published Saturday, October 19th, 2013

Test Drive: Smitten by Buick's LaCrosse Sedan

2014 Buick LaCrosse
2014 Buick LaCrosse
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

FAST FACTS

Model: 2014 Buick LaCrosse Premium

Exterior color: White diamond tricoat

Interior color: Light neutral leather, with Cocoa dash accents

Engine: 3.6-liter, V-6

Horsepower: 303

Transmission: six-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 28 mpg highway, 18 mpg city

Dealer: Integrity Buick

Price (as tested): $46,340

Buick's full-size LaCrosse sedan has been significantly upgraded for 2014, and now is a legitimate contender in the mid-size luxury class.

Ever since I first laid eyes on the LaCrosse in 2009, I've thought it is a perfect example of uninterrupted exterior lines. It also has a daring interior that leaves a lasting impression.

Integrity Buick General Sales Manager Bryan House says he believes the new LaCrosse has what it takes to lure some Lexus buyers to GM -- and I agree.

In base trim, the LaCrosse starts at $34,060, about $3,500 less than the base Lexus ES. Our top-of-the-line LaCrosse Premium test car is garnished with goodies and tops out at $46,340, including about $6,000 worth of options.

STYLING AND FEATURES

Although the LaCrosse shares a platform with the highly-regarded new Chevrolet Impala, the body work is much more buttoned-down.

A large waterfall grille gives the LaCrosse presence and a visual focal point. New, shapelier headlight treatments -- featuring LED running lights -- also give the front end more personality. LED tail-lights wrap the rear corners to add to the car's sculpted look.

A new, wider chrome accent on the trunk lid is a handsome addition for 2014, as is an integrated rear spoiler. Our test car came with GM's luminescent White Diamond Tri-coat paint, another quality note.

Inside, the cabin features ambient blue lighting and warm tones such as the beige leather seats and cocoa-colored dash and door treatments in our test car. The dash wraps around the front seats, but the center stack and touch-screen angle away from occupants to open things up. GM has consolidated buttons and switch gear to make the instrument panel more intuitive. Behind the steering wheel, an 8-inch digital instrument cluster can shuffle functions to your tastes.

Our test car also features remote keyless entry, gorgeous 18-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels, 8-way power seats, navigation and Buick's Intellilink infotainment system (for hands-free phone calls and satellite radio).

Our test car also has several impressive safety features such as a lane-integrity system that vibrates your seat if you drift across a highway stripe without signaling.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

LaCrosse buyers have two engine options. The mild-hybrid eAssist option features a gas-sipping 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a small electric motor. And there's a more muscular 3.6-liter V-6 that tops 300 horsepower.

Our test car comes equipped with the bigger, V-6 motor, which seems a better fit for this car size (unless fuel economy is your first priority). On a spirited test drive on the back roads of Hamilton County, the LaCrosse proved to be nimble and extremely quiet, even on irregular pavement.

BOTTOM LINE

About once a year I develop a crush on a car. At the moment I have an eye for the LaCrosse. Sometimes a car's design meshes so perfectly with your sense of style that it's hard to explain why. (Maybe Buick studied the neuroscience of the 55-year-old male brain and built in secret styling cues.)

Anyway, I would encourage shoppers in this segment to view the LaCrosse in person. You might just be smitten, too.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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