2010 Buick LaCrosse: First Drive

Buick no longer faking it in the entry-level luxury segment

2010 Buick LaCrosse: First Drive

A prototype of the new treatment for the LaCrosse, Buick’s mid-size luxury sedan, parks on an asphalt lot at GM’s Milford Proving Ground test facility near Detroit.

FAST FACTS

1. The strikingly new 2010 LaCrosse is powered by a standard 255hp 3.0L V6 or an optional 280hp 3.6L V6.

2. Pricing ranges from $27,085 to $33,015.

3. The top-level CXL trim is available in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive.

The revamped LaCrosse, sleek in a stylish new design drawn with taut lines and keen edgework, carries a powerful new direct-injection V6 engine and mounts exacting mechanical hardware on a rigid new front-wheel-drive platform to deliver precise handling traits.

NEW LOOK FOR THE NEW GENERAL MOTORS

Destined as the centerpiece for Buick’s 2010 line, this latest LaCrosse marks the next evolutionary step for vehicles badged by the venerable GM brand.

The original LaCrosse rolled out in 2005 as the replacement product for two aged Buick sedans, Century and Regal. The name stemmed from a wild Buick design concept exhibited on the auto show circuit, while the production LaCrosse conformed as a four-door sedan with smooth and graceful lines showed at the 2004 Chicago Auto Show.

The 2010 Buick LaCrosse, completely redesigned with a choice of fuel-thrifty V6 engines and optional all-wheel-drive traction, was unveiled at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The LaCrosse’s fresh exterior styling lifts many design elements off the Buick Invicta show car, which appeared at the 2008 Beijing Auto Show – China being a particularly important market for the Buick brand.

2010 LACROSSE A GLOBAL EFFORT

Its platform, a new version of GM’s global mid-size architecture, was designed in Europe and underpins products there, like Opel’s Insignia. The design for the LaCrosse’s luxurious five-seat passenger compartment occurred in China at GM’s Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC). The sheetmetal styling originated in the United States at GM’s Technical Center in Warren, Mich., and the new vehicle is built at GM’s Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kan.

Looking oh-so-sharp in a windswept package stretched long and decorated with a chrome-plated prow, flashing piercing optics from round projector-type headlamps on the corners plus fender blisters rippling around multi-spoke alloy wheels, the new Buick features signature portholes cut into the front hood’s dual canted character lines.

The wheels stand near the front and rear corners, leaving curt overhangs front and rear. The roofline remains low, dipping down in front in line with the windshield but mounting a smooth arch over the cabin before tapering to a rolled tail off the brief trunk deck.

That tail reveals a slick slab bumper in monochrome flanked by thick LED taillamps, with twin pipes in chrome protruding below the bumper.

STRETCHED DIMENSIONS MAKE FOR A QUALITY RIDE

The LaCrosse’s new platform features a wheelbase that extends for 1.2-inches longer than that of the previous model, and the track is wide for keen chassis dynamics to set up superior handling traits.

A fully independent suspension features MacPherson struts up front and a hollow direct-acting stabilizer bar.

In back, the base CX model totes a four-link design with twin-tube gas shocks plus a direct-acting stabilizer bar. CXL and CXS differ in the rear suspension by adding an H-arm arrangement for tighter wheel control, and the CXS also gets a real-time active dampening suspension.

The steering is a rack and pinion design with variable-effort assistance. The driver gets a good feel for the road through this system, which is firm and quick at highway speeds, yet compliant and easy to work for slow-go movement in a parking lot.

A set of 17-inch wheels comes standard on CX models, with 18s on the CXL and CXS models. CXS models get chrome wheels and an option for a nice set of 19-inchers. No matter the model or wheel choice, every LaCrosse comes with large disc brakes at all four corners linked to an ABS system.

For additional safety CXL and CXS models get GM’s StabiliTrak electronic stability control system.

All models come in a front-drive layout, but CXL models offer an available AWD system. This intelligent system uses a computer and wheel sensors in conjunction with ABS and StabiliTrak to determine how much power to apply at each wheel for maintaining tire traction on slippery or wet pavement.

MORE POWER AND BETTER FUEL ECONOMY

GM brings two new DOHC V6 engines for the LaCrosse with electronic throttle control, direct and variable valve timing.

CX models feature a 3.0-liter V6 that generates 255 hp at 6950 rpm and 217 ft-lbs of torque at 5600 rpm. Standard is a six-speed automatic with tap-up/tap-down driver shift control. The extra gear helps deliver fuel economy numbers of 18 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.

Both CXL and CXS versions get a 3.6-liter V6 with 280 hp at 6400 rpm and 259 ft-lbs of torque at 5200 rpm. With the larger V6 in play, the LaCrosse earns EPA fuel scores up to 26 mpg for highway cruising and 17 mpg around town.

INTERIOR NO LONGER FAUX-LUXURY

LaCrosse’s tasteful two-tone passenger compartment provides seats for five including form-fitting front buckets and lots of amenities. CX models get premium cloth upholstery, power controls for windows, door locks and mirrors, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, air conditioning and an audio kit with AM/FM/CD/MP3.

CXL models add leather-clad heated seats, twin-zone automatic climate controls and foglamps, while CXS models feature perforated leather upholstery with heated and cooler front seats.

Options include HID headlights with adaptive forward lighting, GM’s Side Blind Zone Alert, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a backseat DVD entertainment kit.

Extensive safety measures apply, including front and side air bags surrounding front-seat riders and side-curtain air bags above front and rear side windows.

As for the price, a 2010 LaCrosse will run you anywhere from $27,085 to $33,015.

THE VERDICT

Though it may require a little detective work to determine who it is in North America that actually buys Buick vehicles, the same cannot be said for China. For whatever reason, this once vaulted brand is popular there, and the new Buick LaCrosse should in no way dissuade the buzz.

Taking a page from Lexus, Buick looks to finally have a serious competitor in the mid-size luxury sedan market. If it can shed the conception of being outdated in North America, the excitement Buick enjoys in the Far East may reach the shores of California and beyond sooner than expected.

RELATED READING

2009 Lexus ES350 Review – Entry-level luxury 2009 Acura TL Review – A blend of sport, luxury, technology, performance and decent fuel economy

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