Full-size American cruiser aims high
Buick is a brand that straddles the line between luxury and mainstream in North America, but it aspires to move up the ladder. Last year, the brand launched its Avenir line, a luxury-oriented trim with unique interiors and exterior design cues. The Enclave was the first to feature an Avenir variant, and for 2018 Buick has added the LaCrosse Avenir. But should you consider it over a Kia Cadenza and Toyota Avalon, or even the Lexus ES? We’ve driven a front-drive LaCrosse Avenir to answer that question.
At the track, the 2018 LaCrosse Avenir hit 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 14.2 seconds at 99.7 mph (160 km/h). Road test editor Chris Walton was impressed with the car’s quick acceleration and lack of torque steer, and he appreciated the nine-speed automatic’s quick shifts and well-spaced ratios. Stopping from 60 mph took 123 feet; Walton noted that the brakes had good fade resistance, but the tires screeched, and there was kickback and vibration coming from the pedal.
The 2018 LaCrosse Avenir finished the figure eight in 26.4 seconds with an average of 0.68 g, and it produced 0.84 g of lateral acceleration on the skidpad. Testing director and figure-eight guru Kim Reynolds noted that the car’s suspension was on the soft side. He also noted that the LaCrosse understeered too much when pushed, and he felt that the power was like an on/off switch, especially through corners.
As we’ve learned from track testing, the 2018 Buick LaCrosse Avenir is not a sport sedan. It is, however, a competent highway cruiser. It rides comfortably and absorbs road imperfections well, so the driver and passengers are isolated from the outside world. Throw the car around on a winding road, and you’ll find that it’s completely out of its element as it plows through corners and gives you a lot of understeer. The steering further cements the LaCrosse’s status as a highway cruiser; it’s light and not very communicative.
Torque steer is mitigated thanks to GM’s HiPer Strut front suspension, which also keeps the cabin isolated from the road. Things get floaty over bumps, but it never gets to the point where you feel like you’re bouncing from one cloud to another. Active dampers are available via the Dynamic Drive package, which also adds 20-inch alloy wheels and a Sport mode. That should minimize the floatiness, but the larger wheels could hurt the LaCrosse’s ride quality.
GM’s 3.6-liter V-6 produces 310 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque in the 2018 LaCrosse. That’s more than enough for passing slower traffic and climbing up grades. The nine-speed automatic is a peach; it shifts smoothly and willingly drops a gear or three when needed. You can shift manually, but it’s best to leave it to its own devices, as the paddles are slow to respond. Our friends at EQUA Real MPG were able to put the 2018 LaCrosse Avenir through its fuel economy testing regiment, where it yielded 19.5/31.8 mpg (12.1/7.4 L/100km) city/highway, which is slightly worse than the EPA’s city rating (21 mpg (11.2 L/100km)) but better than the EPA highway rating (30 mpg (7.8 L/100km)).
Despite it being a luxury-oriented large sedan, the 2018 Buick LaCrosse Avenir barely improves over the ride quality of some mainstream large sedans. The Kia Cadenza’s ride is almost as plush but is less floaty, and the XLE and Limited trims of the 2019 Toyota Avalon are about on par with if not better than the Buick’s. Where LaCrosse sets itself apart is in quietness. Road, powertrain, and wind noise are minimal, making the car feel like a bank vault with wheels on smooth roads.
Build quality is good, but there’s room for improvement, especially considering that the 2018 LaCrosse Avenir is aimed at enticing buyers away from established luxury brands. Plastics used throughout the cabin are consistent, armrests are padded, and everything within touching distance feels nice. However, the quality isn’t up to same standard as vehicles from well-known luxury marques and even certain mainstream brands’ luxury-oriented offerings. Avenir models get a glossy, golden-tinted wood trim that makes the interior look more upscale; however, certain pieces, such as the one above the air vent to the left of the driver, weren’t aligned properly, so you could see through the gap.
As a big sedan, the LaCrosse Avenir is great a carrying people around. Rear seat accommodations are spacious for three even on a long drive. The 15-cubic-foot trunk is shaped for maximum usability, and it’s expandable via the standard 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Front seats have plenty of adjustability for both passenger and driver but don’t have much side bolstering and thigh support. Avenir models come standard with heated, ventilated, and massaging front seats that are sure to keep you pampered when you’re on the road. Visibility is good except out of the rear window, which is narrow and can make maneuvering into a tight parking spot tricky.
The infotainment system on the 2018 LaCrosse Avenir is user-friendly and doesn’t have a significant learning curve thanks to the responsive 8.0-inch touchscreen. Navigation is standard on the Avenir trim, but the graphics could use an update. Voice commands are intuitive and don’t require super-specific phrases. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are integrated well, so you can have Google or Siri take over all multimedia functions. Climate controls remain mostly hard buttons, but certain functions such as air circulation and direction are only accessible via the touchscreen. An 11-speaker Bose audio system is standard on the 2018 LaCrosse Avenir, and it sounds crisp and clear; however, it’s not as refined as Harman audio systems found in some of its competitors, including the Lexus ES, Toyota Avalon, and Kia Cadenza.
The LaCrosse Avenir is distinguished from the standard car with its generous chrome exterior accents and a unique grille with a mesh pattern and wings extending from the tri-shield badge. It has special wheel designs with a Pearl Nickel finish on the standard 19-inch alloy wheels or optional Midnight Silver-finished 20-inch alloy wheels. Inside, there’s optional Chestnut brown and black two-tone leather upholstery, contrast stitching, and metal sill plates with Avenir script on it. The Avenir trim builds on the Premium grade with additional features such as a large sunroof, rear cross-traffic alert, and a blind-spot warning system. Our tester came with the Driver Confidence package No. 2, which adds automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and automatic parking assist.
At $47,480 USD, our tester isn’t that much more than a loaded mainstream full-size sedan and is priced closely to a Lexus ES 350 with similar equipment. The 2018 Buick LaCrosse Avenir sets itself apart with its user-friendly multimedia system, a quiet cabin, spacious seating, and a powerful yet refined V-6 engine. It cruises effortlessly on the highway and keeps occupants isolated from the world around them. Sadly, the lack of attention to detail in the interior means it falls short of being a full-fledged luxury car, and it doesn’t have the level of refinement expected of one.
|2018 Buick LaCrosse Avenir|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$47,480|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||3.6L/310-hp/268-lb-ft* DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,681 lb (59/41%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||197.5 x 73.5 x 57.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.6 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.2 sec @ 99.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||123 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.84 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.4 sec @ 0.68 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||19.5/31.8/23.6 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||21/30/24 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||160/112 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.80 lb/mile|