Sandwiched between volume-minded Chevrolet and performance-focused Cadillac in General Motor’s post-bankruptcy landscape, Buick takes the middle way. It aims to satisfy the middle-class need for affordable luxury.
Since the bankruptcy, the company’s persistent focus on comfort, reliability and affordability has produced cars of the quality of the full-size LaCrosse sedan.
During our recent cold snap, I enlisted a 2014 LaCrosse as my go-to ride. Every Inland Northwestern driver knows the value of warm hands and a surefooted mount and, with its all-wheel-drive system and heated steering wheel (both optional), the LaCrosse was an easy pick.
The LaCrosse (from $34,060, including transportation) is a five-passenger, front-drive sedan. Its roomy, well-equipped cabin is swathed in high-quality, soft-touch materials. When the sun sets, LED accent lighting casts the interior’s fluid lines into soft relief.
For 2014, the LaCrosse receives a mild freshening and adds a batch of tech updates, including a blind-spot warning system, rear cross-traffic alert and an updated touchscreen interface.
Outside, redesigned headlights and wing-shaped LEDs flank a sculpted hood and prominent waterfall grille. Lower-front active grille shutters close at highway speeds to reduce aerodynamic drag.
If there were any doubt about the LaCrosse’s mainstream mission, the abundance of chrome would seal the deal. My tester’s brightwork included 19-inch chrome alloys, a pair of shiny, rectangular exhaust tips and, wrapping the rear deck, a body-spanning chrome accent line.
You won’t find the word <i>performance</i> in Buick’s lexicon. Efficiency is the new paradigm. The base powerplant, available only on front-drive trims, is a mild hybrid (it can’t run on electricity alone) that makes a combined 189 horsepower and earns EPA ratings of 25 mpg city/36 mpg highway/29 mpg combined.
An available 303-hp V-6 powers up-level trims and AWD models (FWD, 18/28/21; AWD, 17/26/21).
My six-cylinder AWD tester accelerated at a leisurely pace which, in fact, suited the car’s built-for-comfort personality. Similarly, real-time shock damping is used not to enable racetrack cornering but to control body lean while smoothing out bumpy roads surfaces.
The new front seats are large and comfortable. Multiple adjustments -- including four-way-adjustable headrests -- make easy work of finding a comfortable driving position, but the sweeping roof line and thick C pillars compromise sight lines. The rear seating area easily accommodates large passengers. The split seat-backs fold to increase cargo space, helping compensate for the LaCrosse’s smallish trunk.
Buick’s IntelliTouch touch-screen control interface is slow to react and complicates simple tasks. The capacitive-touch system requires the touch of a bare finger. No gloves allowed.
Kudos to Buick for its lane-departure warning system. Instead of sounding a chime or beep when the car crosses the center or shoulder line, it vibrates the driver-side seat cushion. This subtlety increases the likelihood that the system will be used.
Middle-class aspirations build the auto business, and few companies understand that better than Buick. The 2014 LaCrosse is good evidence that the middle way is the right way.
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at email@example.com.
2014 Buick LaCrosse Premium 1 AWD
Vehicle base price: $33,135
Trim level base price: $38,810
As tested: $45,595
Optional equipment included forward collision alert; rear cross-traffic alert; blind-spot warning; lane departure warning; high-intensity discharge headlights; forward adaptive lighting; head-up display; fog lamps; adaptive cruise control; automatic collision preparation; sunroof; premium audio.
EPA ratings: 18 city/28 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified