Democrat auto columnist
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Built on the new state-of-the-art Epsilon II platform, the 2010 LaCrosse is a completely clean sheet of paper design and may be the best sedan GM ever built. Although the powertrains are from the new high tech series of GM V-6s and trannies, they only enhance the LaCrosse experience. A large mid-size sedan with a length of 197 inches or about four inches longer than a Honda Accord, the new LaCrosse offers more rear seat legroom of any vehicle in recent memory. It is a limo out back and yet the wheelbase, while long, is only 112 inches, three inches shorter than the full size Buick Lucerne.
GM designers claim the bold, sculpted design stems from the Y-Job Concept, the Roadmaster and the Rivera. However, the LaCrosse retro character line goes all the way back to the 1950 Buick and it remained the focal point of Buick design until 1957 after which it has appeared in later models but not consistently. Buick was so successful that in 1955, the brand was the third best selling automobile in the United States with more than 800,000 units produced. LaCrosseÕs beautiful window line is accentuated by a high belt line, making the top line of this somewhat tall sedan (59.2 inches) look low and sleek. Good stuff. The signature grille, beautiful proportioned window line and flowing concept combine muscle and sophistication in a vehicle that discards the cookie cutter.
LaCrosse, breaks some new ground with an incredible combination of performance, economy, ride and handling. First under the hood is the GM 3.6-liter direct injected dual overhead cam 24-valve V-6 seen in the CTS and Camaro. In Buick form it cranks out 280 hp at 6,300 rpm plus 259 pounds of twist at 4,800 rpm. Strap that powerplant to a slick six-speed auto tranny driving the front wheels and you have some real performance. There is a second less expensive choice not the subject of the Road Beat, a 3.0L V-6 of similar configuration that makes 255 hp and 217 pounds of twist. Using the same tranny and gear ratios it should perform within half a second to a second of the numbers below.
Zero-to-60 mph comes up in a near world class 6.39 seconds and passing times mimic that quickness, with a 50-70 mph level pass being accomplished in a scant 3.41 seconds. An uphill grade barely impedes that time with a gravity defying run of 4.72 seconds. Throttle response is superb. This Buick obviously rocks, but how does it roll?
EPA rates both the 3.0L and 3.6L engines identically at 17/27 mpg city/highway which is not surprising, considering fuel consumption is largely a factor of energy required to move the vehicle. Both vehicles have identical footprints, trannies, gear ratios and weigh within 50 pounds of each other at about 4,000 pounds. But real life tells a different story. At 70 mph on a level highway the trip computer (tested for accuracy) showed a consistent 32 mpg. Outstanding. Overall fuel economy, depending on the mix of driving and how you drive, should be between 21-25 mpg. During my test the LaCrosse averaged about 23 mpg.
In a 260-mile trip the LaCrosse averaged 27 mpg mostly on the highway at speeds of 75 mpg or more with some traffic as well.
This is BuickÕs best handling car ever built. Stock 18X8-inch chrome alloys were shod with wide low profile 245/45 series all-season tires that provided significant grip. Add to that a state-of-the-art, well controlled four-wheel independent suspension and quick variable effort rack and pinion power steering (2.75 turns lock to lock) and you have the makings of a serious sporting sedan. Body roll is well controlled and turn-in is crisp. You would never know this was a Buick. If there is any complaint it is in the somewhat numb steering. While feedback is slightly lacking, it goes down the road with no correction required, making it a tireless vehicle for over the road travel. In twisties it is nimble and agile. Well done, Buick.
If you are looking for a floater, this LaCrosse is not your ride. If you prefer a more buttoned down ride with control, then you will feel right at home in LaCrosse. And then there is deafening quiet. On the superslab you will need to think in a whisper. With the engine spinning just 1,800 rpm at 70 mph, it is absolutely inaudible unless you get on the throttle, which will produce some bark from the wide spaced dual exhausts and therein lies another small issue. Why do automobile manufacturers have small round exhaust tips coming out of an obvious fake large square shaped phony exhaust port? You can say the same thing about the fake ports on the hood, but at least that has been a Buick tradition going back to the 1940s.
Braking is spectacular, coming to a halt from 40 mph in 38 feet, the best braking test for a midsize or large sedan in the history of the Road Beat. The four-wheel discs have rotors of more than a foot in diameter at all four corners with all the acronyms of ABS, EBD and Stabilitrak. These brakes were amazing. Six airbags and good headlights round out the safety concerns.
Inside is one of the best interiors ever done by GM. Finally everything is soft touch and superb quality. The instrument binnacle is the usual large speedo and tach plus ancillary gauges, but the trip computer is controlled simply by rotating the left stalk with the requested info appearing between the two main gauges. Good stuff. The vertical stack is loaded with buttons and knobs. No need for mouse traps because you wonÕt find any of those ridiculous European and now Japanese mouses for controlling GPS, radio and AC systems.
Perhaps to add some spice, Buick has a unique interior lighting system at night which encompasses the entire dash and vertical stack in an attractive luminescent blue lighting system. Front seats are done is quality perforated leathers. They are a bit firm for my tastes, but both seats have standard eight-way power plus power lumbar. Rear seating is fabulous, so good you may want to hire a chauffeur.
Pricing starts at about $28,000 including $750 for the train and trucker from the Kansas City assembly plant for the 255 hp CX which come extremely well equipped with full power including the driverÕs seat. Expect 0-60 mph times in about seven seconds flat. My CXS tester stickered for $33,015 plus $750 and came with one option, a GPS, audio upgrade and a backup camera for $1,995 for a total price of a shade under $36 large. It is the best Buick ever built and one of the best near luxury mid-size sedans on the market. An all-wheel drive model is coming soon.
Price $28,000 to about $36,000
3.0L DOHC 24-valve VVT V-6 255 hp @ 6,900 rpm
217 lbs.-ft. of torque @ 5,100 rpm
3.6L DOHC 24-valve VVT V-6 280 hp @ 6,300 rpm
259 lbs.-ft. of torque @ 4,800 rpm
Transverse mounted/front-wheel drive/all-wheel drive
Wheelbase 111.7 inches
Length 197.0 inches
Width 73.1 inches
Height 59.2 inches
Track (f/r) 61.7/62.0 inches
Weight 4,065 pounds
Trunk capacity 13.3 cubic feet
Fuel capacity 18.4 gallons
Steering lock to lock 2.75 turns
Turning circle 38.8 feet
Wheels 18X8 inch alloys
Tires 245/45X18 all season radials
0-60 mph 6.39 seconds
50-70 mph 3.41 seconds
50-70 mph 4.78 seconds
EPA rated 17/27 mpg city/highway. Expect 21-25mpg in rural country driving and 32 mpg on the highway at legal speeds.