Buick LaCrosse rolls out as sleek and plush mid-size sedan
Bob Plunkett, Fri, 5 Jun 2009 08:00:00 PDT
MILFORD, Mich. -- A prototype of the new treatment for LaCrosse, Buick's mid-size luxury sedan, parks on an asphalt lot at the Milford Proving Ground, vast automotive test facility for General Motors near Detroit.
The revamped LaCrosse, sleek in a stylish new design drawn with taut lines and keen edgework, carries a powerful new direct-injection V6 engine and mounts exacting mechanical hardware on a rigid new front-wheel-drive (RWD) platform to deliver precise handling traits.
Destined as the centerpiece for Buick's 2010 line, this latest LaCrosse marks the next evolutionary step for vehicles badged by the venerable GM brand.
The original LaCrosse rolled out in 2005 as the replacement product for two aged Buick sedans, Century and Regal. The name stemmed from a Buick design concept exhibited on the auto show circuit, while a LaCrosse conformed as a four-door sedan with smooth and graceful lines showed at the 2004 Chicago Auto Show.
The 2010 Buick LaCrosse, completely redesigned with a choice of fuel-thrifty V6 engines and optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction, was unveiled at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. LaCrosse's fresh exterior styling lifts many design elements off the Buick Invicta show car, which appeared at the 2008 Beijing Auto Show.
Keep in mind that Buick has become one of the biggest brand stars in the vast consumer car market emerging in the Peoples Republic of China. Developing the 2010 LaCrosse was a global effort. Its platform -- a new version of GM's global mid-size architecture formerly called Epsilon -- was designed in Europe and underpins other products such as Opel's Insignia in Europe.
The design for LaCrosse's luxurious five-seat passenger compartment occurred in China at GM's Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC). Sheetmetal styling originated in the United States at GM's Technical Center in Warren, Mich., and the new vehicle comes together at GM's Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kan.
Looking oh-so-sharp in a windswept package stretched long and decorated with a chrome-plated prow flashing piercing optics from round projector-type headlamps on corners plus fender blisters rippling around multi-spoke alloy wheels, the new Buick features signature portholes cut into the front hood's dual canted character lines.
Wheels stand near front and rear corners, leaving curt overhangs on prow and tail. Roofline remains low, dipping down in front in line with the windshield but mounting a smooth arch over the cabin before tapering to a rolled tail off the brief trunk deck.
That tail reveals a slick slab bumper in monochrome flanked by thick light-emitting diode (LED) taillamps, with twin pipes in chrome protruding below the bumper. LaCrosse's new platform features a wheelbase which extends for 1.2 inches longer than the wheelbase of the previous platform, and the wheel track is wide for keen chassis dynamics to set up superior handling traits.
A fully independent suspension features MacPherson struts up front and twin-tube dampers with gas-charged valving and a hollow direct-acting stabilizer bar. In back, the base LaCrosse CX edition totes a four-link design with twin-tube gas shocks plus a direct-acting stabilizer bar.
LaCrosse CXL and CXS differ in the rear suspension by adding an H-arm arrangement for tighter wheel control, and the CXS also gets a real-time active dampening suspension. Steering is a rack and pinion design with variable-effort assistance. The driver gets a good feel for the road through this system, which is firm and quick at highway speed yet compliant and easy to work for slow-go movement in a parking lot.
Brakes include a large disc at every wheel linked to an anti-lock brake system (ABS). And LaCrosse CXL and CXS upgrade to GM's StabiliTrak electronic vehicle skid control system. LaCrosse CX rolls on 17-inch wheels, with CXL stocking 18-inch aluminum rollers and CXS using chrome-plated 18-inchers or optional 19s.
The FWD architecture works for all LaCrosse editions, although for CLX there's on-demand electronically controlled AWD equipment available. This intelligent system uses a computer and wheel sensors in conjunction with ABS and StabiliTrak to determine how much power to apply at each wheel for maintaining tire traction on slippery or wet pavement.
GM brings two new V6 engines for LaCrosse with dual overhead cams (DOHC), electronic throttle control (ETC), direct injection (DI) technology and variable valve timing (VVT). LaCrosse CX employs a 3.0-liter V6 to generate 255 hp at 6950 rpm and 217 lb-ft of torque at 5600 rpm.
Transaxle is GM's fuel-saving Hydra-Matic 6T70 six-speed automatic with tap-up/tap-down driver shift control. And the federal EPA sets fuel economy numbers for this LaCrosse powertrain at 18 mpg City and 27 mpg Highway. LaCrosse CXL and CXS stock a 3.6-liter V6 which develops 280 hp at 6400 rpm with torque climbing to 259 lb-ft at 5200 rpm.
With the larger V6 in play, LaCrosse earns EPA fuel scores up to 26 mpg for highway cruising. Extensive safety measures apply, including air bags surrounding front-seat riders and stretching like curtains in concealment above front and rear side windows. LaCrosse's tasteful two-tone passenger compartment provides seats for five including form-fitting front buckets and lots of amenities.
LaCrosse CX shows standard equipment like premium cloth upholstery, power controls for windows and door locks and mirrors, a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes, air conditioning and an audio kit with AM/FM/CD/MP3.
LaCrosse CXL adds leather-clad heated seats, twin-zone automatic climate controls and foglamps, while CXS features perforated leather upholstery with front seats heated and cooled.
The list of options includes high intensity discharge (HID) headlights with adaptive forward lighting, GM's Side Blind Zone Alert, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a backseat DVD entertainment kit. Buick posts MSRP figures for the 2010 LaCrosse in a range from $27,085 to $33,015.