The Buick LaCrosse is, in most ways, a dandy car to drive. It?s quiet, sprightly, and impressively game on snaky roads.
The cabin feels like a private club, and it comes with enough frills to make you feel special but not stupid for spending the kind of dough that could put a kid through college.
The Buick CXS starts at a base price of $41,870. My test car, with options I would delete post-haste, was $51,480. Eliminating the navigation system, big hard drive and backseat video screens will save you $5,215. Get a map and give the squatters in the back seat The Last Spike by Pierre Berton.
At no time did I feel that the LaCrosse was a big step down from luxury land. It feels kind of rich, really, with the kind of ride that isolates the driver from the unpleasant world out there.
The 3.6-litre V6 pulls well enough to keep the dogs off your heels, but induces no desire for speedy stunts. The six-speed automatic transmission works invisibly in the background, though it can be shifted manually ?which few will do.
When more power is needed for passing, the transmission kicks down crisply and without any racket; 280 horsepower and 259 lb.-ft. of torque strike the right note.
On the highway, the front-wheel drive LaCrosse tracks smartly and confidently. The steering doesn?t need the kind of constant correction that makes you think you?ve developed a new form of palsy.
On a closed access road, I ran a little imaginary slalom course and admired the flat cornering and composed performance of the LaCrosse. With variable assist steering, the big Buick is also easy to park and a rear-view camera keeps shrubbery, posts and other vehicles safe when backing up.
Braking feel is suitably firm.
Not much needs to be tweaked on the mechanicals. It feels like a car that was made with a clear vision.
Inside, the happy discoveries continue. The seats are truly upper crust, comfortable and contoured. A band of wood detail swoops from door to door and makes the cabin feel intimate. And like the Jaguar XJL, the dash quickly falls away from the windshield in a graceful movement that is subtly modern.
Artfully sculpted door pulls work well and look good. The steering wheel has the right heft in the hand, but I don?t care for the wood insert that makes it look like a bangle bracelet. A decent size dead pedal is welcome and gauges and display screens are crisp and readable.
Too bad the centre console is so cluttered with bric-a-brac. There are too many buttons assigned to simple tasks and they require too much attention to operate. The whole set-up could be simplified.
All of the storage bins are hard plastic, so soft rubber inserts would be an improvement. The leather boot that encases the gearshift is so deep, it collects all sorts of forensic material.
Most of these deficiencies are minor. A major negative for me, however, was the big blind spot produced by the A pillar and side mirror ? especially when looking to the right. Despite the ability to adjust the seat height from very low to nosebleed, I couldn?t get rid of it. It might not be a problem for taller types.
The back seat is roomy enough, but high doorsills and smallish windows pinch the view.
The trunk is deep and long, but because of a long raked rear window, the short trunk lid makes the opening small.
Outside, the handsome LaCrosse looks ?of the moment.? Gestural curves and subtle shadow lines banish any reference to the frumpmobiles of the past.
It has, however, been ?chromeatized;? chrome wheels and a whale-size chrome adornment on the trunk seem overly brash.
Among the competition, the Hyundai Genesis still makes a stylish statement, the Infiniti G37 has aggressive sporty styling, but the Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima can cost more money.
The LaCrosse, however, balances price, performance and looks in a persuasive package.
Kathy Renwald reviews cars for Wheels. Reach her at: www.kathyrenwald.com
2011 Buick LaCrosse CXS
PRICE: (base/as tested)
EMGINE: 3.6 L V6
FUEL CONSUMPTION: L/100 km ? city 12.2, , hwy 7.3 claimed
280 hp/259 lb.-ft.
COMPETITION: Toyota Avalon, Hyundai Genesis, Infinity G37
WHAT?S BEST: Flat cornering, quiet, top notch interior
WHAT?S WORST: A pillar/ mirror combo makes big blind spot
WHAT?S INTERESTING: Big turn signal indicators on instrument panel are on steroids
CHARGES MAY APPLY 2011 Buick LaCrosse CXS__Kathy Renwald Photo for Toronto Star_Subject: renwald photos 2011 Buick LaCrosse prt 1 of 2 On 2011-06-14, at 2:25 PM, Kathy Renwald wrote: Renwald Photos 2011 Buick LaCrosse -- www.kathyrenwald.com Kathy Renwald Productions Inc. 905-515-1808 1063 King Street West #199 Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4S3 DSC_4278s.jpg DSC_4248c.jpg DSC_4237c.jpg DSC_4236c.jpg