If you’ve read any reviews of the overhauled 2010 Buick LaCrosse, you’d think it’s the best thing since fuel injection. Our own Nick Borgia reviewed the LaCrosse CXS last week and had nothing but great things to say about it: 2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS Review (be sure to read his review first, it’s very good.)
We just drove two of the new LaCrosses, and don’t share quite the same enthusiasm. Not that it’s a bad car by any means, and frankly it’s probably the best in its class. So why aren’t we raving about it like everyone else?
Not that I can blame them…comparing the overhauled 2010 LaCrosse to its 2009 and older siblings is like night and day. In 2009, everybody was questioning why Buick still exists. Now, they actually made a car that lets the naysayers answer their own question – “oh…that’s why.” And that’s exactly it – looking back a year seeing what they’ve done with it makes it easy to see the improvements as a great new car, and I’ll give Buick props for that. But while the 2010 LaCrosse is huge improvement, it’s yet to be a great car.
We drove both the top-of-the-line LaCrosse CXS trim ($33,015 base) and the base model CX ($26,245 base.) The revised engines Buick put into the LaCrosse vary per trim level. Starting with the CX, you get a fuel efficient but embarrassingly underpowered 2.4-liter 4-cylinder producing 182 hp. Optional on the CX is a 255 hp 3.0-liter V6. The same V6 goes into the mid-level CXL, while the CXS sports the most power – a 280 hp, 3.6-liter V6. So the 4-cylinder is fuel efficient – EPA rated at 19 city, 30 hwy. Not bad numbers, but after driving the CX for a week, we averaged only 17.8 mpg mixed – less than we got from the 3.6-liter V6. That’s because the lightest LaCrosse waddles around at a hefty 3829 lbs, and you have to run the hell out of it to get it to go anywhere. Only the lightest of lightfoot drivers will enjoy the 4-cylinder CX. All 2010 LaCrosses come with a pretty good 6-speed automatic, and the mid-level CXL comes optional with an AWD drivetrain for an extra $2,200. Next year, the 3.6-liter V6 will have the AWD option, which should have been the case from the start.
Overall design is the best thing about this car. Part of GM’s new direction for their cars (making good and desirable ones,) the LaCrosse is completely redesigned inside and out. Buicks no longer appeal strictly to blue hairs (and the Chinese for some reason,) but even attract some young eyes. The swooping lines, big wheels, and muscular rear fenders give the LaCrosse a much more modern appearance, even though they sacrificed some rearward visibility in the name of design. The interior is top-notch, featuring quality materials and a cool blue iridescent glow along the dash, door handles, and center console. Interior ergonomics, however, are a different story. The seats aren’t very supportive or comfortable, whether the cloth or leather surfaces – you really have to fiddle with the power seat controls to find something decent. Driver and front passenger don’t have much room either – for such a big car it feels awfully cramped up front. The center control panel is cluttered with a confusing array of buttons in the CXS – the lesser-equipped CX without navigation isn’t so bad. The inside door handle features an attractive but annoying design that integrates with the arm rest, requiring you to reach into the opening each time to close the door instead of just naturally grabbing it from the top. The gauges in the instrument panel look nice, but the way they’ve designed the speedometer make it all but completely useless. Luckily, the customizable driver information display features a digital speedo that’s much easier to read, or there’s an optional heads-up display.
Rear seat passengers will be more comfortable than the folks up front – there’s plenty of room back there for three average adults. The optional $2000 navigation system includes an upgraded audio system and rear backup camera on a nice LCD screen. The navigation system itself is mediocre, the “live traffic” was wrong on multiple occasions, and doesn’t let you use it while moving. The rear backup camera is usable during the day and worthless at night – I’d pass on that option.
So is it really that bad? Well, no. As a whole, it’s not that bad at all, and a good choice for a car in this segment. You’ll find yourself shopping against the Acura TL, Lexus ES350, Toyota Avalon, and maybe the Nissan Maxima. What I don’t like about it, other than the annoyances I talked about above, is that aside from the “Buick got their shit together” factor, there’s nothing particularly special about the car. There’s nothing that says “I have to have this car,” unless you’re crazy about the styling. If Buick continues along the same path of improvement and refines the LaCrosse a bit more, it will be a great car.
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