The electric power steering is tuned for a luxury feeling, meaning the wheel is a little too easy to turn. But at speed on the freeway it shows good resistance, so the car does not require constant correction. The suspension feels a bit springy when the roadway gets rough, but the car does not oscillate after a bounce. There are certainly cars with more comfortable rides, but not in this price class.
Buick focuses its efforts on sound damping the cabin, and does a good job of it. Cruising over freeways and city streets, there was limited audio intrusion from the surroundings, giving the cabin a cocooning effect. That sound damping made the Harman Kardon audio system shine all the more.
The stereo in the LaCrosse uses 11 speakers and a 384-watt amp to deliver a well-balanced sound. Unlike some systems that contribute their own qualities to audio reproduction, the Harman Kardon system seems content to produce very clean sound.
Listening to tracks from the band The Civil Wars, the simple guitar, piano, and vocals came through with very good separation, the instrumentation remaining distinct. The system produced more heavily layered tracks with good clarity, as well. Its big fault was heavy bass. With tracks from the band The XX, some ridiculously strong bass tones caused the door panels to rattle and the sound to distort.
I had been very eager to test the cabin electronics in the LaCrosse, as this is one of the first Buick models to feature the new IntelliLink infotainment system. Along with enhanced voice command that lets you ask for music playback by artist or place hands-free calls by contact name, IntelliLink also includes app integration. It launches with Pandora and Stitcher.
But in bad either/or option planning, IntelliLink is not available with the navigation system. And CNET's review car came with the latter option.
The navigation system in the LaCrosse, which evolved from that found in the Cadillac CTS, is very good. The maps are bright and easy to read, showing in perspective or plan view. It renders some landmark buildings in urban areas and overlays traffic data on major roads. And what I particularly like is that it pops up traffic warnings for problems on the road ahead, even when it does not have a programmed destination.
The touch screen had good response times for all the infotainment functions, but voice command, lacking the IntelliLink system, is very limited. It did not let me enter addresses to the navigation system or really control anything in the car except the Bluetooth phone system, and with that it would only let me place calls by number, not name. Most of the voice command functions connect to OnStar.
Given the size of the engine, LaCrosse drivers are not likely to be blowing speed limits, but as an added measure, a heads-up display projects the car's speed on the windshield. Along with that, it shows turn-by-turn navigation information and even the currently playing audio track from a connected iPod or USB drive. This display uses GM's ugly electrofluorescent blue, but the information it shows is handy.
With its low price and excellent fuel economy, the 2012 Buick LaCrosse is a contender for CNET's Editors' Choice Award, but the fact that navigation and IntelliLink are mutually exclusive on the option sheet holds it back. With the navigation system present, voice command and phone support is primitive. With IntelliLink, you can't have navigation. Buick will assuredly update its navigation system for IntelliLink in the future, but it is not happening in this car.
The LaCrosse earns very high points for its engine, the direct injection, and mild hybrid system leading to stellar freeway fuel economy. And even the average is extremely good for a car of this size. Of course, you pay for it with slower acceleration. The LaCrosse's power steering system and transmission also represent solid technology.
|Model||2012 Buick LaCrosse|
|Power train||Direct-injection 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 11-kilowatt electric motor, six-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||25 mpg city/36 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||31.3 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional hard-drive-based navigation system with traffic data|
|Bluetooth phone support||Optional|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Onboard hard drive, USB drive, auxiliary input, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Harman Kardon 384-watt 11-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Rear-view camera, heads-up display, blind-spot detection|
|Price as tested||$37,195|