Combining European styling with modern luxury touches and excellent fuel economy, all of Buick's new and redesigned nameplates are largely unrecognizable from the dated brand most Americans still remember. Stodgy and mild no longer have a place in the Buick vocabulary, and there is possibly no better example than with the 2014 Buick LaCrosse.
When the LaCrosse received a major overhaul in 2009, it was billed as the first car of a new generation of Buicks that was meant to attract a younger buyer. For the most part, the strategy has succeeded and, with the addition of both the new Verano and Regal to the lineup, as well as the continued success of the Enclave, Buick has been rewarded with strong sales growth.
The 2014 LaCrosse is an excellent choice for luxury shoppers seeking fuel economy and value. That's even true for buyers in cold-weather climates, since it features available all-wheel drive. Yes, it has a few foibles, but they are by no means deal breakers -- especially among the car's target market.
What's New for 2014?
The LaCrosse gets styling tweaks for the new model year, both inside the cabin and outside. Also, all LaCrosse models now include rear side-impact airbags as standard equipment.
What We Like
Luxury appointments and impressive standard features; good fuel economy; available all-wheel drive
What We Don't
Twitchy steering; base 4-cylinder lacks performance
The LaCrosse offers two engines. Base-level LaCrosse models use the brand's eAssist 4-cylinder, which makes 182 horsepower and uses mild hybrid technology. It returns 25 miles per gallon city/36 mpg hwy with its standard 6-speed automatic. Drivers can also upgrade to the LaCrosse's 303-hp 3.6-liter V6, which returns 17 mpg city/27 mpg hwy. LaCrosse models with that engine feature optional all-wheel drive, which drops gas mileage to 17 mpg city/25 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The LaCrosse is offered in four trim levels. There's a base model, called simply LaCrosse, followed by the Leather, the Premium I and the range-topping Premium II.
The base-level LaCrosse ($34,100) is well-equipped, featuring 17-inch alloy wheels, satellite radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, an 8-inch center touchscreen, Bluetooth, OnStar and an auxiliary jack for iPods and other music players. There's also a power driver seat and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel for driver convenience.
Upgrade to the Leather ($36,200) and you get leather upholstery, heated front seats, a rearview camera, a power passenger seat and driver memory settings. Fog lights are also standard.
The Premium I ($39,800) adds the powerful 3.6-liter V6 and 18-in alloy wheels. It includes perforated upholstery, ventilated seats, keyless entry and ignition, a heated steering wheel and a power rear sunshade.
Topping the range is the Premium II ($40,900), which adds chrome wheels and a Harmon Kardon surround-sound audio system.
The LaCrosse offers several options. Some features from upper-level trims are offered on lower models, for instance, but other important extras include a power sunroof and a rear-seat entertainment system.
The 2014 Buick LaCrosse comes standard with eight airbags, stability control, traction control, ABS and daytime running lights. The available Driver Confidence Package provides additional safety features that make the package an appealing value. They include a head-up display, articulated front headlights and a blind spot warning system.
In government tests, the LaCrosse earned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's perfect 5-star overall crash-test rating. That includes 5-star performance in the front- and side-impact assessments, along with a 4-star rollover rating.
Behind the Wheel
While the interior of the 2014 LaCrosse is generally well designed and pleasing to look at, a week of hauling a family around gave us insight into its strengths and weaknesses. One of the car's best features is how well the engineers handled noise and vibration. In fact, the car was so quiet -- even on poorly maintained highways -- that the road sometimes faded away as an afterthought. With the engine off at every stop sign and red light, the quietness was even more noticeable in city driving.
Although the seats are generally comfortable for long rides, they could benefit from a bit more bolster for front passengers' hips and thighs.
To attract a younger, more tech-savvy buyer to the brand, Buick's smartphone integration is very good and intuitive. Connecting an iPhone to the system worked flawlessly, and the Bluetooth audio phone connection was clear and easy for incoming callers to understand, even at highway speeds. Buick's standard IntelliLink infotainment system also adds value.
Other Cars to Consider
Cadillac CTS -- The CTS is more of a driver's car than the LaCrosse, boasting rear-wheel-drive architecture and powerful engine offerings. Still, both cars offer well-priced luxury.
Lexus ES -- The ES is a pricey competitor, but it's also marked by a high-end interior, powerful engines and a hybrid that's far more efficient than the LaCrosse's eAssist powertrain.
Lincoln MKZ -- Lincoln's boldly styled MKZ provides a good challenger to the LaCrosse, thanks to a supple ride, a handsome interior and reasonable pricing. Plus, there's a hybrid that returns 47 mpg.
The LaCrosse is an excellent near-luxury sedan, and we certainly recommend adding it to your list of cars to consider. If we were buying, we'd probably choose the Premium I. Yes, it's pricey. To us, however, the 3.6-liter V6 is a must-have. Plus, we like its extensive list of luxury goodies for just under $40,000.