2012 Buick LaCrosse V6 Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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Two years after Buick launched the second-generation LaCrosse (which it should be noted is a far better looking car than the first generation version, which was marketed in Canada as the Allure), all the hype surrounding the model has related to the 2012 introduction of a mild hybrid "eAssist" version with a 2.4-litre 4-cylinder gasoline engine, electric traction motor and lithium-ion battery pack.

Meanwhile, the conventional 3.6-litre V6 LaCrosse soldiers on in relative anonymity, which is a shame, because Buick hasn't forgotten the V6 and for 2012 has endowed it with a new cylinder head design and increased use of lightweight components, netting more horsepower and lighter overall weight. So while the eAssist grabbed all the headlines, the direct-injected V6 now kicks out an extra 23 horsepower, for a total of 303 horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque compared to the eAssist's total of 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are hooked up to 6-speed transmissions.

It's certainly true that the V6 uses more fuel - almost 50 percent more according to government ratings, which put the V6 LaCrosse at a perfectly reasonable 12.1 / 7.3 L/100km and the eAssist version at very thrifty 8.3 / 5.4 L/100km. But in addition to its horsepower advantage the V6 also carries a price advantage, costing a full $1,015 less than an equivalently equipped eAssist model. Actuarial types will be quick to recognize that if you drive 10,000 mostly city kilometres per year at an average fuel cost of $1.40 per litre, you could pay for this price difference in two years flat, but what the accounting doesn't take into consideration is the potentially lower long-term service costs of the simpler drivetrain, or the satisfaction that comes with having a powerful, refined V6 engine under the hood.

Refinement, after all, is one of Buick's key calling cards, and in nearly every other respect the LaCrosse has refinement in spades. The exterior styling is elegant and conservative, yet it has a sense of drama about it, particularly at the front with its big "waterfall" grille. Inside, this sense of elegant drama continues, with nice detailing, rich surfaces and sweeping lines.

The LaCrosse comes in a mind-boggling array of different configurations, with seven trim levels on top of the two drivetrain configurations, and all-wheel drive also available on select models. The base car has a suggested retail price of $34,935 (plus $1,495 in destination fees) and things move up from there to a range-topping Ultra Luxury Group Touring Package car that clocks in at $45,765 plus destination fees (just to further confuse things, this range-topping model isn't available with the $1,015 eAssist drivetrain package). My test car was equipped at the upper end of the range, with the cumbersomely named "Ultra Luxury Group with Driver Confidence" package that carries a price tag of $44,870, plus destination charges.

Clunky names aside, this package included a comprehensive array of goodies including heated and ventilated perforated leather seating (power operated on both sides) with driver's seat memory, auto-dimming mirrors, a universal garage door opener, remote vehicle start, bi-xenon HID headlights, leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, 18-inch chrome wheels (17-inch aluminum wheels are standard), head-up display, side blind-zone detection and ultrasonic rear park assist (these last two items, one supposes, form the "driver confidence" portion of the package, but are really necessities given that the LaCrosse has relatively thick rear roof pillars).

Even in base trim the LaCrosse is well equipped. Cloth upholstery is standard, but there's a power drivers seat, partial power adjustment on the passenger's side, and plenty of space in the back seat. Bluetooth and OnStar are both included, as are remote keyless entry, dual zone climate control and all the expected safety equipment in terms of stability control, traction control, antilock brakes and airbags. Entertainment is taken care of thanks to a premium seven-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with USB/iPod/aux input jack, while a standard ambient lighting package and what Buick calls "QuietTuning" contribute to a refined, luxurious interior ambience. The QuietTuning is particularly impressive, and the LaCrosse is indeed one of the quietest, most serene cars I've driven in quite some time.

This sense of serenity carries over into the rest of the driving experience, too. With over 300 horsepower on tap the LaCrosse has plenty of get-up-and-go, but it gets up and goes with remarkably little noise or fuss. In the corners it is responsive and grippy, striking a good balance between control and compliance (the available HiPer strut system helps in this regard). What this means in plain English is that the LaCrosse is as cushy and comfortable as you could possibly want for everyday driving, but it doesn't lose its composure if you wing it through some high-speed corners (it's not going to make you believe you're driving a sports car, mind you, but it will get the job done with reasonable finesse and a minimum of drama).

Overall, the Buick LaCrosse delivers a capable, luxurious ride, a well-rounded equipment list and one of the most serene cabins in its market segment, making it a worthy alternative to popular luxury sedans such as the Acura TL, Hyundai Genesis and Lexus ES 350.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Buick, LaCrosse, 2012, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999, Midsize, Luxury Sedan,

Organizations: Buick

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