Let's get something clear up front. The 2014 Buick LaCrosse is a solid choice among large sedans. It's quiet, the ride quality is smooth and it places very few demands on the driver. You can drive from full to empty without feeling any notable fatigue. For 2014, the LaCrosse receives a minor exterior and interior styling freshening along with a slew of electronic bells and whistles.
The base model starts at a reasonable $34,060, but we were given a generously appointed Buick LaCrosse in Premium trim with the optional Driver Confidence packages (those bells and whistles we mentioned), which kicked the price up to $44,800. A fully loaded LaCrosse will clear the $50,000 mark.
That wide gap in bottom-to-top pricing is significant and somewhat questionable. The younger demographic that Buick is trying to chase down might be more apt to spring for those options. Meanwhile, the core Buick customer may just want the more affordable LaCrosse without the buttons and gizmos. The question, though, is should they choose the 2014 Buick LaCrosse over other large sedans?
This test aims to find out.
From the outside the changes are sparse for 2014. The grille is bigger and the trio of fake vents moves to the side of the hood. The headlights are more sculpted and sport some LED accent lights. Out back, the taillights are also sharper and there's an accent strip that runs across the top of them like a chrome unibrow.
Inside, the changes may seem just as subtle, but they're actually quite significant. Gone are the wobbly GM parts-bin steering wheel switchgear, replaced by high-quality, usable buttons. The gauges are now stylish and sharp, with a reconfigurable center screen, and last year's roll-top-desk shutter over the center bin has been killed off in favor of a proper armrest. These are all welcome improvements to an already pleasant cabin with modern design and admirable materials.
Higher-tech safety features like adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and the Safety Alert Seat are all new options. With all of these alerts, though, anyone following anything less than perfect lane discipline and the DMV-prescribed following distance will be bombarded with beeps, flashes and buzzes on their typical commute. Fortunately, these systems can either be adjusted or disabled altogether.
Under the Hood
The LaCrosse's 303-horsepower and 264 pound-feet 3.6-liter V6 remain unchanged for 2014. Our tester was a front-wheel-drive model, but all-wheel drive is available, as is a 182-hp hybrid version.
The LaCrosse accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds (6.5 seconds with a foot of rollout as on a drag strip) and the quarter-mile passes in 15.0 seconds at 93.6 mph. Both are average numbers for a V6-powered full-size sedan. Even so, accelerating to highway speed and passing are easy in the LaCrosse. Gearchanges from the six-speed automatic transmission are smooth but not particularly quick. Manual control is possible via a rocker switch on the gear selector. To its credit, the LaCrosse exhibits no detectable torque steer and downshifts feature rev-matching.
The brakes are also praiseworthy, as they brought the LaCrosse to a halt from 60 mph in a short 116 feet. There's plenty of nosedive and the pedal is on the soft side, but it still feels confident.
The V6-powered LaCrosse earns an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in combined driving and 18 city/28 highway. Though our mileage sample was small, we found these figures attainable by averaging 26.4 mpg overall, including a 29.9-mpg tank on our highway-heavy drive loop.
Out on the open road, there's no mistaking the 2014 Buick LaCrosse as anything but a large sedan. In the curves, body roll is prominent and the steering feel is detached, with little effort or feedback. Still, the big Buick's chassis remains composed and obedient, tackling hairpin turns without drama. It's unlikely that the typical LaCrosse owner would take the car to such limits, but it's good to know that it can avoid the unexpected should the need arise.
Drivers and passengers will enjoy the LaCrosse's quiet solitude inside. Road and wind noise are hushed to barely detectable levels, and the same holds true for undulations and imperfections in the road surface that are smoothed over with ease.
Adding to the luxury experience are seats that cosset even the most demanding of passengers. Front seats feature eight-way power adjustments with four-way lumbar and ensure a comfortable position for a variety of body types. All seats are suitably cushioned and there's more than enough rear-seat space for the average adult.
Solid GM Brethren
The LaCrosse shares its underpinnings with the 2014 Chevy Impala, which we favorably reviewed last May. Accordingly, the LaCrosse's packaging and dynamics are similarly pleasing, the primary difference being its smaller trunk (13.3 cubes vs. 18.8). But while the Buick looks like, well, a Buick, the Impala offers a sharper and more aggressive interpretation of the large sedan.
The primary difference is that the Impala doesn't offer some of the high-end luxury or safety-related options, but quite honestly, we prefer to go without those overprotective nannies. Similarly equipped, the Chevy will save you a couple hundred dollars versus the LaCrosse.
One of our main gripes with the Impala was Chevy's MyLink infotainment interface that was slow to respond or unresponsive altogether, and the touchscreen was also slightly out of comfortable reach. Buick's IntelliLink is no better. We were also disappointed that a traditional map-based navigation system (a $795 option) wasn't included in the $44,800 price. Instead, we were stuck with the less desirable OnStar turn-by-turn navigation.
So why would you buy the 2014 Buick LaCrosse? Perhaps you actually prefer its less aggressive styling. Maybe you like the additional safety features. Possibly you're just a Buick loyalist.
It's hard to make a case for the LaCrosse when a comparably equipped 2013 Toyota Avalon, which is as nice inside, will cost you less at the dealer and at the gas pump. Even so, the LaCrosse is worth considering against other rivals like the Chrysler 300C and Hyundai Azera.
Though we don't love the Buick's smaller-than-average trunk and frustrating IntelliLink interface, its positive attributes far outweigh the negatives. The LaCrosse's comfort is its biggest strength. We found ourselves just as fresh driving 100 miles as we were driving 10. Ride quality is as smooth and confident as any car in the segment.
No, the LaCrosse isn't that elusive hole-in-one, but it is definitely playing for par or better.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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