New Buick La Crosse a real head turner

The Daily Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By MAL­COLM GUNN

You might not have heard much about the 2017 Buick LaCrosse, but that doesn’t mean the big sedan shouldn’t be given its due as a mod­ern flag­ship for the coun­try-club set or for limou­sine fleets.

Gen­eral Mo­tors’ mid-range divi­sion — nested be­tween Chevro­let and Cadil­lac — has been do­ing well with its trio of util­ity ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing the big-and-tall En­clave, the com­pact En­core and the re­cently re­leased mid-size En­vi­sion. Still, a re­design of the pre­vi­ous sev­enyear-old LaCrosse shows that Buick hasn’t aban­doned its full-size-sedan roots.

The LaCrosse has long been pop­u­lar with, shall we say, more ex­pe­ri­enced buy­ers. They and in­creas­ing num­bers of more youth­ful cus­tomers have a pen­chant for spa­cious, well-ap­pointed cars with whis­per-quiet in­te­ri­ors and cav­ernous trunks.

Out­wardly, the new car makes its pre­de­ces­sor, as well as oth­ers in the LaCrosse’s league, ap­pear some­what dated. Buick’s iconic water­fall grille that first ap­peared in 1942 is still some­what ev­i­dent, but has been sig­nif­i­cantly toned down. (The same goes for the 2017 En­core com­pact wagon.) The car’s rear fend­ers ap­pear sim­i­lar to those of the Chevro­let Im­pala, which isn’t sur­pris­ing, as both sedans share the same ba­sic ar­chi­tec­ture. Only the su­per­flu­ous tail­light trim seems out of place on an other­wise neatly ex­e­cuted de­sign.

Like­wise, the in­te­rior presents a note of class and is far re­moved from the bench-seat Buicks of old. In fact, the ex­tra-wide floor con­sole that

houses the neat pis­tol-grip shifter places the driver and front pas­sen­ger about as far apart as you can get, although both have a clear view of the avail­able king-size touch-screen.

The fin­ished prod­uct is about the same size as the 2016 LaCrosse, although a slight in­crease in width plus a five-cen­time­tre bump in dis­tance be­tween the front and rear wheels gives rear-seat rid­ers a bit more leg and el­bow­room.

The LaCrosse has dropped its 182-horse­power four-cylin­der base en­gine that was as­sisted by an elec­tric mo­tor. That leaves an up­dated 3.6litre V-6 that makes 310 horse­power and 282 pound-feet of torque.

Im­prove­ments to this en­gine in­clude cylin­der de­ac­ti­va­tion that shuts off two of the six pis­tons un­der light-load con­di­tions. Au­to­matic stop­start switches off the V-6 when the LaCrosse is at rest for brief pe­ri­ods.

An eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion takes care of the shift­ing du­ties and di­rects torque to the front, or op­tion­ally, all four wheels.

The pow­er­train im­prove­ments and an es­ti­mated 135-kilo­gram re­duc­tion in base weight have helped im­prove V-6 fuel econ­omy to 11.2 l/100 km in the city and 7.5 on the high­way (pre­vi­ously 13.7/8.6).

LaCrosse ac­qui­si­tion re­quires $37,200 for the base model, in­clud­ing des­ti­na­tion charges. It comes with all the ba­sics plus power-ad­justable front seats, 20-cen­time­tre touch-screen, 18-inch wheels and an eight-speaker au­dio sys­tem.

Mov­ing up to the Pre­ferred trim adds a power tilt and tele­scop­ing steer­ing wheel, fancier wheels and other tid­bits, while the Essence trim gets you leather seat cov­er­ings (heated and with mem­ory set­tings in front) and ar­tic­u­lated head­lamps that pivot in the di­rec­tion of the turn.

The top-end LaCrosse Pre­mium comes loaded with a mas­sage fea­ture for the front seats and a head-up dis­play with key oper­a­tional data pro­jected onto the wind­shield. There’s also a full­suite of crash-avoid­ing ac­tive-safety tech­nol­ogy, such as emer­gency brak­ing and lane-keep­ing as­sist. Or­der­ing the Pre­mium is the only way to add all-wheel-drive plus Buick’s Dy­namic Drive Pack­age, which, ac­cord­ing to Buick, el­e­vates the LaCrosse to a point where it is able to keep up with typ­i­cal full-size Euro­pean sedans.

That last point might not ap­peal to Buick cus­tomers, but oth­ers will be pleased to know that the LaCrosse can per­form as smoothly as it looks.

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