2.08.2010

Buick LaCrosse Review


Attitude is not an attribute one has associated with Buick for more than 20 years...since the hot Grand National models.

But Buick has decided to get in your face with its message about the new LaCrosse...with billboards and TV ads calling it "Something else for Lexus to relentlessly pursue."

Really?

   

Is this the view that ES 350 drivers will be seeing, choking on some good old Detroit (well, close, our tester was built in Kansas City) dust?

The fact that we're even entertaining that question says something, doesn't it?

Clearly, the exterior design of the LaCrosse leaves no doubt that they consider Lexus the target. And at first glance, so does the interior.

              

Where it falls down is the touch test. Everything's a grade slimmer...not as substantial when your fingers glide across it. Make no mistake: It's a quantum leap beyond the Fisher-Price plastics GM was using in the bad old days, but there's a way to go before we get into blindfolded taste tests with Lexus.

So what's the Buick got going for it? Well, style certainly...it's a beautiful-looking car. And there's content. Our tester had a 255 horsepower V6 with a six-speed automatic transmission...and in the CXL trim level, so much standard equipment that there were only two options...an upgrade to a 384-watt, 11 speaker Harmon-Kardon sound system, and chrome plated instead of straight alloy wheels (18 inchers, just as they come standard on the CXL).

The ES has more power...272 horses...the same number of gears...and gets better mileage than the Buick (19 city/27 highway to 17/26 for the LaCrosse).

A rout? No. Because the LaCrosse gets close in all the categories....and costs less. A lot less. $29,645 base is almost 5 grand below the starting price for the ES 350...and optioned out as our two testers were, the bottom-line price difference is just shy of $10,000...the Buick at $31,695 and the ES at $41,340.

So, as most things have the past year and a half, it comes down to price. If you've got the money and are willing to spend it for the extra quality of materials in the Lexus, it's still a great buy. If you've got other uses for the extra $10K and won't miss what you don't have, the Buick makes the strongest case for itself that any product wearing that nameplate has in decades.

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