THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Improvements all-round, new styling, a new fuel-efficient V6 and revised techs and amenities keep the 2017 LaCrosse current.
- What’s Worst: Lower seating position this year, a new non-PRNDL shifter that takes some getting used to.
- What’s Interesting” Following up on the recent Avenir concept’s popularity, a new Avenir sub-brand will offer added premium packages for models like the LaCrosse.
Cars are dead, wagons are toast, sedans are just so-o-o passe, and the future is already present in crossover designs that blend the best of minivan versatility, sport utility styling, family-friendly room and blah, blah, blah.
And then you slip into the quiet, low-slung elegance of a premium sedan like the latest LaCrosse, wriggle your bum into the comfy seat, settle back, relax, slowly scan the wrap-around cockpit, the sophisticated controls and classy environs and find yourself heaving a long, drawn-out sigh of contentment.
Replacing both Century and Regal mid-size predecessors, the LaCrosse debuted a dozen years ago, taking classic Buick cues like the “sweepspear” side character line and, ye gods, the “olde” porthole ventiports, blending those traditions with new techs, new treatments and modern styling influences.
And since that initial unveiling for 2005, three generations of this flagship have evolved into an all-new longer, lower and wider Lacrosse for 2017.
But, even with the size increase, this new biggest Buick sedan, pretty well a full-size by now, has managed to shed mass in excess of 136 kg (300 lb) due to, among other elements, its lighter, stronger high-strength pressed steel structure, a new fly-by-wire eight-speed electronic transmission and modern insulation material that is less bulky but more efficient in enhancing Buick’s QuietTuning efforts.
Combine the weight reduction with a revised independent suspension, competent variable power steering and braking systems, and you get a smooth sailor, complemented by refined NVH levels.
The Lacrosse wears Avenir concept cues, features a new open grille, comes emblazoned with the first version of the resurrected three-colour Buick tri-shield and is offered in four front-wheel-drive (FWD) trim levels – the base Lacrosse ($35,495), Preferred ($39,830), Essence ($42,490) and Premium ($45,050).
As with our Premium tester, customers can also bump this car one notch higher by adding the all-new dual-clutch all-wheel-drive (AWD) system ($2,450). On top of that, performance and cosmetic packages, stand-alone options and accessories can push the price up near the $60K mark.
Under the hood, all models share a new 3.6-litre direct injection DOHC VVT V6 that makes 310 hp and 282 lb/ft of torque. The V6 responds with a happy pounce of power and with a surprisingly feral yet subdued snarl that contrasts quite nicely with the demure decor and civilized surroundings. Our AWD tester’s fuel economy is rated at 11.6/8.1L/100km (city/hwy), only a slight pump penalty over the FWD model’s 11.2/7.5L/100km (city/hwy).
My mix of real world driving averaged 10L/100km (comb), an acceptable result benefitting from the V6’s Active Fuel Management system which lets the engine deactivate two cylinders into V4 mode under light loads. A Stop/Start anti-idling system and the eight-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission have also had an impact.
Let me get a little side-tracked here.
There’s been some grumbling because the new Electronic Precision Shift eight-speed automatic has a new shift pattern and the Start/Stop system does not come with a disabling button.
Well, the new transmission saves weight, saves interior space and is holding the exit door for hydraulic shifters of the past, so you might just have to get used to it.
And the move to reduce idling is just as inevitable. GM has installed the above technologies in a dozen vehicles already and they should be widespread throughout their lineups by 2020.
Yes, there’ll be griping, as with the compulsory introductions of seatbelts, ABS and other seemingly ridiculous innovations at the time.
And it can be annoying, piling these things on with your thinning hair, thickening waistline, your computer’s OS upgrading just when you got used to it, even your kids growing up and not listening to you anymore.
But the times they are a changin’.
Get over it.
Having go that out of the way, let’s slip back inside our LaCrosse Premium AWD tester and admire a Brandy/Ebony interior loaded chock-a-block with features that include a programmable Teen Driver mode, a head-up display (HUD), and perforated leather heated & ventilated power-adjustable front seats with a new lumbar massage control added this year. Other goodies include the Intellilink infotainment centre with an eight-inch touchscreen display, navigation, available BOSE audio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot integration and dynamic driver assist programs – rear cross-traffic alert, side blind zone and lane change alerts, lane keep assist, forward collision alert, rear vision camera and parking assist.
Our LaCrosse also adds a Sun Shade package with power panoramic moonroof and rear sunshade and a Driver Confidence package with adaptive cruise, front auto braking, auto park assist and front pedestrian detection, all factors that round off this premium sedan very nicely.
Buick may still be a bit player in the bigger overall market but with the brand’s continuing move upscale, and with new concepts like the Avista and the Avenir setting future styling and luxury packaging trends, existing up-to-date and enhanced models like the 2017 LaCrosse, AJAC’s 2017 Best New Large Premium Car, will continue to compete for the attentions of premium product customers.
2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium AWD
BODY STYLE: Mid-size to large four-door premium sedan.
DRIVE METHOD: Front engine, all-wheel drive.
ENGINE: 3.6-litre direct injection DOHC VVT V6 (310 hp, 282 lb/ft)
CARGO CAPACITY: 425 litres
FUEL ECONOMY: 11.6/8.1L/100km (city/hwy); as tested 10L/100km (comb).
PRICE: LaCrosse Premium AWD MSRP $47,400. As tested $51,990 incl Sun and Shade Pkg ($2,135), Driver Confidence Pkg 2 ($1,860), Ebony Twilight Metallic ($495). Destination fee ($1,650) not incl.
WEB SITE: buick.ca