Home > Cars > First drive: 2017 Buick LaCrosse

First drive: 2017 Buick LaCrosse

The 2017 Buick LaCrosse is a steal for the sophisticated daily driver

In today’s automotive market, a full-size luxury car seems like a throwback to another age. Most customers who are looking for a spacious interior, maximum comfort, and a super-quiet ride are likely to gravitate towards a big SUV rather than look for a conventional sedan. But for those who value better handling, easier parking and better fuel economy, not to mention a much more attractive price tag, there are still a few good options out there. One of the best of those options is the all-new 2017 Buick LaCrosse.

New chassis and body design

The LaCrosse comes with an entirely new unibody chassis and bodywork that cuts 300 pounds off the outgoing model’s curb weight. That’s a win for fuel economy, performance, and handling. The LaCrosse is hardly unique in this – virtually every automaker has been trying to put their cars on a diet without sacrificing crash safety and ride quality. But for Buick, ride quality is one of the must-have items, so every ounce they took out had to be carefully examined. Structural design is also a critical factor in reducing noise, so taking weight out is twice as difficult when you’re trying to lead your segment. Buick achieved all this with the usual combination of lightweight aluminum back up by high-strength steel where it matters.

When it comes to the bodywork, all auto designers are subject to the judgments of the wind tunnel. That’s why most sedans look pretty much the same these days, and the LaCrosse is no exception to that rule. Buick’s designers and engineers should get credit for hewing to the original concept design as much as possible, but the final result is still a sedan with a modern aerodynamic profile. The rear fenders have a unique sculpture to them, and Buick is quick to highlight that feature. The LaCrosse is a good looking car, within the bounds of what a modern sedan has to be to maximize fuel economy and minimize wind noise.

Library quiet and silky smooth

To be fair, full-size luxury sedan buyers aren’t generally looking to stand out from the crowd. What matters in this class of car is what’s on the inside. That’s where Buick put the heavy emphasis, and it really shows. The new LaCrosse has extremely comfortable seats. I mean curl up and take a nap level of comfort. The seats are both soft and cushy and nicely supportive, they are available heated and ventilated, and you can adjust them any way you like. The result is that you can drive the LaCrosse all day and still feel fresh and ready for action.

Buick’s designers and engineers should get credit for hewing to the original concept design as much as possible.

While the seats are cuddling you gently, road noise is a distant whisper in the LaCrosse. The car’s insulation and standard active noise cancellation works very well. Combined with triple-sealed doors, an acoustic-laminated windshield, and special acoustic wheel liners, the effect is impressive. Buick even went to an all-electronic shifter mechanism to eliminate the sound travel path through the center console.

The drive route we took out of Portland, Oregon featured some of the noisiest pavement in America, and then a stretch of brand-new ultra-smooth blacktop. The LaCrosse simply soaks up the roar of a knobby roadway, and the rhythmic thunk of sectioned concrete is reduced to a gentle tapping. You can easily eliminate all extraneous noise with the optional Bose stereo, without deafening yourself. Even on Oregon’s worst roads, normal conversation in the LaCrosse is unstrained.

Related: Has the crossover killed Buick’s compact Verano sedan?

The rest of the interior is good. Touch surfaces are soft, and the colors are up to date – you can get black, brown, and a light beige with trim to match. A heated steering wheel and power rear sunshade are available, too. The infotainment display touch screen is nice and big at eight inches.

Good performance

The LaCrosse uses a normally-aspirated 3.6-liter V6 engine paired with a new eight-speed automatic transmission and front- or all-wheel-drive. The engine is rated at a respectable 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet of torque. Engine start/stop is standard equipment, along with Buick’s Active Fuel Management, which cuts two cylinders under light duty conditions. The result is that the 2017 LaCrosse returns EPA-estimated fuel economy of 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway in front-wheel-drive configuration, and 20/29 with all-wheel-drive.

2017-Buick-LaCrosse-driving-v2
Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends

Out on the road, the LaCrosse has plenty of power to accelerate smartly and enough power to pull off a pass on a short stretch of two-lane. You wouldn’t call it a powerful car, but that’s not the purpose of the LaCrosse. The drivetrain is well-suited to the demeanor of the car.

The LaCrosse has excellent manners on a curvy road. No one’s going to be tossing this car into corners, and what you’ll notice is that the Buick doesn’t lean noticeably, and it rewards a smooth hand and steady throttle. There are no flaws worth mentioning in the way this car drives.

Great technology story

One area where Buick decided to get ahead of its competition is in technology. I cornered Buick’s Connected Car Specialist Mikhael Farah to get the whole story.

“The biggest news is AppShop, but we just call it Shop, which debuted first on GMC Acadia, and is now on LaCrosse,” Farah said. “Shop is our technology where you can download apps into your vehicle. It’s a platform for personalizing your vehicle. My biggest thing as a car and tech lover is personalization, to bring all your tech and content into the car.”

The new LaCrosse has extremely comfortable seats. I mean curl up and take a nap level of comfort.

With the AppShop, you can actually install certain apps into the LaCrosse. At the moment, selection is limited to just three apps, but more are coming soon, including all the standard apps for in-car use like Pandora, iHeartRadio, and so on. Installation happens via your phone or the car’s onboard data connection.

“We’ve got an embedded OnStar 4G/LTE connection,” Farah says. “So it’s merging the built-in network in the car to the built-in platform in the car. You can tether your phone if you’d like to use that data plan, or you can use the built-in network, which is stronger and more reliable with the amplified antenna on the roof.”

Every new LaCrosse comes with a starter data plan through AT&T and OnStar. Buyers will get 3GB or three months of data before they have to pay for anything.

Related: First drive: 2016 Buick Cascada

Beyond all the AppShop tech, the LaCrosse is now the only car in the full-size luxury segment with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as Buick’s IntelliLink system. That’s probably more useful than a bunch of new apps, and it’s standard equipment on every LaCrosse.

Trims and pricing

As usual with a General Motors product, there are a bunch of trim levels and options you can choose. The trim levels are LaCrosse: Preferred, Essence, and Premium.

There’s a whole matrix of prices and features among the trims, but what you care about is that the all-wheel-drive is available only with the top Premium trim. Buick’s AWD system is a torque-vectoring system that uses individual clutches for each of the rear wheels, so power can be sent where it will do the most good.

The most basic LaCrosse starts at $32,990 (including fees), and that gets you the basic car, HID headlights, all the tech, and 18-inch wheels. Preferred trim adds power tilt and telescoping steering wheel and Sirius/XM radio for $36,990. At the Essence level, LaCrosse adds heated leather front seats with memory, articulated headlights, and an auto-dimming rear view mirror for $39,590. Finally, the Premium trim adds the heated steering wheel, 4-way lumbar support with massage, heads-up display, forward collision alert, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert for $41,990. Adding AWD boosts the price to $44,190. Additional features like adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and the adaptive suspension are extra on top of that. But even if you chose every option, you’d still have a hard time pricing any LaCrosse above $50,000.

By comparison, the primary competition for the LaCrosse is the Lexus ES 350, which starts at $39,075 and quickly goes higher with option packages. The price advantage is with LaCrosse, and Buick is likely to win over some Lexus buyers with this car.

Conclusion

Buick has done excellent work with the LaCrosse. The best yardstick for any car review is fitness for purpose and value for your dollar. By those standards, the 2017 Buick LaCrosse is a winner. The average transaction price for a new car in America this year is about $35,000. The LaCrosse comes in right in the heart of that price range, and offers substantially more luxury and more feature content than many other cars at that price point. But more than that, the Buick LaCrosse does exactly what it says it’s going to do – which is to give you the most comfortable driving experience in its class. The LaCrosse is quiet, smooth, and pleasant as well as affordable. If you’re shopping for a luxury sedan, you really should have the 2017 Buick LaCrosse on your test-drive list.

Highs

  • Very Comfortable
  • Supremely Quiet
  • Good value for the price
  • Reasonably peppy

Lows

  • Idiosyncratic shift lever
  • Undifferentiated design