2015 Buick LaCrosse - Driven

As the largest sedan that Buick sells as of 2014, the LaCrosse has a very important role to fill. Buick has long been a brand associated with affordable luxury and refinement. If the biggest and best sedan it makes can’t make par, there is very little hope for the brand as a whole. When 2014 rolled around, Buick revealed a full-model refresh that had a more modern exterior design and improved interior ergonomics. Now for 2015, Buick looks to build on that platform by enhancing the list of available standard technology and features.

Is the new exterior design and equipment enough to help this Buick stay competitive? Has America finally produced a car that is good enough to go toe-to-toe with the best that Japan has to offer and win? With powerful V-6 engines abd optional AWD, Buick is swinging for the fences with this car.

I took delivery of a top-level 2015 Buick LaCrosse to give it a full run for its money. I think you may be surprised to find out what I thought.

Read on to learn more about the 2015 Buick LaCrosse

Exterior

Buick LaCrosse - Driven
Buick LaCrosse - Driven
Buick LaCrosse - Driven

If you can avoid the glare from all the shiny bits, the overall shape of the LaCrosse is actually quite attractive.

The exterior of the LaCrosse is an odd thing. I know I am not the target market for this car, but I have a really hard time liking the outlandish and brash façade. The grille is a dark chrome, and it is incredibly massive. The headlamps are far too chintzy and the wheels are simply gargantuan. Yes, the LaCrosse’s typical buyer is looking for something that displays the idea of wealth and luxury, so the car is correct for the market, but I don’t enjoy it.

If you can avoid the glare from all the shiny bits, the overall shape of the LaCrosse is actually quite attractive. It’s a simple, rounded, three-box shape with a traditional roofline, but it has some very attractive sculpting lines down the side to do much to spruce up the overall look. The sharp kick up right at the rear fender adds a touch of aggressiveness to the outside.

I do wish there was a bit less visual bling, and I hate to see what it costs to replace the rubber on those 20-inch alloys, but there are uglier cars out there. The optional white paint does look pretty great though.

If you are a fan of details, make sure to look closely at the outside of the LaCrosse. Aside from subtle homages to the companies past like the triple vent portals on the hood, there is also a striking blue detail in the HID assemblies that feature a Buick Logo.

Interior

Buick LaCrosse - Driven
Buick LaCrosse - Driven
Buick LaCrosse - Driven

The center console has also been lowered, again helping to make the cabin feel much more open.

I spent a fair bit of time in the previous Buick LaCrosse and thought it was a great car, but I had issues with the interior design. The dual cockpit design was very interesting, but the dash was so high and so close to the seats that it felt very claustrophobic. There was also very little in the way of interior storage space. As you know, I like to take long trips and having a place to stash snacks, beverages, and more is essential.

I am happy to report that the redesign has fixed all of these issues. The dash itself sites lower and farther towards the nose than before, and it appears to have some deeper sculpting as well. The center console has also been lowered, again helping to make the cabin feel much more open. There are now many more places to store things as well. The door pockets are bigger, the glove box seems larger, and the storage cubby in the center console seems to have grown by what feels like acres.

It took a car that was built to be comfy over long trips, and made it practical enough to make those long hauls.

Most of the materials used inside are also top notch. The dash, door panels and center console are all covered in large swathes of wood that have a dark black finish. Trimming out the wood is a single elegant strip of brushed metal that adds a surprisingly affective bit of flair to the cockpit. Much of what isn’t covered in wood or metal is covered in soft, black cow hide. All of that hide is held together with delicate strands of contrasting silver thread. The effect is much more luxurious than I expected from an “affordable” luxury car.

The front seats themselves are both heated and cooled and thanks to an entire host of adjustments, it is easy to find the right seating position. Even the front seat headrests have four directions of adjustment.

Interior options are actually surprisingly sparse considering the level of luxury inside. The only no gadget based addition I have is the $1,200 power moonroof with second row skylight. It adds a lot of light to the cabin, and I recommend ticking that box on the option sheet.

Technology

Buick LaCrosse - Driven
Buick LaCrosse - Driven
Buick LaCrosse - Driven

You can see in the graphs that the iPhone had higher peak speeds, but that speed fluctuated wildly.

One of the biggest additions to the 2015 year LaCrosse is 4G, in-car WiFi through OnStar. This is not an option either, it is standard on every single 2015 LaCrosse. The system is powered by Verizon, and it operates at some pretty incredible speeds. I ran some comparisons tests against my AT&T iPhone 5S and while it was not quite as fast as my iPhone, it was far more stable.

You can see in the graphs that the iPhone had higher peak speeds, but that speed fluctuated wildly. The Buick shot to a high speed and held there perfectly. I was able to use the system to make video calls to my friends and family with perfect clarity. Our own Mark McNabb said I looked better than I usually do making the video calls on my home network.

Buick LaCrosse - Driven

Beyond the 4G, my test car was also fitted with other fancy gadgets like a heads-up display, adaptive cruise control, lane departure, and the Buick IntelliLink system.

There is one downfall to the cool heads-up system. I found that polarized sunglasses drastically reduce the ability to see it. I had to turn the brightness all the way to maximum, and it was still barely visible through my glasses.

The center gauge cluster has been completely revamped as well, and now falls into the modern GM family with two small gauges that flank a very large, configurable LCD. The LCD can be altered to show lots of pertinent information including navigation, audio and more.

Drivetrain

Buick LaCrosse - Driven

Under the hood of the LaCrosse is GM’s ubiquitous, 3.6-liter V-6. This all-aluminum, dual-overhead cam engine features direct injection and rather high 11.5-to-1 compression ratio. The result is 304 horsepower and 264 pound-feet of twist. To send that power out to the wheels, you have a six-speed Hydra-Matic 6T70 automatic transmission. While there is an AWD model available, our tester only sends grunt to the front wheels.

Fuel economy for the LaCrosse is rated at 18 city and 28 highway with a combined rating of 21 mpg. During our time with the car, we only managed a bit over 26 mpg with driving time being almost exclusively highway. Not terrible, but far from exemplary.

Chassis and Brakes

Buick LaCrosse - Driven

The suspension setup of the Buick Lacrosse is actually quite sophisticated. Up front you will find a full HiPer Strut coil-over system with twin-tube dampers that feature gas-charge valving. Out back you will find an H-arm arrangement. Sin Sin ce our car has the V-6 engine and the 20-inch alloy wheels, we also have real time damping and Sport Mode Selectivity.

Braking duties are handled by a quartet of discs that are about each 12.5 inches in diameter (12.6 up front; 12.4 in the rear).

Pricing

Buick LaCrosse - Driven

The price for a base level four-cylinder LaCrosse is $33,635. Our car is a Premium 2 trim model, so the base for us was $39,775. Our options include the Driver Confidence Package 1 that added forward collision alert, lane departure warning, side blind zone alerts, HID headlamps, fog lights, and the heads up display for a total price of $2,125. We also have the Driver Confidence Package 2 that added the Adaptive cruise control and automatic front braking system that cost another $1,245. Add in the $1,195 for the sunroof package, $995 for that fancy White Frost Tricoat paint and a $995 destination fee and the total price for our decked out tester comes to $46,240. Not exactly a bargain bin car.

Driving impressions

Buick LaCrosse - Driven

IF you are a fan of a shadier interior, with the press of a button you can have a cloth sun-shade cover the sunroof.

Driving the Buick LaCrosse is a lot like you would expect it to be. The car is well composed over rough pavement, extremely quiet, and the seats are quite comfortable. Even at full highway speed, the car remains impeccably quiet; a cocoon of serenity from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Thanks to the improved cabin design I felt much more comfortable in the car. The view forward is large and open, and thanks to the large mounts of glass in every direction including upwards, there was plenty of natural light bathing the cockpit. If you are a fan of a shadier interior, with the press of a button you can have a cloth sun-shade cover the sunroof. If that is still not enough, you can shade rear passengers with the standard power rear-sunshade as well.

While the ride may be composed over broken highway roads, once things turn twisty the Buick is far less impressive. Despite the fancy HiPer Strut suspension, the LaCrosse felt wayward and ungainly when pushed hard. If you ever venture to turn off the traction control in search of more fun, you will be met with nothing but relentless understeer in most every corner. It becomes incredibly clear very quickly that this car was designed with luxury placed well ahead of performance.

Buick LaCrosse - Driven

That is a shame too as the 3.6-liter V-6 is a willing engine, and when in sport mode the six-speed auto is quick to downshift and when using manual gear mode you can hold each cog until the tach is bouncing off the rev-limiter. It is easy to see why GM uses this same engine in both the Cadillac Cadillac CTS and ATS ATS . When not trying to set new 0-to-60 speed records, the engine is perfectly smooth and refined with no sign of harshness in the feel or exhaust note.

When compared to some of its potential rivals, I would say the LaCrosse falls somewhere between a Lexus and an Infiniti Infiniti on the Japanese side of the market. It has all that comfort of a Lexus with similar handling qualities, but it has more power and speed like what Infiniti so proudly offers.

I can’t say I would purposely seek out and buy a LaCrosse, but if I was given the keys to one, I wouldn’t immediately just sell it off for a different toy.

Competition

Lexus ES350

Lexus ES 350 - Driven

The Lexus ES seems like the most direct competitor to the Buick LaCrosse. Both are front wheel drive cars with V-6 engines and a design that is focused on comfort and refinement over performance. This is most apparent when it comes to the Lexus, as its 3.5-liter engine only produces 268 horsepower, almost 15-percent less than the Buick manages.

That lack of power does pay dividends elsewhere though as the Lexus ES 350 has fuel economy ratings from the EPA of 21 city, 31 highway and 24 combined. All three of those numbers are a fair bit higher than the Buick.

In the realm of cost, the Lexus does look to take home top honors. A relatively similarly equipped Lexus Lexus ES is about a grand cheaper than our Buick. If you skip the shiny paint on our tester, the prices fall almost dead even.

Infiniti Q50 Premium

Infiniti Q50

The Infiniti Q50 fills out the other end of the spectrum against the Buick LaCrosse. The Lexus is most about comfort and wafting to the store whereas the Q50 is a little more thunder and rock and roll. The Q50 is still only powered by a V-6 like the Buick, but with 328 horsepower it is a bit quicker. The Q50 also boasts something that neither the Buick or the Lexus can; rear wheel drive.

The addition of RWD can make some people nervous but it has some distinct advantages in a class like this. For starters, by moving to a RWD platform, the Q50 is able to cut overall length b nearly 10-inches compared to the Buick, but it actually has a slightly longer wheelbase, meaning similar interior volumes.

The Infiniti also offers some cool features that the LaCrosse doesn’t offer like the AroundView monitor and LED headlamps. All that performance and gadgetry does come at a cost though. To get a car that is close in equipment levels to our tester, you will spend about $50,000 for a Q50 Premium with a few options. That means more than $5,000 more. I am not sure if enough buyers are willing to drop that much money for the small increase in speed and fun.

I mean, I would, but I am not most people.

Conclusion

Buick LaCrosse - Driven

The Buick LaCrosse is much like any good sequel. It has taken what problems its predecessor possessed and improved upon them in various ways. The new car is more refined, more spacious and even nicer to spend time in than the old car. Despite these improvements for the better, the car is still not a great performer in regards to speed or handling dynamism.

The car is a great all-round traveling companion and I would likely take one over the Lexus ES, but it doesn’t have the crispness or excitement that I look for in a car. It is a good car for many, but it lacks that special something I want and desire.

LOVE IT
  • Great comfort and refinement on even the roughest roads
  • 4G connectivity works incredibly well
  • Powerful and willing V-6 engine
LEAVE IT
  • Looks aren’t stellar
  • Handling is less than inspiring
  • New tires for those 20-inch wheels will be very expensive

What is your take?

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