2013 Buick LaCrosse

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2010 Buick LaCrosse — Review

This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2015.
By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.0

Bottom Line:

Quiet, comfortable and roomy, the LaCrosse is a fine choice for those who want useful luxury without paying the high price of European imports. It provides excellent head-to-head competition for the Lexus ES 350, the other entry luxury car that doesn’t have sporty pretensions. This car is also good-looking, so it may not carry the “old folks” stigma of many past Buicks.
Pros:
  • Sexy styling
  • Top-notch interior
  • Smooth ride
Cons:
  • Somewhat sluggish 3.0-liter V6 performance
  • Not as sporty as many competitors
  • Buick “old folks” stigma

General Motors calls the 2010 LaCrosse the second chapter in Buick's renaissance. The Enclave midsize crossover utility vehicle was the first. It brought a younger buyer into the brand, and Buick is hoping the LaCrosse can do the same. It certainly has the looks inside and out to appeal to a wider audience, but is the LaCrosse enough to help GM survive? Well, after a day behind the wheel, we think the LaCrosse's brand of luxury stacks up nicely with the likes of the Lexus ES 350. Now, all younger luxury customers need to do is rediscover Buick. That might be easier said than done.

Model Lineup
The 2010 Buick LaCrosse is offered in CX, CXL and CXS trim levels. Front-wheel drive is standard; the CXL is offered with all-wheel drive (AWD). Notable standard features of the CX include cloth upholstery, automatic climate control, XM Satellite Radio and 17-inch steel wheels. The CXL adds leather heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, fog lamps and 18-inch alloy wheels. The CXS trim gets heated and ventilated leather seats and chrome-plated 18-inch wheels. The CXS can be ordered with a Touring package that includes real-time suspension damping and 19-inch wheels.

Other options include a Luxury package with a heated steering wheel, a power rear sunshade and keyless access and starting. An Entertainment package includes a 384-watt Harman Kardon audio system with 11 speakers, a USB port and a 120-volt power outlet, and the available navigation system comes with a 40-gigabyte hard drive and a rearview camera. Also available are xenon headlights, adaptive headlights, side blind-zone alert, rear side airbags, rear park assist, a heads-up display and an oversized sunroof.

Standard safety equipment includes dual threshold front airbags, side-curtain airbags, a tire-pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, traction control and GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability control.

Under the Hood
There are three engines to choose from here, two of which are new to the LaCrosse. For the first time, CX and CXL trims are offered with an updated version of GM's Ecotec 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. Previously offered in other GM vehicles, the engine now features direct-injection technology that improves both power and fuel efficiency. Output is 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. A new 3.0-liter V6, which is a version of the 3.6-liter V6 that had been offered in the last model, also has direct injection and produces 255 horsepower and 217 lb-ft of torque. The top engine, offered only in the CXS, is a 3.6-liter V6 that adds direct injection as well, increasing horsepower from 240 to 280 and torque from 225 to 259 lb-ft. All engines are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift gate.

This CXL's available all-wheel-drive system can send 85 percent of the power to the rear wheels. It also comes with an electronic limited-slip differential to apportion the power between the rear wheels for optimal traction.

Fuel-economy numbers haven't been finalized, but Buick is quoting EPA ratings of 20 mpg city/30 mpg highway for the 4-cylinder, 17/27 mpg for both V6s with front-wheel drive, and 16/26 mpg for the 3.0-liter V6 with AWD.

Inner Space
Now this is more like it. The LaCrosse interior was designed in China, where Buicks are status symbols and owners often have chauffeurs. As a result, the LaCrosse has one of the best cabins in the General Motors lineup. It is attractively designed, carefully assembled and has an abundance of soft-touch surfaces. Standard "ice blue" ambient lighting adds a quality touch and helps illuminate various controls at night.

The control layout is grouped on the center stack below the radio and/or navigation screen. The buttons are big enough and work with precision, but we counted 42 of them with the navigation system, which may make it hard to spot various controls when you need them. A 40-gigabyte hard drive is included with the navigation system, 10 GB of which can be used for music storage. That's enough for about 1,000 songs. We were especially impressed by the hard drive's TiVo-like recording ability. It keeps track of the last 20 minutes of programming on the current station. Cool.

The one complaint we have about the interior is the base cloth seats, which look cheap and have a texture that can best be described as mouse fur. CXL and CXS iterations have attractive leather, though, and there is plenty of passenger space front and rear. The LaCrosse will carry five comfortably, even if a few of the passengers are large. A standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel and eight seat adjustments should help drivers tailor a relaxed seating position. A rear fold-down armrest with built-in cupholders aids rear-seat comfort.

Like most sedans today, the LaCrosse's coupelike rear pillars limit the size of the trunk opening. The trunk is spacious, though, with 13.3 cubic feet of cargo room. That space can be enhanced by standard 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Buick also includes a rear-seat pass-through, so the car can accommodate four passengers carrying long cargo, such as skis.

On the Road
Most midsize sedans that sell in the $30,000 range are marketed as sports sedans. A select few, the Lexus ES 350 and Toyota Avalon among them, offer pure luxury without a pretense of sportiness. Add the LaCrosse to the short list that puts luxury first. On the road, the LaCrosse offers a smooth ride, but without the wallow, float or excessive body lean that has characterized too many Buicks of the past. Instead the 2010 LaCrosse offers a stable ride on the highway, with marked but acceptable lean in turns.

The CXS is the closest to a sports sedan, especially when equipped with the Touring package, which comes with real-time damping and 19-inch wheels. While the CXS Touring may turn more willingly than the others, the wheels and low-profile tires tend to slap over pavement joints and highway tar strips. If you live in an area with rough roads, try the Touring suspension before you buy. On any version, the brakes are strong and easy to modulate, and the steering is light and a bit slow, but with decent road feel.

Buick hasn't yet made the base 4-cylinder engine available for testing, but we drove it in the Chevrolet Equinox and found it is smoother than most fours and offers usable power around town. The step-up 3.0-liter V6 is silkier than the four and offers more midrange punch and passing power, but it doesn't feel all that strong from a stop, especially with all-wheel drive. The CXS's 3.6-liter V6 is the choice for those who want an engine that can compete with the excellent V6s offered by many rivals. Buick quotes zero to 60 mph times of 6.8 seconds for the 3.6, 7.8 seconds for the 3.0-liter V6, 8.4 seconds for the 3.0 with AWD, and 9.3 seconds for the 4-cylinder. Those numbers feel about right. Given that both V6s get the same fuel mileage, the stronger 3.6-liter V6 seems like an obvious choice for those who want more power. The capable 4-cylinder will appeal to those looking for fuel economy.

All engines come with a 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift gate. The CXS has a Sport mode that allows for manual shifting and also changes shift points, steering resistance and suspension firmness. Even in Sport mode, however, the CXS doesn't feel particularly sporty.

Right for You?
Customers looking for a roomy, luxurious sedan should consider the LaCrosse. It has enough room for a family of five and the looks to impress at the office. Available all-wheel drive will appeal to Rust Belt buyers, and the efficient 4-cylinder engine is a boon to fuel economy. If you're looking for sporty luxury, though, there are better choices from Japan, Europe and even the U.S.

Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, andcurrently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.

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BB04 - 7/26/2014 6:21:32 AM