The Buick LaCrosse is moving fast in its own reinvention, as a front-wheel-drive flagship four-door sedan. It was totally redesigned for 2017 (and well received).
The new 2018 LaCrosse eAssist uses a hybrid powertrain. The mild hybrid uses a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and one electric motor with a small lithium-ion battery pack. Unlike a full hybrid, for example the Toyota Avalon, the LaCrosse can’t run all-electric. LaCrosse eAssist is EPA-rated at 25/35 mpg City/Highway, or 29 mpg Combined.
The available 3.6-liter V6, meanwhile, gets a new 9-speed automatic transmission for 2018, replacing an 8-speed, and the availability of all-wheel drive has been expanded to two models.
LaCrosse isn’t a luxury car, it’s a premium American road car, but it’s good enough to make you wonder if a luxury car is worth it. In its third reborn generation, the Buick LaCrosse has established an identity. Its premium and near-luxury competitors fade into the crowd: Lexus ES 350, Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Acura TLX, Hyundai Azera. Another competitor, the Chrysler 300, also has an identity, as well as a face that stands out from the crowd.
The relatively long wheelbase of the LaCrosse gives it the stance of a rear-wheel-drive car, even though it is front-wheel drive. The V6 makes an impressive 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque. The engine was designed with Stop/Start technology, as opposed to that capability being added, and it’s almost invisible. The entry-level model looks and feels nearly as rich as the Premium, with convincing leatherette upholstery.
Fuel economy for the 2018 LaCrosse with the 3.6-liter V6 and new 9-speed transmission is rated at 21/30 mpg City/Highway, 24 mpg Combined. With all-wheel drive, it’s 20/29/23 mpg.
The 2018 Buick LaCrosse is available with a 2.5-liter engine with e-Assist ($30,490) or a 3.6-liter V6. Standard, Preferred, Essence, and Premium models are available. Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is available.
The base comes equipped with leatherette upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels, power front seats, eight-speaker audio system, 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and 10 airbags.
LaCrosse represents an icon from 1958. The ’58 LaCrosse marked the climax of chrome. Chrome peaked, in the grille and on the body, with the ’58 Buick. It may be a dubious distinction, to be known as the most heavily chrome-laden car in history, but it is a distinction in the history of style.
The current LaCrosse comes from the Avenir concept car that wowed the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It’s sleek and muscular, with character lines from its shoulders to haunches. The standard 18-inch wheels (two designs), HID headlamps and LED taillamps add to the appeal.
The current model doesn’t completely avoid chrome, but it’s a long way from overboard. The proud and daring waterfall grille is split by a small chrome bar. The chrome faux ports on the sides of the front fenders are an acceptable nod to nostalgia.
The Buick 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, although the padded armrest between the front seats is too high.
The leatherette trim on the seats feels like real leather, and the 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.
There’s an eight-inch touchscreen on the dash that is resistant to 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 five-seat sedan are good, but only two passengers will be comfortable in the rear. There isn’t enough room for that alleged fifth passenger; they might squeeze in, but not for long. The trunk is 15 cubic feet, a decent size, a bit smaller than the Toyota Avalon.
Buick calls its sound-deadening engineering Quiet Tuning. It uses the latest and most sound-absorbent materials, a 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 eAssist hybrid makes 194 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque.
The 3.6-liter V6 is used in many other GM models, especially Cadillacs and namely the XT5 crossover. With 310 horsepower, 282 pound-feet of torque, and a fit 3600 pounds to move, it accelerates smartly. And it handles well, after its 2017 redesign that made it lighter and stiffer, with a new five-link independent rear suspension that improved both cornering and ride.
The LaCrosse is nimble, with light and accurate steering. It’s no sports sedan, but it’s more poised than might be expected from a big sedan.
The 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. Using sport mode for the adaptive dampers tightens the ride and steering a bit.
Since there’s very little torque steer anyhow, we still see the base or Preferred model as a better value. It doesn’t need adaptive dampers to hustle down a winding road.
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 contributed to this review, with staff reports.