The full-size sedan segment isn’t as popular as it once was. Come to think of it, it’s not very popular at all. Yet that shouldn’t be held against the 2018 Buick LaCrosse, which, after a complete redesign last year, is actually a very impressive and appealing full-size sedan. Just because something isn’t popular doesn’t mean it’s not worth a shot.
Not only is the current LaCrosse much better than the model it replaced last year, it’s a genuine competitor for top full-size sedans like the Toyota Avalon and luxury sedans like the Lexus ES 350. Seriously, everything about this range-topping Buick demonstrates a quiet, unassuming competence. Its pampering ride, hushed cabin and easy-going driving efforts should be exactly what traditional full-size sedan buyers are looking for, but its mechanical sophistication, ample in-car tech and compelling styling should go above-and-beyond for those who might’ve previously dismissed a big Buick as an "old man’s car."
Now, there are updates for 2018. First and foremost, the powerful and surprisingly efficient V6 engine is now an option on most trim levels. We think it’s still the engine to get, but for those who care far more about fuel economy than power, the new standard eAssist mild hybrid powertrain should deliver with its estimated 29 miles per gallon. That’s considerably less than full hybrids like the Lincoln MKZ and Toyota Avalon, but the LaCrosse eAssist also costs thousands less. It also costs less than last year’s V6-only LaCrosse.
There’s also a new range-topping Avenir trim level with some fancier exterior trim and richer interior appointments, but we’re not sure it really elevates the LaCrosse enough to warrant a price tag that approaches $50,000. The LaCrosse is a large, comfortable sedan that both satisfies and exceeds expectations, but that’s probably a bit too much for it to chew.
What’s New for 2018?
For 2018, the LaCrosse gains a new base engine: a mild hybrid that yields terrific fuel economy for a large sedan. The previously standard V6 now comes with a 9-speed automatic transmission and the availability of all-wheel drive has been extended down to the Essence trim level. Finally, a new range-topping Avenir trim level appears.
What We Like
Plush ride; high-quality cabin; easy-to-use tech; powerful and efficient V6; very efficient eAssist powertrain; exceptional safety credentials; surprisingly agile with Dynamic Drive package
What We Don’t
Questionably high price jump from base trim level; accident avoidance tech only on top trim levels; seats may be mounted too low for some
The LaCrosse comes standard for 2018 with a mild-hybrid powertrain known as eAssist. It consists of a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine connected to front-wheel drive, a 6-speed automatic, an electric motor and a battery pack replenished through the engine and regenerative braking. Output is a modest 194 horsepower and 187 lb-ft of torque, but fuel economy is estimated to be 25 miles per gallon city, 35 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined. This falls short of an Avalon Hybrid, but it’s still excellent for a large sedan.
A 3.6-liter V6 is standard on the LaCrosse Avenir and optional on all others apart from the base trim level. It produces 310 hp and 282 lb-ft of torque. A 9-speed automatic is standard for 2018 and is paired with standard front-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive can be added to the Premium, Essence and Avenir. Fuel economy is still quite good given all that power at 21 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 24 mpg in combined driving. Opting for all-wheel drive lowers those estimates by one mpg.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Buick LaCrosse is available in base, Preferred, Essence, Premium and Avenir trim levels. All-wheel drive is an option on the upper three trims.
The base trim ($29,600) comes very well-equipped with 18-inch wheels, automatic xenon headlights, foglamps, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, keyless start, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, simulated leather upholstery, OnStar with 4G LTE Wi-Fi, the 8-in Buick IntelliLink touchscreen interface, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and an 8-speaker sound system.
The Preferred ($33,700) only gains a power-adjustable steering wheel, satellite radio and a cargo net in the trunk, which seems odd given its hefty price bump over the base model.
The Essence ($36,400) is a little easier to justify, with its adaptive headlights, auto-dimming mirrors, leather upholstery, heated front seats, driver memory settings and wireless smartphone charging. The optional Driver Confidence 1 package adds blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning systems.
The Premium ($38,700) trim adds ventilated and massaging front seats, a heated steering wheel, a head-up display, lane-keep assist, the Driver Confidence 1 package and forward-collision warning.
The Essence and Premium are eligible for a pair of packages. The Sights and Sounds package adds a navigation system and an 11-speaker premium Bose sound system that includes HD radio. The Sun and Shade package adds a panoramic sunroof and a power rear sunshade.
The Avenir ($44,900) adds the V6 standard, 19-in wheels, different exterior trim, the Sights and Sounds package, the Sun and Shade package and upgraded interior materials.
Available on all but the base and Preferred trim levels, the Dynamic Drive package adds 20-in wheels and adaptive suspension dampers, plus an upgraded suspension design for front-wheel-drive models. Note that the V6 engine brings with it a compact spare tire.
Available only on Premium and Avenir, the Driver Confidence 2 package adds adaptive cruise control, forward automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and a self-parking system.
Every 2018 LaCrosse comes equipped with stability control, front airbags, front and rear side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, front knee airbags and a rearview camera. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems are optional on the Essence trim and standard on the Premium and Avenir. A forward-collision warning and lane-keep assist systems are standard on those trims, which can be upgraded with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking.
The government gave the LaCrosse perfect 5-star ratings in every crash category. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the LaCrosse the best-possible ratings for crash protection and prevention, but a Poor headlight rating kept it from getting a Top Safety Pick award.
Behind the Wheel
The LaCrosse provides truly impressive comfort and isolation to its occupants courtesy of the plush suspension tuning and a multitude of sound-deadening measures. Its precise steering is also pleasingly low in effort, and in general, this big Buick is easy to drive.
And yet, it’s also not some loafing land yacht of yesteryear. It boasts a sophisticated suspension that maintains composure around corners, and should you opt for the Dynamic Drive package (highly recommended), the included 20-in wheels and adaptive suspension dampers provide an almost shocking amount of agility given the degree of comfort that continues to be provided. Like some of the very best luxury sedans, a so-equipped LaCrosse has the ability to be both comfortable when milling about yet surprisingly sharp when you want to pick up the pace. Its strong V6 engine scores additional points in its favor, and although the base eAssist engine’s fuel economy may appeal to some, we think most will find it lacking in the power department.
We’re generally fans of the LaCrosse’s interior, which possesses a higher quality and a more appealing design than you’ll find in past Buick models. It is genuinely luxurious. The standard IntelliLink touchscreen is also more user-friendly than most tech interfaces. Unfortunately, back-seat comfort may be reduced for some due to the somewhat low seating position.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Lexus ES 350 — For some, comparing a Buick to a Lexus may seem nonsensical, but the LaCrosse is so good we think anyone interested in an ES 350 should consider both. As such, anyone interested in the LaCrosse should also consider Lexus’ popular comfort-first luxury sedan.
2018 Lincoln MKZ — Revised last year, the MKZ offers updated styling and a new, more powerful engine that the LaCrosse does not have an answer for. Nevertheless, these two cars are similar in price, size and driving experience.
2018 Toyota Avalon — The Avalon is arguably the strongest full-size sedan and, like the LaCrosse, does a pretty solid impression of a luxury sedan as well. It has also enjoyed superior reliability throughout its history. Note an all-new Avalon is coming next model year.
Used Cadillac CTS — This midsize Cadillac boasts sharp styling, a luxurious and spacious cabin and genuinely sharp driving dynamics. It costs more than the LaCrosse, though, so you’ll likely be looking at a used version.
It’s hard to see how the Preferred trim manages to be $4,000 more than the base model, so we’d skip that. Otherwise, we’d recommend most shoppers consider that value-rich base model — there’s really nothing about it that says "entry-level." However, if you’re looking to the LaCrosse as more of a luxury sedan, opting for the Essence trim level and its Dynamic Drive package is highly recommended.