When doing research on the 2017 Buick LaCrosse, the eagle-eyed might catch a small, but telling, detail about the car’s features and specifications: the presence of map pockets on the back of the front seats.
While I haven’t done an exhaustive search of seatback pockets on every large sedan on the market, a quick look reveals Kia deems it necessary to mention it for its Cadenza, while Toyota does not for the Avalon. But it does seem like a throwback to the days before the soothing android voice of smartphones directed you to the route to your destination.
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I can’t remember the last time I unraveled a folding map or was in possession of a Thomas Guide, but I’m sure that among my parents’ contemporaries these reference sources are still a thing. And with the carrying of maps comes the need to store them in a useful, easily accessible location. Voila, the LaCrosse’s seat back pockets still prove their purpose.
They’re inclusion as a selling point leads me to think that Buick emphasizes that little nugget of detail for contemporaries of my parents. So what am I, a certified member of the cool, disaffected Gen X crowd, doing so attracted to Buick’s latest iteration of their full-size sedan? Is the LaCrosse a Dorian Gray-like representation of my advancing age, or could it be that this new Buick is just that good?Design: 9.0 rating
My test vehicle for the week was a fully equipped LaCrosse with the Premium trim level, and cost $48,395. It had every option available, including a panoramic sunroof and all manner of active safety features. It also wore extra-cost metallic paint and 20-inch wheels, which definitely helped in solidifying its considerable presence on the road.
Buick did a terrific job in designing the LaCrosse. Gone are the wide-eyed angry headlamps, which have narrowed into a furrowed, thoughtful countenance. There are plenty of sculptured creases to draw the eye, and its silhouette is at once expansive and svelte, exhibiting a four-door coupe roofline tempered only by the sheer length of the vehicle. Additionally, Buick has returned to its tri-color heritage emblem, while its faux portholes are deftly relocated from the hood – where they made no sense at all – to the fenders.
Inside, the current LaCrosse’s familiar waterfall dashboard design continues, rendered in upscale materials with solid-feeling plastics and supple leather upholstery. My LaCrosse Premium test vehicle had lovely wood trim brightened by judicious use of chrome, and while I was not a fan of my test car’s monotone black-on-black interior, pictures of the lighter, caramel colored cabin show a dual-tone treatment that looks upscale and airy.Comfort: 9.0 rating
Slip inside the LaCrosse’s cockpit and you’ll be met with vastness. The seats are vast, the cabin is vast, and the dashboard is vast. The entire interior is designed to emphasize space.
My test vehicle was equipped with heated and ventilated seats, along with a massaging lumbar support function that made me look forward to its comforts after a long day. I wished for a bit more bolstering to hold me in place while taking corners at higher speeds, which isn’t usually a requirement for big Buicks, but would be useful in this one. I’ll tell you more about that later.
True to full-size sedan form, the rear seats are also huge, with plenty of leg, head and shoulder space, as well as the aforementioned map pockets. It could use USB ports for rear passengers who plan to use modern infotainment devices.Controls: 9.0 rating
Dominating the center stack, an IntelliLink infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen display regulates infotainment features. The on-screen icons are large and respond quickly to input, while the layout is clean.
Thankfully, Buick retains buttons and knobs for frequently used stereo functions, and the climate control system is completely separated from the display. There are even buttons for tuning, although a knob would be preferable.
Redundant controls located on the steering wheel are clearly marked and easy to use, and also allow the driver to scroll through the information panel within the gauge cluster to access useful information.Utility: 7.0 rating
Equipped with a 15 cubic-foot trunk, the LaCrosse’s cargo space measurement is middle-of-the-road, more in line with a mid-size sedan than a full-size one. Therein lies the reason why sedans are falling out of vogue with consumers who increasingly favor crossover SUVs, which offer greater capability when it comes to carrying stuff.
Still, a decently sized trunk is all that most people need the majority of the time, and if pallets of paper towels and big, bulky sports gear aren’t a part of your oeuvre, a sedan the size of the LaCrosse will serve you just fine.
Inside, you’ll find useful nooks and crannies to store your belongings, with a decently sized console. The area beneath the “bridge” of the center console is limited in space, but could be useful for keeping small valuables, like your phone, away from prying eyes.Technology: 9.0 rating
I’m a big fan of heads-up displays, which project vehicle speed and other pertinent information onto the windshield for easy reference while driving. Buick offers one for the new LaCrosse, and it gives you plenty of options with regard to the kind of information that you can display. In fact, if you really wanted to see the album cover artwork of the song that you’re listening to right there within your field of vision, well, this Buick can deliver it.
Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system is blissfully easy to acclimate to, and the learning curve is a lot shallower than what other systems require. IntelliLink offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone projection, along with a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and several other features.Safety: 9.5 rating
Buick offers a full array of crash prevention technologies for the LaCrosse’s top Premium trim level, including forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, and lane departure monitoring. You won’t be able to get these features in the base or Preferred trim; you can get the latter two features with the Essence trim level.
There’s also a Rear Seat Reminder alert that audibly dings to remind you to check the back seat before leaving the car, just in case you’ve forgotten about a child or pet. It activates if the rear door has been opened up to 10 minutes before the vehicle was started.
Further fueling helicopter parenting habits, the LaCrosse features Teen Driver Technology that records your kid’s driving performance – things like average speed and the number of times the safety features have been activated – and reports it to his or her parents.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had only a few safety testing results available for the 2017 LaCrosse as this review was written. The car got a “Good” rating for its ability to protect in a moderate front overlap collision, as well for side collision protection. The feds have yet to perform any crash test evaluations on the Buick, but given the LaCrosse’s new structure and promising early returns from the IIHS, we’re confident in predicting that this will prove to be a safe family sedan.Power and Performance: 9.3 rating
Weighing just 3,598 pounds in base trim, the LaCrosse is large in terms of dimensions but light in terms of weight – relative to traditional full-size sedans. That makes the standard 310-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 even more potent when the accelerator pedal is pushed. Acceleration to 60 mph takes about 6.5 seconds, and the car’s ability to push you back into your seat is both surprising and glee-inducing.
The juice flows through an 8-speed automatic transmission, which delivers satisfyingly quick shifts as it transfers power to the front wheels. People living in climates with frequently inclement weather might be interested in the all-wheel drive option, which is a relatively rare find in the non-luxury full-size sedan class.
The transmission may befuddle some drivers thanks to its overly complex gear selector shift pattern, which certainly puzzled me a couple of times. Also, the transmission tends to upshift as quickly as possible in order to save fuel, but the broad swath of power makes this characteristic fairly unobtrusive. Popping the car into Sport driving mode resolves that issue.
Most impressively, my week of mixed driving yielded an average of 25.8 mpg, beating the EPA estimate of 25 mpg in combined driving. That represents excellent efficiency for a car this size, and calls into question why anyone settles for a 4-cylinder engine if a V-6 can prove so parsimonious with fuel.
Furthermore, while automatic engine start/stop systems usually bug me, the one included for the LaCrosse is smooth and unobtrusive, so it’s not a bother.Ride and Handling: 9.25 rating
My test vehicle was equipped with the Dynamic Drive Package, and Buick has done an admirable job of tuning the continuously adaptive damping suspension. This, combined with the so-called HiPer Strut front suspension that is included with the 20-inch wheel-and-tire upgrade, kept this sizable sedan eerily composed when tossed into a corner. Given the marshmallow-soft tuning of previous Buicks I’ve driven, the LaCrosse was nothing short of a revelation.
It is, however, important to keep my test car’s equipment in perspective. Other reviewers have commented upon the difference between the standard LaCrosse suspension setup, which apparently delivers the floating, wallowy ride quality of Buicks of yore, and the enhanced handling capabilities of LaCrosses outfitted like my test car.
With that caveat clear, despite its welcome composure on curves the LaCrosse retained its ability to deliver a serene ride, successfully absorbing most of the shock associated with crumbling city roads. Yet, even without the suspension’s Sport mode engaged, the big Buick felt taut and athletic when driven with enthusiasm. In fact, Sport mode might be a mite too eager to quell suspension movements, coming across as rather brittle and unrefined at times.
Steering is light and precise, if not exactly communicative, and the brakes are easy to modulate while delivering short stopping distances. Overall, the LaCrosse is a dynamically balanced vehicle that is a pleasure to take on a long, scenic cruise. In fact, each time I drove the car, I questioned the validity of the car’s tri-colored badges, asking myself: “This is a Buick?”Our Recommendation
Most Americans prefer cars that are a little bigger than they really need, as reflected by the booming popularity of crossover SUVs. While this overwhelming preference for SUVs doesn’t bode well for the future of the traditional full-size sedan, the 2017 Buick LaCrosse makes a compelling case for itself with people who prefer the styling and more adept handling of a car but still require a sizable amount of room.
Furthermore, the LaCrosse is a most admirable automobile, quite lovely inside and out, fun to drive and full of the latest in technology. It is true that you’ll need to shell out a pile of extra cash to obtain the options that made my test vehicle so appealing, but a top-trim LaCrosse is, for all intents and purposes, a luxury car delivering an impressive amount of value and driver satisfaction.Total Vehicle Score:170/200 points Overall Vehicle Rating: 8.5 For More Buick LaCrosse Information:
FIRST DRIVE: 2017 BUICK LACROSSE REVIEW
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