2010 Buick LaCrosse CXLPosted on December 28th, 2009
Global design team reinvents Buick’s full-sized sedan
By Nina Russin
My love affair with cars began with a ‘64 Buick Wildcat convertible that lived down the street from me. Its 401-cubic inch V8 engine seemed to stretch from one side of the county to the other. The exhaust note was epic. A standard three-speed manual transmission made it easy to melt the tires: something my parents never shared my appreciation for.
Over subsequent decades, Buick lost its way, acquiring a reputation for lackluster performance, with styling to match. It was heartbreaking to see the brand that revolutionized car design with Harley Earl’s Y-Job concept car relegated to the far reaches of nursing home parking lots.
Recently, Buick reversed the tide with the Enclave crossover vehicle, geared towards active lifestyles. Last summer, Buick introduced an all-new LaCrosse, using a global design team to recreate the full-sized sedan for younger buyers.
A North American team designed the exterior, melding heritage cues with an angular beltline and tall decklid. Vertical chrome slats in the grille resemble the toothy front ends of classic Roadmasters. Wrap-around headlamps balance off the large, three-shield emblem in the LaCrosse grille.
Designers kept front and rear overhangs short to give the car a sportier stance, and maximize interior space. The Chinese team that designed the interior used a waterfall theme in the center stack as the focal point. Ambient blue lighting warms up the passenger cabin at night.
Three grades with three available engines
The 2010 LaCrosse comes in three trim levels, with a choice of two V-6 engines: a 255-horsepower 3-liter block in the base and CXL models, and a 280-horsepower 3.6-liter engine in the upscale CXS. Buick adds a fuel-thrifty four-cylinder engine in the first quarter of 2010. All-wheel drive is available on the mid-grade CXL.
Last summer, I had a chance to take the LaCrosse on a brief test drive during a media event in Michigan. This week, I took the front-wheel drive model on a longer drive between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona.
The CXL grade tested adds leather trim with heated front seats over the base model. Dual-zone climate control, remote start and Bluetooth interface are also standard.
The longer drive would be a better opportunity to evaluate the sedan’s fuel economy. Being the Christmas holidays, my husband and I would be packing the trunk to capacity with luggage and gifts.
Unusually cold temperatures for this part of the country provided the perfect opportunity to try out the three-stage front seat heaters.
Twenty miles of road construction; one hundred twenty miles of traffic
The widening of I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson is an ongoing project with no end in sight. Miles of orange barrels and narrowed lanes negate any advantage the completed section might provide. Add the stress of the holidays and an influx of cars from out-of-state: the result is frankly, not pretty.
Weaving through traffic quickly reveals a car‘s blind spots. While I had no problems seeing traffic in front and to the sides, the LaCrosse’s small rear window and tall decklid limited the view out back.
The V-6 engine has plenty of power to do its job, though I would have liked more aggressive throttle response. I seemed to be the last car off the line whenever I accelerated from a stop.
Our average fuel economy on the trip was about 19 miles-per-hour: slightly poorer than the EPA estimate. I attribute the poor gas mileage to constant accelerating and braking in order to move through dense traffic.
The six-speed automatic transmission shifts seamlessly, with no noticeable shift shock. A four-wheel independent suspension provides a compliant ride: a bit soft in the turns for my taste but certainly acceptable.
Feedback from the electric power steering system isn’t as precise as I’d like, though on-center response is adequate for making emergency lane changes. Turning radius is just over 38 feet: fine for the occasional U-turn.
Optional 18-inch chrome wheels on the test car provide a wide, stable footprint that enhances highway performance. Standard four-channel antilock brakes stop the car in a firm, linear fashion.
Quiet spacious interior
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing noise intrusion from the road, engine bay and windshield, making it easy for passengers to converse. Having driven the previous LaCrosse, I’m happy to report that seats in the new car provide much better lower back support than in the former model.
Center stack controls are more complicated than they need be. Rather than a central rotary knob, I’d rather see the mouse device competitors are using to combine the functions of multiple buttons in a single control.
The gauges are easy to read in any light. A digital information display between the gauges gives the driver average fuel economy, distance to empty, odometer and trip meter readings.
A deep center console bin includes a twelve-volt power point and USB port for plugging in iPods. The USB port is part of an audio upgrade package that also adds an eleven-speaker system and 120-volt outlet behind the center console.
All four doors have small map pockets. Both rows of passengers get access to cupholders: in the center console and a fold-down armrest in back.
Second-row passengers in the outboard positions have ample head, hip and legroom. Vents in back of the center console circulate air through the back of the passenger compartment. A 12-volt outlet recharges portable electronic devices.
Legroom in the center position is limited due to a tall floor tunnel and the center console.
Rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to create a pass-through for extending the cargo floor. While sedans aren’t as practical as crossovers for carrying bicycles, the pass-through adds enough room for loading in skis, snowboards, and other large cargo.
All models come with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability and traction control. A complimentary one-year subscription to OnStar adds automatic police and EMT notification if the airbags deploy.
Buick builds the LaCrosse at its Fairfax assembly plant in Kansas City, Kansas.
Likes: A stylish luxury sedan with a high level of comfort, convenience and safety features.
Dislikes: Poor rear visibility, lack of legroom in the center rear position.
Model: LaCrosse CXL FWD
Base price: $29,645
As tested: $31,695
Horsepower: 255 Hp @ 6900 rpm
Torque: 217 lbs.-ft. @ 5100 rpm
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 17/26 mpg city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include a $750 delivery charge.
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