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
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.
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.
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 email@example.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.