strut is designed to reduce the effects of torque steer—a pulling of the steering wheel to one side under hard acceleration—but this balanced chassis has little torque steer even with the base suspension.
That handling prowess doesn't come at the expensive of silence. New, lighter weight sound deadening and acoustic glass help make the LaCrosse the quietest Buick yet—and that's really saying something, since all Buicks are nearly silent.
So too is the sedan's new 3.6-liter V-6. Rated at 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque, it delivers power to the front or all four wheels via a slick-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. That gearbox and engine are shared with the Cadillac XT5, and they work just as well in the LaCrosse. One thing to note is that the transmission's electronic gear lever can be a little balky to use, but it shouldn't require much more than a quick acclimation for most drivers.
Buick restricts its all-wheel-drive system to only the range-topping Premium trim level, but even then it still undercuts the Acura TLX with all-wheel drive.
2017 Buick Lacrosse
Comfort & Quality
The Lexus ES is more interesting inside, but the LaCrosse hits the mark in most respects.
A flowing, graceful dashboard and "floating" center console provide the LaCrosse with an open, airy interior that's both modern and functional.
We rate the LaCrosse an 7 out of a possible 10 because of a few ergonomic quirks that limit space for taller passengers, and because the Toyota Avalon and Lexus ES 350 both offer more imaginative interior designs. (Read more on how we rate cars.)
French stitched vinyl trim covers the dashboard and the doors, but we aren't crazy about the swath of gray plastic on the center console. It feels good to the touch but looks a little low-budget up against some rivals. Hard plastics also dominate the lower portion of the dashboard, but that's not unusual in this segment.
Even the base LaCrosse is outfitted to a high standard with convincing leatherette seating surfaces, an 8.0-inch touchscreen on the dashboard, and a smaller screen that houses the speedometer in the instrument cluster. The LaCrosse's front seats are comfortable and, on Premium models, they feature a gentle massaging function activated at the press of a button.
The LaCrosse isn't quite as roomy as its size might suggest, but two passengers should be plenty comfortable in its rear seat. Taller drivers and front seat passengers may find head room to be lacking with the available panoramic moonroof. Additionally, one odd quirk is that the center console's bulky arm rest is set just slightly higher than the elbow padding on the front doors. Drivers probably won't notice it since their hands should be on the steering wheel, but passengers might feel the difference.
A larger trunk opening boasts 15 cubic feet of cargo space, a little less than the Toyota Avalon.
2017 Buick Lacrosse
The LaCrosse earns good crash-test scores.
The 2017 Buick LaCrosse earns good scores from federal and independent crash-testing agencies, but its high-tech safety equipment is a costly extra.
We've rated it an 8 out of 10 on account of its solid crash-test performance; making automatic emergency braking less costly would bring it to a 9 out of 10. (Read more on how we rate cars.)
All models include 10 airbags—including knee airbags for front seat occupants—and a rearview camera that displays in the 8.0-inch dashboard screen.
Step up to the Essence trim level and the reasonably priced $445 Driver Confidence 1 package adds blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert. It flashes a light in the rearview mirrors and sounds a warning if there's a car in your blind spot.
However, the only way to add adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking is to opt for a Premium with the available Driver Confidence Package 2. That package also adds automatic park assist, which uses sensors to steer the car into a parking spot with no driver intervention.
The IIHS gives the LaCrosse its Top Safety Pick+ award when it's optioned up with the Driver Confidence Package 2. It earns top marks in instrument crash-testing, but the IIHS says its headlights could be better.
Federal regulators at the NHTSA, meanwhile, have rated the LaCrosse at five stars in every test—frontal, side-impact, and rollover.
2017 Buick Lacrosse
The base model comes well equipped, but shame on Buick for restricting navigation and some important crash prevention tech to only the big buck models.
We like to look at the LaCrosse in one of two ways: Stick with the base model for maximum value, or go fully loaded for what's basically a cut-rate luxury car.
The LaCrosse makes the most sense as either a high-value base model or a fully loaded pseudo-luxury sedan, which is why we rated it a 6 out of 10. Good base features and good infotainment help it get there, but everything above the entry-level model feels oddly equipped. (Read more on how we rate cars.)
The base LaCrosse's leatherette seating doesn't feel a lot different than actual cow hide (and it should wear better), and Buick doesn't skimp on features like 8-way power seats for both the driver and passenger, HID headlamps, a big 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, two USB ports, and a wireless phone charger. At $32,990, it's a heck of a value.
From there, the Preferred model jumps to $36,990, but includes a head-scratchingly low level of additional features: SiriusXM satellite radio, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and unique 18-inch alloy wheels. It is available in more exterior paint colors, but that's a lot of coin for green paint.
If you must have leather seats, the LaCrosse Essence delivers that—plus heated front seats, memory for the driver's seat, an automatic dimming rearview mirror, and headlamps that articulate with the steering wheel to illuminate curves. The Essence is available with some safety tech such as blind spot monitors and it offers both navigation and a moonroof, features not available on the lower trim levels.
Topping the range is the LaCrosse Premium. It builds on the Essence with massaging front seats, a heated steering wheel, a head-up display that projects pertinent information onto the windshield, and a handful of safety features—forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, and active lane control that will tug the vehicle back into a lane if the driver starts to drift a bit.
Premium is the only trim level offered with all-wheel drive, but selecting all options pushes a LaCrosse to about $50,000.
2017 Buick Lacrosse
The LaCrosse is rated at 25 mpg combined for the high-volume, front-wheel-drive model.
Improved fuel economy over last year's Buick LaCrosse can be attributed to a few things: Its lighter curb weight, a more aerodynamic design, a more efficient new engine, and two extra gears to its transmission.
The newest Buick earns a 7 on our scale for its relatively frugal numbers, even for its size. (Read more on how we rate cars.)
On the EPA's test, the front-wheel-drive LaCrosse is rated at 21 mpg city, 31 highway, 25 combined. Opt for all-wheel drive and those figures drop to 20/29/23 mpg, respectively. Those front-drive figures are on par with the Toyota Avalon and the highway number bests the Nissan Maxima by 1 mpg.
There's no hybrid on offer, which means Buick can't wave the impressive 36-mpg flag it used to with its former eAssist mild-hybrid model. However, that model was rather down on power, so we think the increased consumption is a fair trade-off.