Full 2014 Buick LaCrosse Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the Buick LaCrosse sees slightly refreshed styling inside and out as well as a number of high-tech updates. The latter include adaptive cruise control, lane change alerts, rear cross-traffic alerts and an updated touchscreen interface.
Although most consumers come home with midsize sedans, large sedans are worth considering, especially if you have a taller family in need of additional passenger space. One of our favorites in this segment is the 2014 Buick LaCrosse, whose highlights include neatly tailored styling, a well-trimmed cabin and a very smooth and quiet ride.
This year, the LaCrosse receives freshened styling to the front and rear (a new hood, grille, lighting clusters, trunk lid and bumpers) and an updated interior. That interior is still quite elegant looking, with sweeping lines and rich surfaces highlighted by the generous use of LED accent lighting. For 2014, though, it now has a cleaner-looking center stack, highlighted by Buick's newest "IntelliLink" touchscreen interface. There are also some new safety features this year, including forward collision warning, lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert systems.
Under the hood, little has changed for the 2014 LaCrosse. The base "eAssist" powertrain is a mild-hybrid setup (it can't propel itself solely on electric power) that allows the large Buick to earn an EPA combined fuel economy rating of 29 mpg. This version of the LaCrosse has some downsides -- it's kind of slow and noisy -- but it doesn't cost nearly as much as other fully dedicated hybrids like the Lexus ES 300h. Still, we think most shoppers will prefer the LaCrosse's powerful V6 engine, which better suits the character of the car and is available with all-wheel drive.
Prospective Buick LaCrosse buyers should also be aware that this full-size sedan has an undersized trunk, a potential deal-breaker for some families. In addition, the IntelliLink touchscreen electronics interface looks slick but is often slow to respond to touch inputs, which can be bothersome. Plus, there are some great choices for a roomy, premium-oriented sedan this year, including the smartly designed Acura TL, the powerful Chrysler 300, the stylish Kia Cadenza and the refined Lexus ES 350 or ES 300h hybrid. You really can't go wrong with any of them. The 2014 Buick LaCrosse doesn't have a significant edge over any of these sedans, but it's a solid choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Buick LaCrosse is a large luxury sedan available in four trim levels: Base, Leather, Premium 1 and Premium 2.
Base models come nicely equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming mirror, an eight-way power driver seat (with four-way power lumbar), split-folding rear seatbacks, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, OnStar, a 110-volt power outlet, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an 8-inch touchscreen display and a seven-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack, iPod/USB interface and smartphone app integration.
Spring for the Leather model and you get foglamps, an auto-dimming driver-side mirror, rear park assist, keyless ignition/entry, a rearview camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats, driver memory settings and an eight-way power front passenger seat.
The Premium 1 ups the ante with the 3.6-liter V6, 19-inch wheels (chrome on front-drive version), an upgraded suspension with adaptive shock absorbers (front-drive version only), heated and ventilated front seats, a heated leather/wood-trimmed steering wheel, a power rear window sunshade and an 11-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system.
The Premium 2 adds 20-inch wheels and a navigation system.
Optional on all but the base LaCrosse is the Ultra Luxury Interior package, which features upgraded leather upholstery, leather armrest/center console trim, a simulated suede headliner and real wood accents on the dash, doors and console.
Also optional on all but the base is the Driver Confidence package #1, which includes xenon headlights, foglights, head-up display, side blind zone alerts (with lane change alerts), rear cross-traffic alerts, and lane departure and forward collision warning systems. The Premium trims can upgrade to the Driver Confidence package #2, which includes all that and adds fully adaptive cruise control, automatic collision preparation and a vibrating "Safety Alert" driver seat.
Some of the features found on the upper trim levels can be added to the lower trims as options. Other notable options include a sunroof and a rear-seat entertainment system with dual headrest-mounted screens.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Buick LaCrosse is offered with a choice of two engines. Standard on base and front-wheel-drive Leather trim levels is a mild hybrid powertrain that pairs a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with an 11-kilowatt electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. Combined peak output is 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque, and it's sent to the front wheels by way of a six-speed automatic transmission.
In Edmunds track testing, a LaCrosse with this configuration ran the 0-60-mph dash in 9.2 seconds, a leisurely performance for this segment. Still, this powertrain is about efficiency, not speed. Aided by clever aerodynamic improvements like automatically controlled shutters behind the grille, it delivers an impressive EPA estimate of 29 mpg combined (25 city/36 highway).
Optional for the two trim levels listed above and standard on everything else is a 3.6-liter V6 that cranks out 303 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque. The six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive are again standard, with all-wheel drive optional. At the track, a front-wheel-drive LaCrosse V6 sprinted to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, which is about average for this segment. Fuel mileage estimates stand at 21 combined (18 city/28 highway) with front-wheel drive and 20 combined (17 city/26 highway) with all-wheel drive.
Standard safety features for the LaCrosse include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen vehicle assistance and turn-by-turn navigation. All Buick LaCrosses except the base version have rear park assist and a rearview camera standard.
Optional safety features include blind spot monitoring, lane change alerts (automatically warning you during indicated lane changes when another car is rapidly approaching you on either side from behind), rear cross-traffic alerts, a lane departure warning system, a forward collision warning system and automatic collision preparation. Many of these features tie into the optional vibrating driver seat, which vibrates to indicate the direction of a potential crash threat.
In Edmunds brake testing, a LaCrosse with the 3.6-liter engine and 19-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 mph in 116 feet -- excellent for this segment. A LaCrosse with eAssist and 17-inch wheels turned in a similarly strong performance, stopping from 60 mph in just 115 feet.
Complete government crash tests weren't available on the 2014 LaCrosse as of this writing, but previously the car scored five (out of a possible five) stars overall, with five stars awarded for both frontal- and side-impact tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it its top "Good" rating in its moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Slide behind the steering wheel of the 2014 Buick LaCrosse and you'll find yourself surrounded by graceful curves and upscale materials. Even after the sun sets, the cabin's flowing lines are emphasized by soft blue ambient lighting that adds a classy touch.
If there's a weakness in this artful design, it's that the controls aren't quite as straightforward as some traditional Buick buyers might like. This year's updated infotainment system is pretty user-friendly, but it can be a bit of a reach for shorter drivers and it's sometimes painfully slow to react to touchscreen inputs.
As you'd expect in a luxury sedan, the LaCrosse's cabin is long on comfort. Seats are supportive and there's plenty of leg- and shoulder room even in the backseat. The available heated steering wheel and heated and ventilated front seats are especially pampering.
The LaCrosse's trunk is on the small side, however. With just 13.3 cubic feet of capacity, it holds less than some compact sedans. That number drops even further in models equipped with the mild-hybrid powertrain, where the battery pack reduces capacity to 10.8 cubic feet. The smallish opening can also make loading larger items problematic.
The 2014 Buick LaCrosse's mild-hybrid powertrain operates seamlessly, rarely reminding the driver of its existence. For instance, when the engine shuts off automatically when the car comes to a stop, you don't get as much of the telltale shudder when it fires back up as you do with most auto stop-start systems. Unfortunately, the 2.4-liter four-cylinder that provides a majority of the motivation here (the electric motor delivers limited assistance) sounds unrefined and feels sluggish, especially if you've got a full load of passengers.
Although it understandably returns lower fuel economy, the strong V6 is better suited to the LaCrosse's personality. Shifts from its automatic transmission are smooth but not particularly quick.
With either engine, the LaCrosse's driving dynamics are perfect for the car's mission of being a refined cruiser. It's easy to steer and has an impressively comfortable and quiet ride. Poor rearward visibility is a problem, though the car's rearview camera and various safety systems help in this regard.
Around turns, you'll encounter plenty of body lean and modest amounts of grip, but this is essentially what we expect from this class of car. Having driven a few current-generation Buick LaCrosses, we've discovered that its ultimate handling capability largely depends on which tires are fitted. A LaCrosse with factory Michelin tires performed significantly better in our handling tests than another test car with Goodyear tires. Most people won't notice this subtlety, but if you're someone who likes to take the back roads on long trips, it's worth paying attention to when you go to the dealership.