The Buick LaCrosse sedan gets a total redesign for 2017. The full-size front-wheel-drive sedan was a surprise hit when it was introduced two generations ago due to its handling and refinement. For 2017, Buick LaCrosse gets made even better, with a new platform, new engine, new transmission, more technology and refinement, and less weight. It’s not a luxury car, but it’s good enough to make you wonder if a luxury car is worth the extra money.
LaCrosse represents the new face of Buick. Competitors that now seem faceless include the Lexus ES 350, Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Acura TLX, Hyundai Azera, and Chrysler 300. Well, the Chrysler 300 has a face.
The new LaCrosse is only a fraction of an inch longer and wider, but the wheelbase is 2.7 inches longer, giving it the stance of a rear-wheel-drive car. It’s 300 pounds lighter for 2017 thanks to more high-strength steel in the chassis and its new V6 engine; the combination of lightness, stance, and rigidity improve the handling.
Its standard 18-inch wheels (two designs), HID headlamps, LED taillamps, and 10 airbags add to its appeal.
The LaCrosse is powered by the latest version of GM’s fine 3.6-liter V6, now making an impressive 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a new eight-speed automatic. The engine was designed with start/stop technology, as opposed to that capability being added, and it shows, as it’s nearly invisible.
However, start/stop doesn’t increase fuel mileage all that much. The LaCrosse gets an EPA-estimated 21/31 mpg City/Highway, or 25 mpg Combined with front wheel-drive. All-wheel drive cuts it by about two miles per gallon. The all-wheel drive comes from the Cadillac XT5 crossover, and is only available on the LaCrosse Premium model.
The 2017 Buick LaCrosse comes in four models: base, Preferred, Essence, and Premium. (The eAssist hybrid has been discontinued.) The base comes in at just under $33,000, but it looks and feels as rich as the Premium.
The all-new 2017 LaCrosse follows the lines of the Avenir concept car that wowed the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It may be lighter, but it looks like it’s been pumping iron. It’s lower and sleeker, with character lines that travel to its haunches.
The new face of Buick has less chrome. The classic waterfall grille is smaller and darker, split by a small chrome bar. Bye-bye, 1958. Except for the chrome fake ports on the sides of the front fenders, an acceptable nod to nostalgia.
The new 2017 LaCrosse cabin is simple and elegant, modern and functional, with a flowing dashboard and floating center console that make it feel airy inside. The Lexus ES 350 and Toyota Avalon are more imaginative, but the LaCrosse mostly hits the mark.
The leatherette trim on the seats and French-stitched vinyl on the dashboard and door panels is fine, but the gray plastic on the center console looks low-rent. Hard plastics are pasted to the lower part of the dash, but rivals do that too.
The shifter looks simple but can be vexing to learn. Shifting it from the Manual mode back to the automatic mode is a mystery we weren’t able to unlock without stopping and shifting into Park.
There’s an eight-inch touchscreen on the dash that’s treated to resist fingerprints. It uses the latest version of GM’s IntelliLink infotainment, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. On Star with 4G LTE connectivity is standard.
The front seats of this so-called five-seat sedan are comfortable, but only two passengers will be comfortable in the rear. It’s more comfortable for four than five. In the front, headroom might be tight for tall people if there is an available panoramic roof, and the padded armrest between the front seats is too high.
Buick calls its sound-deadening engineering Quiet Tuning. There’s lower-mass but more effective insulation material, the quieter engine, acoustic wheelhouse liners, active noise cancellation, triple door seals, and an acoustic-laminated windshield and front side windows. It all works well to create a very quiet cabin.
The trunk volume is 15 cubic feet, a good size, although a bit smaller than the Toyota Avalon.
The Buick LaCrosse takes its powertrain from the Cadillac XT5. With 310 horsepower, 282 pound-feet of torque, and 3600 pounds to move, it accelerates quite smartly. The 8-speed automatic transmission shifts slick, although the electronic gear lever can be awkward.
Less weight and more power makes the LaCrosse a better car to five. There’s also that stiffer structure to improve handling. There’s also a new five-link independent rear suspension that makes the ride smoother and cornering more confident, compared to the previous four-link. The LaCrosse is nimbler than it used to be, and it was nimble before, with light and accurate steering. It’s no sports sedan, but it’s more poised than might be expected from a big sedan. Ride quality is much better than that of the first-generation LaCrosse.
Base and Preferred models use a MacPherson strut front suspension and 18-inch wheels, while Essence and Premium models take GM’s HiPer strut front suspension, two-mode adaptive dampers, and 20-inch wheels. The HiPer strut suspension reduces torque steer and increases grip, while the larger wheels might stiffen the ride because the sidewalls are shorter, but that’s what the adaptive dampers are supposed to prevent. Since there’s very little torque steer anyhow, we still see the Base or Preferred model as a better value. Using sport mode for the adaptive dampers tightens the ride and steering a bit, but not enough to inhibit the way the LaCrosse can be hustled down a winding road.
Overall, the Buick LaCrosse is a pleasant, enjoyable car to drive and spend time in. A Cadillac powertrain for less-than Cadillac price, stylish looks translated from a popular concept, luxury features, and handling that smacks the rivals. The base model is a very nice car and represents an excellent value.
Sam Moses wrote this review, with staff reports by The Car Connection.