Lighter LaCrosse (Mostly) Outperforms Last-Gen Model
Although they don’t enjoy the market dominance they once did, large sedans are far from dead. Buick only makes one big sedan these days, but for many, it remains the brand’s calling card. Today’s Buick might sell more Encore cute utes, but the 2017 LaCrosse is the brand’s raison d’etre.
Given its flagship status and our infatuation with the last-generation LaCrosse, we had high expectations for the new model. Although we found quite a lot to like about this big Buick, we were disappointed to find many small details had been overlooked in the quest to get the fundamentals perfect.
Our biggest beef was with the interior. It looks very nice, until you get up close. Numerous editors complained about cheap materials on the dashboard and center console. It also took a lot of heat for fake wood that wouldn’t fool a toddler and fake stitching on the dash top that isn’t even carried around the corners, much less actually joining anything. The rubberlike buttons were picked on, too. Several editors frowned at the old monochrome logo on the drab steering wheel because there’s also a modern colorized badge on the nose. The BMW knock-off shifter isn’t very intuitive, but that can’t be blamed on Buick—it’s showing up in a lot of GM products.
We were also slightly let down by Buick’s trademark QuietTuning, which kept the cabin whisper-quiet on the highway but seemed to give up on bad pavement. The rear seat, although praised for its leg, hip, and shoulder room, also lost a noticeable inch of headroom.
The good news is there’s some payback. The new Epsilon II chassis is an excellent one, and the LaCrosse actually handles very nicely. For a big sedan like this, it’s downright sporty if you drive it hard enough. It understeers at the limit, but that limit is much higher than you might expect, and the stability control intervenes quite stealthily. Not that any of this matters to Buick customers, of course.
The performance improvements are quantifiable, too. Our all-wheel-drive tester handily outperformed a 2014 LaCrosse we tested across the board. The new chassis sheds nearly 300 pounds (136.1 kg) as advertised, and that’s comparing a new all-wheel-drive car to an old front-driver. Paired with a new eight-speed automatic, the 2017 LaCrosse takes 0.5 second out of the old car’s 0–60 time by getting there from a stop in 6.1 seconds. In the quarter mile, 0.5 second disappears, as well. The new car needs just 14.6 seconds at 97.9 mph (157.6 km/h).
It isn’t just straight-line speed, either. Although skidpad performance improves by just 0.01 average g to 0.84, the new LaCrosse drops 0.3 second off the old figure-eight time, lapping in 26.8 seconds at 0.66 average g. Credit the chassis and the new transmission, mostly, as the updated 3.6-liter V-6 makes only an additional 6 horsepower and 18 extra lb-ft of torque.
The only anomaly in our testing was in braking. Despite the weight loss, the new car needed an extra 10 feet to stop from 60 mph. We suspect this is related to tire choice, as average g didn’t increase much on the skidpad and didn’t change on the figure eight. With this chassis, even better performance might be just a tire upgrade away.
There are other bright spots, as well. An EPA-estimated 21/31/25 mpg (11.2/7.6/9.4 L/100km) city/highway/combined (FWD) and 20/29/23 (AWD) is good for such a big car. It’s also a good-looking car, inside and out, and it stands out as such in its segment. The long features list is also appealing and includes a standard touchscreen information and entertainment system, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot, power seats, keyless entry, and a backup camera.
It does come at a price. Although stripper LaCrosses start just under $33,000 USD, our loaded Premium was $48,495 USD, which is in full luxury car territory. A loaded Kia Cadenza, by way of comparison, rings up several thousand dollars cheaper.
The new Buick LaCrosse is fundamentally a good car and a strong update from the previous model. It’s a letdown, unfortunately, due to a failure to sweat the small details, and that’s a pity because it’s so close to being a home run. It’s a good car, but we’ve come to expect better from Buick. Thankfully, it’s nothing Buick can’t fix easily enough, but it’s a fix we’ll be waiting a few years for, as the car is brand spanking new.
|2017 Buick LaCrosse (Premium)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$48,495|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||3.6L/310-hp/282-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,732 lb (59/41%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||197.5 x 73.5 x 57.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.6 sec @ 97.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||123 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.84 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.8 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||18.7/30.7/22.7 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||21/31/25 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||160/109 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.79 lb/mile|