Redesigned Luxury Sedans Prepare to Challenge the Refreshed Lexus ES
The latest Lexus ES luxury sedan challengers are here, and they look good. The 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show hosted the debuts of the redesigned 2017 Buick LaCrosse and refreshed 2017 Lincoln MKZ, two front- and all-wheel-drive four-doors that have been trying to encroach on the ES’ territory for years. We took a look at the newly revealed American premium sedans to get a better idea of what’s in store for buyers who venture beyond the doors of a Lexus dealership.
Keep reading for more on what we’ve learned about the 2017 LaCrosse and 2017 MKZ, plus a few auto-show-floor impressions.
It Makes HOW MUCH Horsepower?
The Lincoln MKZ has offered more power than the Lexus ES since the 2013 model year, but even the pre-2017 model with a 300-hp 3.7-liter V-6 couldn’t outrun the 268-hp Lexus ES. That will almost certainly change when the all-wheel-drive 2017 MKZ debuts with 400 hp and 400 lb-ft from a newly available turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 (or 350 hp with front-wheel drive). No matter how many people go for the 400-hp engine, the bragging rights of being able to say the car offers a 400-hp powerplant should help increase the MKZ’s prestige, even if by just a little bit.
We tested a 2014 MKZ 3.7 AWD hitting 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, compared to a much lighter front-drive 2013 Lexus ES 350‘s 6.0-second time. A front-drive 2014 Buick LaCrosse with a 304-hp 3.6-liter V-6 finished the 0-60 mph sprint in 6.6 seconds. The 2017 LaCrosse is powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 with an estimated 305 hp, but the LaCrosse is lighter than its predecessor, so it may be a tad quicker than the 2014 model we tested.
Sit Down and Have a Massage
The Buick and Lincoln are offered with a cool feature that’s no longer reserved for super-luxury sedans: a massaging seat function. The systems might not offer a hot-stone massage with multiple modes like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but even the most basic of systems can be relaxing after a long day at work as you make your way home through stop-and-go traffic.
Keep Your Head Up
The 2017 Buick LaCrosse offers a head-up display that can show navigation, audio, safety-tech, and speed info — a useful feature.
The Grilles: Take a Closer Look
The grilles of both American sedans are striking, but for different reasons. The 2017 LaCrosse’s tri-shield insignia is now presented in color, a change a Buick representative tells us brings the American lineup in line with the Chinese cars. Expect a color tri-shield insignia to spread across the American Buick lineup by 2018. The 2017 Lincoln MKZ debuts with a grille whose detailing rewards a closer look — the shape of the chrome detailing matches that of the Lincoln emblem.
The Lincoln and the Buick both offer automatic parking features that can control the steering wheel to assist with parallel or perpendicular spots. These types of technologies are making the transition from bragging to your friends to an actually useful feature. In low-traffic situations, the tech can actually be helpful.
What Lexus Can’t Touch About Both Sedans
After walking around the 2017 Buick LaCrosse and 2017 Lincoln MKZ, one thing became clear: They’re more beautiful than the Lexus. The two American sedans have distinctive styling and are among the most attractive four-doors available below $50,000 USD. With the new spindle grille, the Lexus is still no wallflower, but the other two cars make a bolder statement.
Where the Lexus ES does make a good case for itself is with interior space. The Lexus roughly matches the new Buick in various interior space measurements, and in person, I found the 2017 LaCrosse’s cabin to be spacious. Like the MKZ, the LaCrosse has an extra storage area below what both automakers call a floating center stack. The MKZ isn’t quite as big inside, but the loaded 400-hp show-floor model was equipped with fancy perforated leather seats that, like the car’s grille, echo the Lincoln insignia. It’s a look you’ll either love or think is way over the top.
What About Mileage?
The Lincoln MKZ’s available 400-hp engine is a headline-grabber, but the automaker will offer the hybrid for those who care far more about mileage and overall driving range than how quickly you can jump from stoplight to stoplight. The Lexus also offers a hybrid, but at least for now, the 2017 LaCrosse makes do with its 306-hp 3.6-liter V-6 with front- and all-wheel drive — with an eight-speed automatic, cylinder deactivation, and engine stop-start tech. When asked about the possibility of a more efficient engine in the LaCrosse’s future (the outgoing model offered a low-volume four-cylinder), a Buick representative was noncommittal, but we’d guess a hybrid could be in the car’s future. What do you think, should the 2017 LaCrosse add another engine option?
The Sales Picture
The Lexus ES not only dominates this class, it’s also the best-selling Lexus-branded sedan today — yes, more than the rear-drive-based IS and GS. Through the first 10 months of 2015, the ES contributed 52,388 sales to the brand’s bottom line (down 11.0 percent), compared to the Buick LaCrosse’s 35,526 units (down 14.6 percent), and the Lincoln MKZ’s 25,369 units (down 13.3 percent).