There is very little to like about television car commercials. Most feature the said auto in perfect lighting effortlessly navigating perfect roads with narration provided by a smooth talking guy extolling the virtues of said machine (truth is he’s probably sitting in his underwear in his house making more money than you or I will hope to have in a lifetime). It’s like the commercials we see for fast food joints. The hamburgers always look so perfect, condiments carefully portioned with a wisp of steam gracefully arching upwards towards fast food Heaven. The reality is there’s usually too much ketchup and it ends up dripping on your shirt and the teenager who slapped it together in less than three seconds could care less.
So, many of us ignore the carefully crafted car commercials on TV; because other than the occasional pretty girl or dancing hamsters there is really very little to see. That’s the reason the Buick commercials featuring former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal were largely (pun intended) ignored at our house. Nothing against Shaq, we’ve met on several occasions including at this year’s Daytona 500 and he has always been a great guy; willing to stop and talk, shake a hand or sign anything put in front of him. But seeing him hawking a car? Sorry where’s the remote.
It turns out however the message Shaq was trying to convey is absolutely correct; if you haven’t seen it, then you don’t know Buick.
The Buick of today is a survivor of the GM breakup of the 2000’s that saw a restructured automaker emerge after shedding brands such Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Saturn. Buick was left off the chopping block and as it turns out that’s a very good thing.
We drove a Buick a few months ago, that was the 2013 Encore a crossover SUV that was okay, not too fancy, but with the copious amounts of chrome Buick seems to have always been known for (if it doesn’t move put chrome on it, ah what the heck even if it does move, chrome it). The Encore was fine mechanically but overall just ho-hum.
Perhaps that was part of the reason why we when we got the 2014 Lacrosse for a week recently, we were so very impressed.
The LaCrosse has been given a bit of a refresh for 2014. Outside there is a new front fascia featuring a cascading grille with more angular headlights transitioning into a sculpted hood. Behind there are new chrome (this is a Buick after all) accents and a subtle spoiler. But the looks aren’t the only thing that got a tweak. There are now grill shutters that shut at highway speeds to help with aerodynamics.
It’s the inside that really impresses however. Gone are the almost mind-numbing rows of buttons, down from 17 to seven according to Buick. There’s a new instrument panel “center stack” and integrated floor console with more storage. An eight-inch color touch screen is designed to be easier to operate with intuitive controls and smartphone-influenced swipe recognition for easier navigation. During our week we used the touch screen extensively and while others have panned it, we had no trouble with it whatsoever.
Also new for 2014 is the radar- and camera-based safety features. They include Lane Change Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Automatic Collision Preparation. Full Speed Adaptive Cruise Control is also offered. This is a feature we fell in love with during a recent road trip in a Cadillac SRX; it senses traffic in front to adjust vehicle speed, including bringing the vehicle to a complete stop and accelerating again.
For 2014 the LaCrosse is offered in front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive models and offers two powertrains: a 2.4L engine with eAssist (FWD only) or a 3.6L direct-injected V-6 (FWD and AWD). Each is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. All models feature Buick’s QuietTuning engineering process that reduces, blocks and absorbs unwanted noise from the LaCrosse’s cabin. The LaCrosse is available in a four trim levels, including LaCrosse (1SB), Leather (1SL), Premium I (1SP) and Premium II (1SR).
We had the Premium I which in addition to the already nicely equipped base model, adds 19-inch wheels, an upgraded suspension with adaptive shock absorbers, ventilated front seats, a heated leather/wood-trimmed steering wheel, a power rear window sunshade and a Bose surround-sound system. Our model also had the Ultra Luxury Interior package, with upgraded leather upholstery, leather armrest/center console trim, a simulated suede headliner and real wood accents on the dash, doors and console.
The interior with its Tamo Ash wood trim and leather accents seems to wrap around and flow along quite nicely. The seats are comfortable and supportive without being mushy; there are enough adjustments to suit any driver. At first glance we had to stop and make sure; yes this is indeed a Buick, not a Lexus in GM clothing. Our model had the 3.6 liter engine and we found it to be more than adequate for everyday driving. After all this isn’t a Lexus 350 and while it won’t win any drag races, for the average driver the 304 horses mated with a six-speed gearbox is just fine.
There is one caveat we have to mention here; the EPA mileage is estimated at an eyebrow raising 18 miles per gallon around the city and 28 on the highway. The standard 2.4L four-cylinder engine with eAssist light electrification technology is rated at 25 in the city and 36 highway however since we didn’t test that model how it performs is anyone’s guess. The EPA figures for the 3.6 are nearly those of the Lexus 350 but the mpg was the only thing we didn’t cheer about.
Overall though during our week on the roads around Central Florida driving the LaCrosse we came to one conclusion; this is a damn fine machine. In the overall scheme of things Buick continues to be a quiet contender. When we think of a full size luxury sedan a Buick will usually not come to mind. And while we think that’s a shame, that’s really the way Buick has always been; a low-key contender delivering luxury at an affordable price. There’s just enough ketchup and it turns out the message Shaq was delivering is true; if you haven’t seen it, then you don’t know Buick.
MSRP (Premium 1- 1SP) $38,810
MSRP as tested (w/driver confidence package 1&2): $$44,895
Engine (as tested): 3.6 L V6 304hp @ 6800 rpm torque 264 @ 5300
EPA Fuel Economy Est – City/ Hwy 18/28 MPG Combined: 21
MPG as tested: 24mpg (mixed use)
Wheelbase 111.7 in
Length, Overall 196.9 in
Width, Max w/o mirrors 73.1 in
Height, Overall 59.2 in
Passenger Capacity 5
Passenger Volume 100.0 ft
Front Head Room 38.0 in
Front Leg Room 41.7 in
Front Shoulder Room 57.4 in
Front Hip Room 55.2 in
Second Head Room 37.3 in
Second Leg Room 40.5 in
Second Shoulder Room 56.0 in
Second Hip Room 53.9 in
Basic: 48 months/50,000 miles
Powertrain: 72 months/70,000 miles
Maintenance: 24 months/24,000 miles
Roadside Assistance Coverage: 72 months/70,000 miles
Corrosion Perforation: 72 months/unlimited distance