Toronto Star

LaCrosse takes aim at luxury market


LOS ANGELES— Buick was the brand that started GM and now the company returns the favour with an all-new 2017 LaCrosse that’s intended to move it up in the luxury segment.

So this mid-size sedan is now longer and wider than the previous generation but sheds about 135 kilograms, thanks to more high-strength steel and lightweigh­t materials.

The sweeping door and fender creases are sharper and, while body shops are going to have a tough time taking out any dents, they give the car a longer and leaner look.

I’m still not sure about the wing-style tail lights that flow into the trunk, but they match the bar on the handsome grille, which now features a historic version of Buick’s tri-colour shield logo.

The new 3.6-L V6 makes an estimated 305 horsepower and features cylinder deactivati­on for improved fuel economy. It’s mated to an eightspeed automatic and includes start/ stop that shuts off the engine at idle, then starts it again when you take your foot off the brake. The lights, climate control and other features continue to operate, of course.

The default is front-wheel drive, while an available new twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system splits power between the front and back wheels and then again between the two rear ones. GM says it’s more proactive than before, determinin­g where torque is needed before the tires start to slide.

Suspension options include front HiPer Struts, which improve handling and reduce torque steer, and electronic­ally-controlled continuous damping to smooth out the ride when work crews haven’t yet gotten to the potholes.

The interior now uses a “single cockpit” design that focuses the controls on the driver and gets the royal treatment with ventilated and massaging seats, heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade and white ambient lighting.

The LaCrosse is gorgeous inside, but I detest the electronic shifter (as I do all of these infernal devices, no matter who makes them) that you tap forward or backwards for a gear, and put into Park by pushing a but- ton. It’s just way too fiddly. That said, it frees up the real estate occupied by a traditiona­l lever-style shifter in favour of storage space and there’s a large open cubby under the tall console.

This new LaCrosse has a techy side too. It can park itself — parallel or perpendicu­lar — as well as wirelessly charge your phone and give you ac- cess to your apps through its touchscree­n stereo.

There’s a head-up display on the windshield and its automatic emergency braking system can detect pedestrian­s in your path. Stray out of your lane and it’ll warn you by vibrating your seat; ignore it and the car will guide you back.

It’s the first Buick with paddle shift- ers for manually controllin­g the gears, it has a “Teen Driver” program that monitors speed and seatbelt use and sends a report card when family members borrow it. It also offers an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot.

But the company also has its core audience in mind: the trunk holds four golf bags, for example. And, yes, there are still portholes on the fender. GM also introduced new GMC models in the brand’s top-line Denali trim, including the Canyon Denali mid-size pickup and full-size Sierra Denali Ultimate. That gives the Canyon such features as 20-inch wheels, heated and ventilated leather seats and unique instrument cluster, while the Ultimate builds on the current already-luxo Denali with 22-inch wheels, even fancier interior, and power-operated running boards that can slide backwards to provide access to the truck bed. Freelance writer Jil McIntosh is a regular contributo­r to Toronto Star Wheels. For this story, her expenses were paid by General Motors. To reach her, email and put her name in the subject line.

 ?? JIL MCINTOSH FOR THE TORONTO STAR ?? The LaCrosse will be available in front- or all-wheel drive and with available suspension upgrades for sportier handling and a smooth ride.
JIL MCINTOSH FOR THE TORONTO STAR The LaCrosse will be available in front- or all-wheel drive and with available suspension upgrades for sportier handling and a smooth ride.

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