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2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS

It’s Official: Buick Is On A Winning Streak

    At the end of our first day with the LaCrosse we were relieved to discover something: the Enclave wasn’t a fluke. It turns out that Buick designers can transfer their big crossover’s flowing curves, spot-on proportions and upscale detailing to a midsize sedan with stunning effect. Of course it takes more than a pretty face to make us go weak in the knees and type up a love letter to Buick. Fortunately, like the Enclave, the LaCrosse’s beauty is more than skin deep.
     We start in the long-neglected engine bay where the last LaCrosse failed to offer up anything but underpowered lumps (we’re ignoring the subpar and small volume V8 Super models). That shortcoming is addressed here. The engine in our top-line CXS model is the detuned, but still stout, 3.6-liter Direct Injection V6 that has been winning fans in the Cadillac CTS for a few years now. It does a good job matching the LaCrosse’s confidently relaxed demeanor and doles out its 280hp smoothly all the way up to the redline, although we’re not sure what that is since the tachometer is too hip with its trendy ice blue design to indicate the actual redline. Torque is a healthy 259 lb-ft putting it ahead of competitors like the Lexus ES 350 and Acura TL (both with 254 lb-ft).
     The ticking noise usually associated with an idling direct injection engine is nonexistent here thanks mostly to Buick’s extensive sound-deadening package which results in one of the quietest cabins we’ve ever experienced. You can literally cruise on the freeway at 75 mph and with an extended arm rub your fingers together and hear the subtle skin-on-skin noise that results. It’s that quiet and it’s wonderful.
     Although the luxury car establishment is rapidly moving toward seven and even eight speed transmissions, there’s nothing wrong with the smooth six speed automatic standard in all LaCrosse models. It even offers a manual gate for those who want to add some sport to their luxury ride. And make no mistake; this Buick still puts an emphasis on coddling ride quality. It doesn’t get floaty like loosey-goose Buicks of the recent past, but it does filter out any feedback before it reaches passengers, and that includes steering feel. None of that bothers us in this car since we know General Motors intends for Buick to battle Lexus for the hearts and wallets of consumers.
     We’re fans of the rest of the LaCrosse’s mechanical bits too. The 18” chrome wheels on our tester were gorgeous and hid the healthy brake system that featured 12.6” discs up front and 12.4” discs at the rear. Pedal feel was vastly improved over past Buicks and stopping in all conditions felt confident. Dual-exhaust tips are integrated into the rear bumper in a classy flourish that shames the Lexus ES 350.
     Believe us or not the Lexus also comes up short when the comparison turns to the cabin. LaCrosse offers simply the most artful interior design of any current GM production vehicle. In fact, if Buick’s sales staff really wanted to impress potential customers they’d introduce them to the vehicle in the dark. Unconventional yes; but effective we bet since the first impression of our test vehicle was at night, and when we closed in on the vehicle with the moonlight highlighting the body’s chrome detailing we knew we were going to like what we saw. We opened the driver’s door and the interior was bathed in upscale soft blue light from the dash and door panels. It makes for a very convincing argument that Buick has paid attention to the details with this one.
     The center stack is heavy on chrome and buttons, but after an hour of driving you’ll have all of them memorized. Our car was loaded with luxury items including power adjustable heated and ventilated leather seats with memory, heated wood accented steering wheel, rear parking assist, keyless start, power rear sunshade, Bluetooth, USB port and a strong 384-watt 11-speaker harman/kardon audio system. All that kit is standard on the top-level CXS model and if you don’t need the navigation system (with OnStar you truly don’t) you can get out the door for less than $34,000. The only option on our press car was the $325 Red Jewel paint that we secretly loved but don’t actually want to promote since we can’t stand when automakers charge extra for the really good colors.
     Even if you don’t pay up for the top model and its big engine you’ll still get the comfortable seats, beautifully finished doors that close with an expensive sounding “thunk”, a high-grade headliner and one of the roomiest back seats this side of an S-Class. We’ll also congratulate Buick for designing the first plastic sliding cover (in this case over the excellent center cupholders) that doesn’t feel like a recalled Made In China toy. On the downside the speedometer is set in 20mph increments that can be difficult to read quickly if you don’t choose the digital readout in the driver control screen and the trunk offers a smallish 12.8 cubic feet. The previous LaCrosse offered 16 cubes.
     But we wouldn’t go back to the previous LaCrosse for all the trunk space in the world. This new model proves that great design is alive and well within GM and it will go a long way toward making us forget the bug-eyed bore box that the 2010 LaCrosse evolved from. So if you’re keeping score Buick has now put two in a row over the fence, and from what we’ve seen of the upcoming Regal we’re not expecting a strikeout anytime soon.

The Good:
A 4-year/50,000-mile warranty, 17mpg city / 27mpg highway, upscale design inside and out, beautiful interior lighting at night, quiet and competent in all driving conditions, all-wheel drive available.
The Bad:
Downright small trunk, hard to read speedometer, no controls for temp or fan speed for back seat HVAC vents.
The Verdict:
Like a sports announcer we’re calling two consecutive wins a streak and we hope Buick can keep them coming.
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