Buick LaCrosse is a premium midsize sedan. It's quiet and pleasant-mannered as we'd expect of a Buick, yet its steering is more precise than owners of previous Buicks might expect, and it turns into corners crisply, with little body lean. Its V6 engines offer good power, growling under acceleration, but motoring along smoothly and quietly on the freeway, and the transmission works flawlessly.
Inside is a rich, high-quality cabin with attractive woodgrain trim, nicely presented instruments and controls, and available leather seats with nice-looking gathered stitching.
Electronic features make the well-equipped LaCrosse a safe, all-weather family car with nice conveniences. Among them: a remote starting system that will work from up to 500 feet away, great on cold winter mornings; OnStar, which will dispatch emergency crews to your precise location if you have a wreck and don't respond to operators' calls; XM Satellite Radio to pick up Fox News, CNN, ESPN, or your favorite music; and StabiliTrak, which can help keep you from skidding off a slippery road.
LaCrosse was introduced as a 2005 model, replacing both the Century and Regal. For 2006, ABS and side-curtain airbags have been made standard on all models.
The Buick LaCrosse comes in three models. The CX and the more luxurious CXL come with a 3.8-liter overhead-valve V6 rated at 200 horsepower. The performance-oriented CXS comes with 3.6-liter V6 with modern double overhead cams and variable valve timing that develops 240 horsepower.
The CX ($22,935) comes with cloth upholstery and manually operated air conditioning. Standard features for all models include tilt wheel, six-way power driver's seat, programmable power locks with remote keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, leather-wrapped shift knob, and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system. All models also come standard with OnStar and a one-year subscription. A Comfort and Convenience Package for the 2006 LaCrosse CX ($1,190) includes a remote vehicle starter, programmable driver information center, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescope steering wheel with redundant audio and climate controls, cargo convenience net, security systems, and illuminated vanity mirrors.
The CXL ($25,435), features leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, power lumbar adjustment for the driver's seat, a split-folding rear bench seat, driver information center, and content theft alarm.
The CXS ($28,435) comes with thicker anti-roll bars front and rear, and 17-inch wheels and tires to go with the more powerful V6. CXS also boasts additional touches like driving lights under the front bumper.
LaCrosse CX and CXL are available with five- or six-passenger seating. Front bucket seats with a center console and leather-wrapped floor shifter come standard, but a six-passenger option moves the shifter to the steering column and substitutes a 40/20/40-split bench seat whose center cushion flips over to become a mini-console.
Options include nine-speaker stereo with MP3 capability ($545) or six-disc CD changer ($695), digital audio with XM Satellite Radio ($325) that includes a one-year subscription, power sunroof ($900), heated front seats ($295), power adjustable passenger's seat ($350), 16- or 17-inch chrome wheels ($650), remote starting ($150), engine block heater ($35), and an exterior chrome decor package ($295). The Driver Confidence Package for the CXL ($1,250) and CXS ($1,150) adds redundant audio and climate controls on the steering wheel, a universal remote transmitter, electrochromic inside rearview mirror, heated outside mirrors, power-adjustable front passenger's seat, ultrasonic rear park assist, and rear-seat reading lamps.
Safety features on all 2006 Buick LaCrosse models include anti-lock brakes (ABS) and traction control along with the required front airbags. Optional safety features include side-curtain airbags for head and torso protection, electronic stability control, rear park assist, and StabiliTrak electronic stability control.
LaCrosse is unmistakably a Buick, with its trademark vertical-bar waterfall grille, long nose, long slopes and simple body curves. A tiny third side window behind the C-pillar adds some visual interest, while at the rear, a discernible dent in the decklid ties the taillamps together and recalls the more adventurous surface development that characterized Buicks of the early 1960s. A single, slender chrome spear decorates the doors. XM Satellite Radio shares a single antenna with the standard OnStar system.
CX models can be identified by a grained, graphite-color finish on the rocker panels underneath the doors, while this panel is body color on CXL and CXS. Otherwise, the base CX has almost no decoration at all, beyond the bolt-on faux alloy covers for its 16-inch steel wheels.
Construction quality looks good. Body, door, and fender gaps on the LaCrosse are all noticeably smaller than on the previous Regal and Century models. And LaCrosse's headlamps are said to be 35-percent brighter.
To improve crash safety and reduce noise, Buick used generous amounts of expensive, high-strength steel, a magnesium cross beam behind the instrument panel, another cross beam behind the rear seats, steel reinforcements in the rocker panels, an interlocking door latch system, high-strength steel door beams, a double-thick Quiet Steel floor pan and firewall, and structural foam in the front fenders.
The Buick LaCrosse features a roomy, comfortable cabin with a general look of quality. The standard front bucket seats, clad in leather in the CXL and CXS, feature a new type of stitching, and newly developed silk-impregnated vinyl on the seat side panels emulates the look and feel of leather.
Rear-seat legroom is generous, thanks to a relatively long wheelbase of 110 inches. My 6-foot, 4-inch frame can sit behind a 6-foot, 4-inch driver with plenty of room to spare.
Interior quality and appearance are enhanced by reducing the number of individual trim pieces, which makes everything fit better and gives the cabin a richer, higher grade look. The instruments and controls are white on black, and each of the three round dials is wringed in chrome and set into a deeply tunneled instrument panel. It's all very nicely presented, and relatively sporty looking.
The center stack is finished a mica-flecked flat black, with a trip computer and driver information system that's easy to put through its menu. However, the information panel is so glossy that it's hard to read in early morning or late afternoon light. The entire dashboard is decorated with a very good imitation woodgrain.
Buick uses its Quiet Tuning program to reduce, tune out, absorb, cover up and mask noise sources all through the car. Quiet Tuning uses specially engineered parts and adds sound insulation in the engine, on the firewall, under the toeboard, inside the wheel wells and in the roof. Buick's Quiet Tuning has made LaCrosse one of the quietest cars in the class.
Optional features upgrade this car to a cut above, making for a truly complete, safe, all-weather family car. Among them are a remote starting system that will work from up to 500 feet away, OnStar, XM Satellite Radio, and StabiliTrak; if we were ordering a LaCrosse, we would add all of these excellent systems.
The commercials showing the pair of matching Buicks doing pirouettes might be pushing it a bit, but the LaCrosse CXS does indeed handle far better than we would have guessed and responds quite well to hard driving though most buyers probably won't drive like that.
Both of the available V6 engines have been tuned to give a nice, healthy growl on full throttle, but disappear into the background in high-gear cruising.
The standard 3.8-liter engine that comes on the CX and CXL is smooth and quiet and is rated to get 29 miles per gallon on the highway. It's a gutsy V6 that generates strong torque, meaning you get good acceleration performance without having to rev it up much. This is an older cast-iron V6, but it's been thoroughly upgraded internally to reduce mechanical noise and features electronic throttle control. It's rated at 200 horsepower at 5200 rpm, and 230 pound-feet of torque at 4000.
The newer 3.6-liter V6 that comes on the CXS revs more freely and produces more power despite its smaller size: 240 horsepower at 6000 rpm. Its torque curve is also flatter, peaking with 225 pound-feet at 2000 rpm, but delivering 90 percent of that peak between 1500 and 6000 rpm. What that means is that you've always got good, strong power on tap in any situation. Mash the gas pedal and she goes. A thoroughly modern engine, the 3.6-liter features all-aluminum construction, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder with continuously variable valve timing, and electronic throttle control.
All three LaCrosse models come with a four-speed automatic transmission. It works flawlessly.
As mentioned, the LaCrosse handles quite well. The steering is quite precise, really biting into the pavement when you want to turn. It has terrific body roll control, meaning it's not bouncing and yawing around when pushed harder on rural roads. The suspension used in the CX and CXS is about 20 percent stiffer than in the old Regal or Century, with larger stabilizer bars, so the LaCrosse handles better than those cars.
We found the CSX more sporty to drive on winding roads in Northern Michigan. We later pushed one of these cars hard on some tight, bumpy canyon roads outside Los Angeles and found it handles quite well. The grip from the tires is tenacious. Even when squealing around curves, we found it maintained good composure, not losing its poise the way older American sedans tend to do. It offered good transient response, meaning it could change directions quickly in hard left-right-left maneuvers. In short, it could do all the things shown in the Buick commercials. The steering has the same good feel and turn-in power as in the other Lacrosse models, but the ratio is quicker. The CXS gets a special Gran Touring suspension with stiffer front and rear stabilizers, as well as Magnasteer electric power steering. The optional StabiliTrak suspension package comes with more sophisticated Magnasteer II power steering.
For the most part, the LaCrosse rides smoothly, though we admit being a little disappointed in the ride quality on L.A.'s Interstate 405. It's a bumpy section of one of the busiest freeways in the world that really tests a smooth ride. Here, the LaCrosse suffered some vibration and the ride quality wasn't nearly as smooth as we think a Buick should be. This is perhaps a trade-off of the responsive handling.
Three different traction control systems are offered: CX and CXL versions use a speed-based setup that works with engine torque and fuel cutoff. This helps eliminate front wheelspin when accelerating on slippery surfaces, providing more stable control. The CXS comes with GM's full-range electronic traction control, which also selectively applies the brakes at one or more wheels as needed to restore traction.
StabiliTrak includes a traction-control function and also improves driver control during emergency or evasive maneuvers. We highly recommend getting the optional Stabili
Buick's long tradition of fine sedans is well-served and continued by the LaCrosse. It's a quiet car that impressed us with its steering precision and handling crispness. The interior has been given extra attention and that has paid off handsomely.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw filed this report from Pellston, Michigan, with Mitch McCullough reporting from Los Angeles.
|Model Line Overview|
|Base Price (MSRP)|
|Buick LaCrosse CX ($22,935); LaCrosse CXL ($25,435); LaCrosse CXS ($28,435)|
|200-hp 3.8-liter ohv 12-valve V6; 240-hp 3.6-liter dohc 24-valve VVT V6|
|Safety equipment (Standard):|
|front airbags, ABS, traction control|
|Safety equipment (Optional):|
|side-curtain airbags, electronic stability control, rear park assist|
|3 years/36,000 miles|
|Oshawa, Ontario, Canada|
|Specifications As Tested|
|Model tested (MSRP):|
|Buick LaCrosse CXL ($25,435)|
|dual-zone automatic air conditioning with air filtration system; leather upholstery; front bucket seats w/driver's side 6-way power adjuster & 2-way power lumbar; electric rear window defogger; cruise control; driver information center with compass, warning messages, personalization features; OnStar with 1-year Safe & Sound service; tilt/telescopic steering column; leather-wrapped steering wheel; split-folding rear seats w/center armrest; Pass-Key III theft deterrent system; dual illuminated vanity visor mirrors; manual day/night rearview mirror; delayed exit/entry lights & theatre dimming; lights for ashtray, glovebox, trunk, instrument panel, courtesy & engine compartment; remote trunk release; carpeted front/rear floor mats; retained accessory power; cargo convenience net; AM/FM/CD 6-speaker sound system; power windows w/driver's express-down; power door locks w/lock-out protection; 16-inch alloy wheels|
|Options as tested:|
|Sunroof ($900); XM Satellite Radio ($325); chrome-plated wheels ($650); remote starter ($150); Driver Confidence Package ($1250) includes tilt-and-telescopic steering column with redundant audio and climate controls, universal remote transmitter, electrochromic inside rearview mirror, heated outside mirrors, power-adjustable front passenger's seat, rear parking assist, and rear-seat reading lamps|
|Gas Guzzler Tax:|
|Price as tested (MSRP)|
|3.8-liter ohv 12-valve V6|
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm):|
|200 @ 5200|
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm):|
|230 @ 4000|
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:|
|Head/hip/leg room, f:|
|Head/hip/leg room, m:|
|Head/hip/leg room, r:|
|16 cu. ft.|
|independent, MacPherson struts with four-stage valving, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|independent, tri-link, Chapman struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|vented disc/solid disc with ABS in.|