May 18, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 03 February 2011 11:23
Now the sole occupant of the yawning void between Chevrolet and Cadillac in General Motors’ lineup, Buick is turning out a limited line of attractive, safe, reliable cars that also deliver solid performance. Among the middle-premium automaker’s most appealing products is the LaCrosse, a midsize four-door sedan.For a while, LaCrosse served as Buick’s entry-level sedan. It now competes for that role within its own dealer network with the smaller Regal, a similarly priced European import built by Opel.
The LaCrosse, available with front- or all-wheel drive, was redesigned for 2010. Last year, we drove a 2010 model with the optional V-6 engine. Our front-wheel-drive 2011 LaCrosse CXL came with the 182-horsepower, 4-cylinder power plant that the automotive Web site edmunds.com dismisses as seriously underpowered.
We wouldn’t be so quick to rule out this package, which includes the six-speed shiftable automatic transmission standard in all trim lines, if we were thinking of buying a LaCrosse. The engine is unexpectedly smooth and quiet. What it lacks in snappy acceleration, it makes up in fuel economy: an impressive 30 mpg on the highway, given the car’s substantial size and weight. Unexciting, yes; underpowered, no. The V-6 version exacts a 3-mpg penalty on the highway.
And if you’re looking for something that corners like it’s on rails, you’re probably not the sort of consumer Buick has in mind.
That isn’t to say the LaCrosse isn’t a crisp-handling, dare we say sporty, sedan. It’s nothing like the old Buicks that floated serenely down the road. In fact, a passenger in the car’s roomy back seat observed the ride was firmer than he expected. The Lucerne, impeccably smooth and somewhat ungainly, is more reminiscent of the old Electra 225.
As we observed in the 2010 model, the 2011’s major deficiencies are a trunk with a small opening and middling capacity at best (13 cubic feet); and a bewildering array of audio and climate-control buttons on the center stack. Buick, a perennial favorite of senior citizens, appeals to a younger audience with this aspect of its interior design.
Our LaCrosse started at $29,055; the entry-level CX has a base price of $26,995. Options brought our tester’s price to $37,410. We came to appreciate the Side Blind Zone Alert, part of a $1,440 Driver Confidence Package. This system was invaluable because the car’s narrow windows and high rear deck hindered visibility.
As gasoline prices creep ever upward, the LaCrosse’s fuel-economy ratings are a selling point. However, neither the 2010 with the V-6 nor the 4-cylinder 2011 model matched their EPA ratings. We did no better than 24 mpg, on regular unleaded gasoline. The fact our car had fewer than 1,000 miles on the odometer may have been a factor; most cars do better after the break-in period.
Past LaCrosses have proved themselves a sensible choice, having compiled impressive crash-test and reliability scores. The LaCrosse remains a Top Safety Pick, as designated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Engine: 2.4-liter inline Four, 182 horsepower, 172 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Suspension: Four-wheel independent, modified MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 18-inch painted alloy
Tires: P235/50R18 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 13.3 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 18.4 gallons
Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 30 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular
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