Biggest Buick Gets a Re-Do

2014 Buick LaCrosse.

2014 Buick LaCrosse.

In the decades following World War II, there has pretty much always been a large Buick to lead the GM brand. In the 1950s it was the Roadmaster, followed by the Electra for several decades, and various other names like Park Avenue, and even Roadmaster again in the 1990s.

With General Motors on a real roll these days, the Buick brand has been treated to a slew of new offerings. The Regal and Verano are trim, European-inspired sedans with dynamic driving characteristics and great style, and the Encore is a junior-size crossover SUV with lots of upscale features.

For 2014, the full-size LaCrosse has gotten a pretty thorough makeover in order to keep it fresh and interesting. For buyers looking for luxury with only a bit of flash, the LaCrosse is just the ticket. And beyond being just attractive and roomy, it’s a very competent car on the road.

In the current GM chassis architecture, the LaCrosse shares its platform with the Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala. And it sits right between those other two in many ways, not the least of which is price. It also carries on the Buick tradition of being a car for people who might have financial security, but don’t want to show off too much in something like a Cadillac.

It wasn’t all that long ago that when General Motors produced different car models with a similar structure (sometimes referred to as “badge engineering”), it wasn’t too hard to see that they were merely re-skinning one vehicle several ways to create variations for different dealerships. With the big GM cars today, that’s absolutely not the case.

Drive and Impala, XTS and LaCrosse back-to-back, and you’d be hard pressed to argue that they feel like the same car at all. That’s especially true of the interiors, where each General Motors brand has gotten its own signature design. The LaCrosse also gets it own distinct chassis settings.

Probably the first thing you notice about this car is its styling, which follows up on the previous generation LaCrosse by having a bit of a “Lexus look.” Just a few splashes of chrome here and there, and nicely flowing body panels that whisper elegance.

With the car’s update for 2014, new safety technologies have been added (as either standard or optional), as buyers of premium luxury cars obviously want the latest in things that will keep them and their passengers alive and well. Forward collision alert, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert are just part of Buick’s “Driver Confidence” package. A second upgrade package even includes adaptive cruise control and a seat cushion that vibrates as part of the alerts.

If safety sells in the premium car arena, so does quiet. Lots of engineering went into the LaCrosse to keep it serenely noise-free at all times. Things like laminated windshield and side glass and laminated steel panels help keep unwanted sounds out, along with a host of other things. The Buick folks have to kind of whisper this so as not to upset fellow GM people, but the LaCrosse is actually quieter inside than the more expensive Cadillac XTS.

For maximum fuel economy, Buick offers a mild hybrid system called eAssist that pairs a 2.4 liter four cylinder engine with a small electric motor and garners EPA fuel economy ratings of 25 city and 36 highway. But the choice for smooth power in this car is General Motors’ excellent 3.6 liter V6. The mpg numbers fall to 18 city and 28 highway (and a bit less with all wheel drive), but it makes the big 4-door really come alive. It’s still not a sports car, or even a sports sedan, but you can hustle the LaCrosse along pretty well if you’re so inclined.

Base price is $33,135, and that gets you a fair amount of standard luxury goodies. Stepping up through various packages adds leather seats, the additional safety gear, bigger wheels, and the V6 engine. I recently drove one that had pretty much everything thrown at it, and the bottom line price was just about $45,000.

And the tradition continues. You can get a big, plush Buick with all the trimmings and luxury, just as in decades past.

I’ll see you down the road.

Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ Twitter: @ABC7DaveKunz, Facebook: ABC7DaveKunz

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