Roadmaster, GNX, Regal. These are just some of the handful of great cars in the Buick brand’s shaky history in the automotive world, the LaCrosse however… has never been one of them. The LaCrosse was born in 2005, after the Buick brand peaked in sales around 1984, a time where GM seemed to have designers pull together for an afternoon and spew something ungodly out on one of their cheapest platforms to fill that niche market of customers who just wanted a car they could purchase before they were put into a casket several years later.
Cut to 2010 – We find Buick somehow surviving the GM brand killing and looking for new ways to stay relevant among younger buyers and compete with the likes of Lexus and Acura. Buick went through a styling change and aimed to show a new, fresh, look. This styling began with the Enclave in 2008 and has now been translated into the new 2010 LaCrosse sedan.
The 2010 LaCrosse models come in several different trim levels, including a 4 cylinder CX; 6 cylinder CXL and CXS. The model we tested was the CX trim equipped with a 2.4l Ecotec 4cyl engine producing a 182hp, 6 speed automatic transmission, and claimed fuel economy of 19 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. The car was priced just above $28,000 with cloth seats and no navigation. At this price, it is about the same as a well equipped Camry or Accord. I can only assume this is the buyer Buick is aiming for by adding the 4cyl base model to the lineup. The V6 models are higher priced and compete with the likes of the Lexus ES and Acura TL.
Any initial worries about the underpowered 4 cylinder in this nearly 4,000lb car were quickly subdued when I drove the vehicle and fell in love with the 6 speed automatic transmission. So many cars fail simply on the transmission alone; the Buick is only relevant because of this transmission. The car is in no way quick but is surely adequate under normal driving conditions. The engine was neither quiet, nor loud enough to cause many complaints. Steering feel and handling was good and is light years ahead of the last generation of Buick products. The seating was very comfortable and the cabin design was pleasing to the eye, with plenty of soft materials that have become the standard in newer GM vehicles. The only notable problem with the interior is the awkward placement of the gear shifter. It seems too close when in drive, and is awkward to shift when you are resting your elbow on the center console.
I expected this car to be greeted on the streets with much more attention than I got while driving it. Yes, I did get the occasional look when stopped at a traffic light, but nothing more than a passing glance. This car needs to be a design that turns heads and stands out against the bland Lexus and other vanilla luxury sedans. I will admit that some people, with whom I spoke, actually stopped to see it. They were amazed it was a Buick and loved the look of the car. This car, then, is essentially a stepping stone for the brand. It moves them forward out of the old stereotype and customer base, gaining attention, while staying true to what their current customers want; a comfortable car that doesn’t stand out. As sales numbers are already up 40% since last May, it seems Buick is taking steps in the right direction.