Test Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

Buick's midsize sedan steps well ahead of its predecessor, courtesy of substantial redesign for 2010 ... powertrain selection even includes a four-cylinder

by James M. Flammang

2010 Buick LaCrosse CXL

First introduced for the 2005 model year, Buick's LaCrosse four-door sedan replaced both the Century and Regal. Offered in three trim levels, the initial LaCrosse had front-wheel drive and could seat either five or six occupants. Under the hood could be either a 3.8-liter V-6 engine or a 5.3-liter V-8.

Redesigning for the 2010 model year has given the midsize LaCrosse a significantly altered personality and list of features. In the interest of fuel-efficiency, Buick - like other General Motors divisions - has abandoned V-8 power in favor of thriftier powertrains.

"Sculpted" exterior design is said to define "Buick's modern global design" themes. Featuring what Buick calls "intelligent personal technologies" to "enhance the driving experience," the interior uses ice blue ambient lighting.

Built on a 111.7-inch wheelbase, the LaCrosse measures 197 inches long overall and tips the scales at around two tons. Cargo volume measures 13.3 cubic feet (12.8 cubic feet in the CXS model).

Quite a few family sedans offer a choice of two engines these days: typically, a four-cylinder or a V-6. Buick gives buyers a choice of three: four-cylinder, plus a pair of dual-overhead-cam V-6s. The LaCrosse model designation identifies its engine: four-cylinder in the CX, 3.0-liter V-6 in the CXL, and 3.6-liter V-6 for the CXS. Early LaCrosse announcements included only the V-6 engines; the four-cylinder was added later.

Buick's 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. The 3.0-liter V-6 delivers 255 horsepower and 294 pound-feet (slightly lower with all-wheel drive). In the CXS sedan, the 3.6-liter V-6 generates 280 horsepower at 6300 rpm, and 259 pound-feet of torque at 4800 rpm.

Each engine has direct injection for greater efficiency, and works with a six-speed Hydra-Matic transmission. All engines run on regular-grade gasoline.

Fuel economy, as expected, varies by powertrain. The thrifty four-cylinder model gets a gas-mileage estimate of 20 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway. Picking the 3.0-liter V-6 drops those estimates to 17/27 mpg with front-wheel drive (16/25 mpg with optional all-wheel drive). Bigger engines usually exact a fuel-economy penalty, but gas mileage for the CXS, with its 3.6-liter V-6, is the same as that of the front-drive CXL: 17 mpg city/27 mpg highway.

In its current form, LaCrosse is clearly one of General Motors' better efforts - a prime example of what the company is capable of accomplishing, at a time when such achievements are critical. While not perfect, it's a big step ahead and a substantial improvement over the first-generation model.

This sedan feels solid all around. Though rather long, it has a slim appearance and drives as if it were a relatively narrow, modestly-weighty sedan (rather than the relative heavyweight that it actually is).

Acceleration is smooth and effortless with the CXS's 3.6-liter V-6 engine. The 3.0-liter engine offers ample energy, though the transmission sometimes delayed downshifts when needed most. A four-cylinder LaCrosse has not been available for testing, but it might prove a bit underpowered for a car of this weight.

On the CXS, Buick's suspension soaks up any bumps and holes with ease, seldom transmitting notable nastiness to occupants. On rougher spots, the CXL edition wasn't quite gentle, but otherwise yielded a pleasant, Buick-like ride. Easy to drive and steer, this Buick won't fool anyone into thinking it has sporty aspirations, but it handles adeptly for its class. In fact, it maneuvers crisply, not at all like Buicks of the more distant past.

Gauges, though stylish, are not the easiest to read and can be confusing at a glance. Otherwise, the driver faces a logically-placed complement of controls. The driver's seat is comfortable, with good support. Except for a very light whoosh when accelerating with some vigor, the LaCrosse is exceptionally quiet-running.

Execution of several details could be better, such as inside front-door handles that are hard to find by touch. On two occasions during a week-long test-drive, too, the trunk popped all the way open after locking the car. Most likely, that resulted from an over-sensitive remote control fob.

Standard LaCrosse equipment includes six airbags, stability control, traction control, XM satellite radio, and GM's OnStar communications/emergency system. Also standard: remote keyless entry, a tilt/telescoping steering column, cruise control, bodyside moldings, and electric parking brake. Dual-zone air conditioning, an automatic-dimming inside mirror, Bluetooth connectivity, remote start, power passenger seat, and driver's power lumbar adjustment are part of the CXL's standard-equipment list. In addition to the biggest engine, the CXS gets a premium audio system, USB port, and 110-volt power outlet. Upper models lack the bodyside moldings. A Touring package for the CXS includes 19-inch wheels, to replace the standard 18-inchers. The CX sedan rides on 17-inch rubber; the CXL, 18-inch.

On sale since July, the 2010 LaCrosse starts at $27,835 (for the four-cylinder CX model), including destination charge. The CXL sedan stickers for $30,395 with front-drive, or $32,570 with all-wheel drive. Topping the line, the CXS sedan goes for $33,765. Competitors include the Acura TL, Toyota Avalon, Lincoln MKZ, Hyundai Azera, Toyota Camry, and Lexus ES 350.

Attention Editors: This complete 2010 Buick LaCrosse review is available now for your publication. Please contact us at JF@tirekick.com for details.

© All contents copyright 2009 by Tirekicking Today
Text and photos by James M. Flammang