The retiring Buick LaCrosse was a surprise hit for GM’s tweener brand. It erased virtually all memories of its ugly duckling predecessor. Redesigned for 2017, the LaCrosse enters its third generation with a new platform, a new engine, more technology, a lower curb weight and a huge dose of refinement.
All in all, it is enough to make us almost wonder if a genuine luxury car is worth the money over this segment-buster positioned between mainstream and luxury against cars like the Lexus ES 350, Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Acura TLX, Hyundai Azera, and Chrysler 300.
The LaCrosse earns a score of 7.2 out of 10 thanks to handsome styling, a big interior, and strong V-6 engine There’s room for it to gain on rivals, too, since no crash-test data exists. (Read more on how we rate cars.)
The LaCrosse is available in four flavors: base, Preferred, Essence, and Premium. A simplified lineup means that its predecessor’s slow-selling eAssist mild hybrid is gone. Now, just one V-6 engine is on offer and buyers can opt for either front wheel-drive or, on the Premium only, available all wheel-drive.
Style and performance
The LaCrosse’s revamped design was inspired by the Avenir Concept car that made its debut at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It is most distinguished by a dark finish version of the Buick waterfall grille that is bisected by a chrome bar with a three-color version of the Buick logo. It’s the new face of Buick, the automaker says, and that’s not a bad thing.
Overall, the new LaCrosse is slightly longer, lower, and wider, which gives it the sleeker shape of a rear-wheel-drive sedan. Standard niceties include a choice of two 18-inch wheel designs, HID headlamps, and LED tail lamps.
The new car is just 0.6 inch longer and 0.4 inch wider, but its wheelbase grows by 2.7 inches and the track is up more than an inch all around. Despite the larger dimensions, the 2017 LaCrosse weighs 300 pounds less than the last model thanks to greater use of press-hardened high-strength steels in its platform. Lower-mass sound deadening materials also contribute to the weight loss, as does the move to a new V-6. Buick says the structural materials team with acoustic wheelhouse liners, standard active noise cancellation, triple door seals, and an acoustic-laminated windshield and front side windows to create a new threshold for the brand’s QuietTuning.
The lighter weight and stiffer structure also improve handling. In base trim, the car comes with a MacPherson strut front suspension and 18-inch wheels. Essence and Premium offer GM’s HiPer strut front suspension, two-mode adaptive dampers and 20-inch wheels, the former of which is designed to quell torque steer and maximize grip. The advantages of HiPer strut are reduced torque steer and increased negative camber during cornering, which maximizes grip. Models come with a five-link independent rear suspension instead of the outgoing model’s four-link setup.
Under the hood, the LaCrosse adds the next generation of GM’s 3.6-liter V-6, rated here at 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque, a modest increase from last year. Paired with a new 8-speed automatic, the engine delivers robust acceleration via an especially easy to modulate throttle pedal. This V-6 is GM’s first to have been designed with a start/stop feature from the get go, and it shows. The engine cuts out silently at traffic lights.
Buick rates the LaCrosse at 21 mpg city, 31 highway, and 25 combined with front wheel-drive. Opting for all-wheel drive reduces that to 20/29/23 mpg.
The LaCrosse shares its optional all-wheel-drive system with Cadillac’s XT5 crossover, and although it is relegated to only the Premium trim, it is a boon for those in wintry weather locales.
Comfort, safety, and features
The LaCrosse makes big strides inside with its elegant, simplified interior setup. Even the base model is well outfitted with pleasing leatherette trim on the seats, dashboard, center console, and doors. Opt for the Essence and Premium and the seats are swathed in a choice of three leather shades.
The Lexus ES is more interesting inside, but the LaCrosse hits the mark in most respects. The Buick isn’t quite as roomy as its size might suggest, but two passengers should be plenty comfortable in its rear seat. Taller drivers and front seat passengers may find head room to be lacking with the available panoramic moonroof.
Although 10 airbags come on all LaCrosses, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control require stepping all the way up to a loaded LaCrosse Premium.
Centered on the dashboard is a new 8-inch “frameless” touchscreen covered with a new film designed to reduce the likelihood of fingerprints sticking around. That touchscreen operates an updated version of GM’s intuitive Intellilink infotainment. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are standard across the line, but navigation is relegated to the two top trim levels.
GM’s On Star with 4G LTE connectivity is standard on all, as is a new display indicating the antenna’s signal strength. A wireless phone charger is integrated into the center console for so-equipped smartphones.