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2018 Buick LaCrosse Avenir: First Drive Review

Driving through Northern Michigan in the 2018 Buick LaCrosse Avenir, I have time to think. I’m on my way from my home in suburban Detroit to Lake Walloon, up in the pinky of the mitten (as Michiganders describe the geography of our fair state). It’s a 250-mile trip, and a very good opportunity to become familiar with the latest luxury upgrade to the Buick lineup.

Avenir Is to Buick as Denali Is to GMC

Following the lead of fellow General Motors brand GMC, Buick has created Avenir as a new trim level that will eventually populate across the entire brand, much as GMC has propagated a Denali version of each vehicle in their lineup. Denali has been a runaway success, with roughly 29 percent of GMC sales in 2017 wearing the Denali designation. The first Avenir was the Enclave Avenir in 2017, followed by the LaCrosse Avenir this year. Buick recently revealed a Regal Avenir that will begin as a 2019 model.

"Avenir" is French for "future," and fits Buick’s recent history of international-sounding names: Enclave, Encore, Reatta, Rendezvous, Lucerne, etc. The trim level is described as "the highest expression of Buick luxury." A base 2018 LaCrosse 1SV starts at $30,490, while a LaCrosse Avenir starts at $45,795. My test car cruised on the highway with an as-tested price of $47,485, including a $1,690 Driver Confidence Package #2 (adaptive cruise control, automatic-parking assist, front automatic braking and front pedestrian detection).

Character Lines

LaCrosse is a midsize (according to EPA standards) four-door sedan, the biggest sedan that Buick sells in the U.S. It’s not a bad-looking car at all. A few distinguishing features set it apart from the pack. The hood is nicely sculpted with three ridges or speed lines that divide it into four strips. The outer ridges lead directly to the A-pillar, zooming over the greenhouse all the way to the back of the car. Another character line defines the top of the head lamp cavity, and arcs nicely across the fender and front door. A final arched ridge starts on the rear door and swoops to the back of the car above the taillight. The combined effect of these ridges lend a sense of motion to the LaCrosse, even when parked.

The Avenir trim level comes with a few exterior flourishes. Black chrome, mesh grilles fill the upper and lower fascia openings, and exclusive 19-in chromed aluminum alloy wheels (20-in available) fill the wheel wells. Chrome Avenir badging subtly dresses each front door.

Fit and Trim

Inside, there’s more Avenir-exclusive trim to set this LaCrosse apart from the others. A chestnut color theme that only Avenir models get is capped with embroidered front-row headrests, and Avenir sill plates welcome passengers inside.

Avenir comes with a wide range of features as standard equipment, including an infotainment system with navigation and Bose Centerpoint Sound Surround with 11 speakers, remote start, push-button keyless start, a heated steering wheel, a Panoramic Power Moonroof, wireless device charging, head-up display and a Teen Driver system that uses a special key to trigger speed warnings, activate safety systems and report back to you about significant aspects of your teenager’s driving behavior.

Musing While Driving

I don’t have a teenager, but as I drove along north of Traverse City, I had no regrets. Speed limits on rural sections of some highways in Michigan have been upgraded to 75 mph in recent years, a speed that suited LaCrosse just fine. LaCrosse Avenir packs a 3.6-liter V6 gasoline engine under its sculpted hood, sending 310 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is available for an additional $2,200. I used the optional adaptive cruise control to maintain a good legal speed in the light weekday traffic. I’m mostly a podcast listener on long drives, but I still would have appreciated a bit more high-end audio than the Bose speakers had to offer. On the plus side, Avenir’s massaging driver’s seat helped me stay relaxed and alert. The front-passenger’s seat has this feature too.

As I got closer to my destination, I left the highway for some curvy two-lane roads where I was able to evaluate the LaCrosse’s four-wheel independent suspension (MacPherson strut front/five-link rear) and electric variable-effort power steering. Handling is a little soft, but not floaty. While it’s not an enthusiast’s ride, LaCrosse strikes a decent balance between sport and comfort — leaning a little more toward comfort, which seems in character for this car.

Final Thoughts

Avenir has a ways to go before it becomes a defining trim like Denali. It may be a bit too subtle to ever gain that level of recognition, but it does gather a good feature set that elevates the 2018 Buick LaCrosse Avenir to another level. The obvious competitors, the front-wheel-drive Lexus ES and rear-wheel-drive Lexus GS, are tough targets to reach, but who knows what the future will hold for Avenir?

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

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