The Buick LaCrosse is a large midsize sedan with a comfortable ride, nicely appointed interior, and traditional premium touches. Last redesigned for model-year 2014, LaCrosse carries over to model year 2016 largely unchanged.
Rather than a true luxury sedan, the LaCrosse is best described as a premium model, offered in a broad range of trim levels. The most costly versions can be fitted out like Cadillacs, with Bose audio and an upgraded instrument panel.
Buick’s Quiet Tuning measures result in a tight, near-silent interior.
Two distinct engines are offered, both with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is available.
The practical choice is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with GM’s eAssist mild-hybrid system. Performance is lackluster, but the eAssist gets an EPA fuel-economy estimate of 36 mpg Highway.
The 3.6-liter V6 engine delivers stronger responses and brisk performance.
For 2016, three new color choices are available, plus optional 20-inch wheels for the all-wheel-drive Premium sedan. A new low-end trim level has been added, with fewer features and a lower price than the regular base LaCrosse. Echoing other Buick models, a Sport Touring version joins the lineup during the 2016 model year. Buick’s IntelliLink radio gets an updated eight-inch screen, and Buick claims it’s more intuitive than before.
All models have a rearview camera. Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system can give directions to your iPhone through Siri Eyes Free. OnStar 4G LTE has a provision for WiFi within the vehicle.
Premium models are equipped almost like Cadillacs. Options include a sunroof, head-up display, Bose audio system, and DVD rear entertainment.
Safety scores have been good. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave LaCrosse a five-star overall rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety deemed it Good for each category tested, and Advanced for frontal crash prevention.
Contemporary in appearance, the LaCrosse comes across as both handsome and elegant. The shape of Buick’s flagship is graceful, even soft, where appropriate, especially up at the roofline. Further down, it’s more bulky, augmented by sheetmetal creases, helping to provide a noticeable presence.
Active grille shutters help smooth out the body’s aerodynamics. LED panels sit next to headlights and inside the taillamps. All told, there’s little to complain about, with one exception: the simulated portholes on the hood. Tacked onto Buicks since the years just after World War II, they’re a relic of the past that doesn’t fit in the 21st century.
Except for base models, where interior trim falls short of premium status, the LaCrosse cabin delivers a classy, traditional aura. The dashboard splits into twin zones, with the upper tier sweeping around, before flowing into door panels. Interior hues provide a feeling of warmth, enhanced by Ice Blue ambient lighting.
In some versions, woodgrain trim looks out of place. Otherwise, the quality of wood, leather, and plastic trim improve as you move up the trim-level sequence. At upper levels, refinement ranks as luxury-car caliber, helped by fine detailing and abundant soft-touch surfaces.
The IntelliLink touch-screen interface is similar to Cadillac’s CUE, but without the latter’s haptic, vibrating feedback. The system can connect to smartphones for hands-free or streaming audio functions.
Five adults can fit within a LaCrosse, but four riders would undeniably be more comfortable. The conservatively shaped roofline allows ample headroom. Seating comfort is appropriate for a large sedan, though the LaCrosse trunk is too small for a car in its category.
When equipped with the 304-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6, LaCrosse performs with strength and smoothness, even reminding some drivers of highway cruisers of the distant past. Clearly, the V6 is the best choice when carrying a full load of people and luggage on a long trip. You can expect abundant reserve power, but so-so fuel economy.
Buick’s eAssist engine, on the other hand, isn’t the smoothest-running; but it’s the obvious choice for best gas mileage. The mild hybrid’s 15-hp electric motor helps smooth out the 6-speed automatic transmission, and also restarts the engine after it’s been shut off at a stoplight.
The eAssist is EPA-rated 26/36 mpg City/Highway, or 24 mpg Combined. With front-drive, the V6 is EPA-rated 18/28 mpg City/Highway, or 21 mpg Combined.
The LaCrosse handles curves well and rides smoothly. Quiet Tuning enhances the premium ride quality, though the V6 engine can sound somewhat harsh while acceleration.
Front-wheel-drive V6 models with 19- or 20-inch tires may be equipped with real-time damping, including Sport Mode selectivity, which alters suspension response according to road conditions ahead.
Forward visibility is fine, but thick rear pillars and a modest-size back window translate to troubling blind spots.
For traditional Buick luxury, we prefer the V6 engine. Even with six cylinders, however, LaCrosse is definitely not a performance car. We like the Premium trim, though prices ease into luxury-level. A fully redesigned LaCrosse is expected soon.
Driving impressions by Kirk Bell, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.