2014 Buick LaCrosse Walk Around

The Buick LaCrosse looks contemporary, elegant and refined. Conservative but not conventional. The lines flow around the car, and a long roofline distinctively drops onto the deck. It looks like a fastback limo. It's longer than the Hyundai, Lexus and Lincoln, one inch longer than the Hyundai Genesis and seven inches longer than the Lincoln MKZ.

Buick heritage cues abound, namely the portholes and thick waterfall grille, cascading in half-twists down the nose. The grille is almost a nod to 1958, and it works, except for the big Buick emblem in the middle of the waterfall, that's a shame. The tri-shield emblem is forgettable, although the story is cool; it's the ancestral coat of arms of David Dunbar Buick, the Scot who built the first Buick, in Detroit at the turn of the 20th century. Mr. Buick sold the company for a modest amount and didn't die rich. His car lives on, now America's oldest. And it's still built in the U.S., Kansas City to be exact. (The Lincoln is built in Mexico).

The lovely winged headlamps fly toward a high beltline and unflared fenders. The Premium I's bright chrome nine-spoke 19-inch wheels seem like overstatement on an understated car. The big calipers are visible, but they're painted a bland silver. Overstated wheels, understated calipers, can't win.

At the rear there's a big horizontal chrome strip intended to enhance the stance, while chrome exhaust pipes on the V6 come out of a new black fascia, more integrated. A spoiler grows from the trailing edge of the deck, while new LED taillamps are moved outboard a bit, again to enhance the stance. LED taillamps are brighter and the brake lights are quicker.

Interior

The interior is roomy and feels premium, as it should. Sweeping lines, soft-touch materials, and stitched leather define the dash and doors, while the brushed metal and wood trim are tasteful. The center stack is sloped toward the windshield, giving dimension. The new display screen is 8 inches and very readable, with a rearview camera whose image is big and clear.

The Buick screen is like a smartphone, with icons that can be swiped with your fingertip; fine, except try swiping in a bouncing car. That's one reason dials are good, you can hang onto them while you're tuning without taking your eyes off the road.

It's silent in the cabin, thanks to what Buick calls QuietTuning engineering. Engineers have damped, cancelled, and isolated road and wind noise, using acoustical laminate on the windshield and front windows, steel laminate in the firewall, baffles in the pillars, melt-on sound deadening in the steel of the lower body, and heavy sound-absorbing material in the engine, passenger and cargo compartments.

The 2014 interior redesign offers a number of things. The footwell is well padded for the driver's right leg below the knee, a problem area in some cars. There's more storage in the center console, which is deep but not long, to leave room for cupholders behind the shift lever. New front seats have four-way adjustable headrests. New door controls include tidy door handles. There used to be 17 radio controls on the center stack, now there are seven buttons, and hooray, one of them spins through the many satellite radio stations. A knob always does it better, quickly and without distraction to your eyes or brain.

The front seats are comfortable while being quite firm, even in the perforated leather. There's a wide range of adjustment, although like many luxury cars, petite drivers might find themselves swallowed up in the broad, long cushions. And don't expect the bolstering of a sports sedan.

The rear seats offer good legroom: 0.5 inches better than the Lexus ES, 1.9 inches better than the Hyundai Genesis, 3.8 inches better than the Lincoln MKZ, and 4.3 inches better than the Acura TL. That's because the rear seat is elevated a bit; so in rear headroom, it doesn't do so well, fourth best, although only 1 inch separates best from worst.

The LaCrosse is fourth again in trunk space, so golfers should buy the Lincoln, which wins big at 16.5 cubic feet, then Hyundai 15.9, Lexus 15.3, LaCrosse 13.3 and Acura TL 13.1. The LaCrosse eAssist is even worse, with a tight 10.8 cubic feet in the trunk, thanks to the lithium-ion battery pack. The Chevy Impala, built on the same platform as the LaCrosse but 4.4 inches longer, has a trunk with 18.8 cubic feet. Golfer's delight.

The easy-exit driver seat slides way, way back automatically, to make it easier to climb out; however our seat never returned on its own when we climbed back in, so we had to use the memory button each time. Surely it's programmable to return on its own, but we never had the time it would have taken to figure out how to change this computer setting, and still maybe fail. Or it might have actually been an electronic fail, the kind that will drive you crazy for months until you find the day to take it back to the dealer to fix something so tiny, and wonder if it's all worth it just to drive a luxury car with so many electronic enhancements to make your life easier than it used to be back in those awful days when you had to bend your knees to get out of your car.

The cabin is wonderful at night, with Ice Blue ambient lighting. The gauges are lit organic white, with clean graphics and font, and bright white needles. The digital speed display is so big and clear that the analog speedometer just gets in the way, all 170 miles per hour of it, about twice as fast as 99 percent of Buick owners will ever drive this car. The available head-up display can't be seen in the windshield in daylight, not even at its brightest; but it doesn't really matter, because it's only needed for the digital display of speed, and that's already handled.

We got seat time in both a Base eAssist and Premium I with the Driver Confidence 1 package that includes articulating HID headlamps. They offer exceptional visibility at night, and could save your life. We wish they were a stand-alone option (on all cars), instead of costing thousands in a package.

Our Driver Confidence 2 package ($1745) included adaptive cruise control, and it was smooth; some of them brake too late and accelerate too fast, but not this one. It does what's needed without drama. It maintained our medium gap in the freeway fast lane without our even feeling it, braking and accelerating gradually. A number of times we watched the speedo drop gradually from 75 to 65 and scarcely felt it.

Visibility in corners is obscured a bit by the A-pillars and big mirrors. A steep rake in the rear window makes rear visibility adequate but not generous, and that's with the rear headrests lowered. The roofline doesn't create a blind spot over the driver's shoulder.

We appreciated the simplicity and efficiency of the leather-wrapped shift lever. The beauty of the classy Buick lever is that there's nothing fancy about it. In the LaCrosse, it all falls into your hand, with the gears in a line. In manual mode, the gear changes are made with a thumb button that doesn't twist your wrist to press. And the transmission gear display is easy to read.

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