CHICAGO, Ill. -- Buick's 2014 LaCrosse -- a long and sleek sedan drawn with taut lines and showing a projectile prow and pronounced shoulders yet the graceful arch of roof rails sweeping clear back to the abbreviated tail -- streaks down the I-94 on a fast track into metro Chicago.
We're rolling on a center lane of the freeway amid traffic flowing south into the city, although the sheer stretch of this automobile with its brash bodywork concealing a muscular powertrain and high-tech vehicle controls creates an impression for the driver that we're leading a pack of commuter cars.
Yet we are leading the pack as eyes of so many motorists on the I-94 seem to focus on a stunning new sheetmetal design for LaCrosse.
LaCrosse's 2014 models earn a facelift with Buick's new chrome-crusted waterfall grille installed along with a sculpted front hood with chrome side vents and distinctive wing-shaped LED daytime running lamps.
The tail houses a new fascia with twin exhaust pipes, new LED wraparound LED taillamps and integrated decklid spoiler.
Slip into the 5-seat passenger compartment and you'll find a fresh interior treatment that looks contemporary and current with new form-fitting seats in place, plus upgraded materials, a new central dash instrument cluster and console -- and optional new Ultra Luxury Interior Package.
Also new to LaCrosse 2014 are radar- and camera-based safety devices including Lane Change Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Automatic Collision Preparation. The innovative Safety Alert Seat links to some of these systems, adding seat vibration pulses to indicate the direction of a potential crash threat.
LaCrosse's front-wheel-drive platform features a wheelbase which extends to 111.7 inches and the wheel track is wide at 61.7 inches front and 62.0 inches rear.
A fully independent suspension employs MacPherson struts up front and twin-tube dampers with gas-charged valving and a hollow direct-acting stabilizer bar. In the rear, base editions with 17- or 18-inch tires use a 4-link H-arm arrangement for tight wheel control, while models with 19- or 20-inch tires add real-time active dampening and sport mode selectivity.
Brakes include a large disc at every wheel linked to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and a brake assist system (BAS), plus electronic traction control (ETC) and the StabiliTrak electronic stability device.
LaCrosse has two powertrain choices for 2014 issues -- a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine rigged with 'eAssist' battery booster or a forceful 3.6-liter V6 that runs on 87-octane gasoline or E85 ethanol.
LaCrosse's eAssist version teams a thrifty but conventional 2.4-liter 4-cylinder Ecotec engine that sips 87-octane gasoline with a lithium-ion battery system and electric motor-generator to provide power assistance to the gas engine and improve fuel economy numbers.
The aluminum-block 4-cylinder engine, with dual overhead cams (DOHC), direct injection (DI) technology and variable valve timing (VVT), connects to a 6-speed automatic transaxle, GM's Hydra-Matic 6T40.
The lithium-ion battery system and electric motor-generator enable the Ecotec engine to shut off when the vehicle stops but automatically restart when the driver releases the brake pedal. The Ecotec engine also ceases to run temporarily when the vehicle decelerates yet it kicks in again when the driver steps on the go-pedal.
The 115-volt battery contributes approximately 11 kW (15 hp) of electric power assistance and 15 kW of regenerative braking power. Combined output for the Ecotec engine with eAssist equipment amounts to 182 hp at 6700 rpm with torque of 172 lb-ft at 4900 rpm. The estimated fuel economy scores tally to 25 mpg city and 36 mpg highway.
A DOHC 3.6-liter V6 with DI and VVT applies to LaCrosse's top trim issues. The V6 develops 303 hp at 6800 rpm with torque rising to 264 lb-ft at 5300 rpm. Transaxle is GM's Hydra-Matic 6T70 6-speed automatic with tap-up/tap-down driver shift control. LaCross with the V6 aboard earns EPA fuel scores of 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.
The front-wheel-drive architecture works for all LaCrosse editions, although there's optional Haldex on-demand electronically controlled all-wheel-drive equipment available for the V6. The V6 AWD version achieves fuel economy numbers of 17/26 mpg (city/highway).
LaCrosse 2014 comes in four trim issues: Base, Leather, Premium I and Premium II. The V6 is available on all save Base trim, yet it's standard on Premium II. Haldex AWD equipment is available on Leather and Premium I models.
Buick posts MSRP figures for the 2014 LaCrosse in a range from $33,140 to $39,360.