The first thing that I noticed and the aspect that stands out the most after my time with the 2017 Buick LaCrosse was just how quiet the premium sedan's cabin is. It is ridiculously quiet, like Lexus quiet and smooth even with the optional dynamic handling tweaks and big 20-inch wheels, upgrades that usually make competitors' rides rough and noisy. I had to double-check that I wasn't driving a hybrid -- and I wasn't -- there was so little engine noise when cruising or at idle. When I cranked up the Bose audio system to fill the auditory void, I almost felt bad...almost.
The LaCrosse owes its its crypt-quiet cabin to a combination of improved interior materials, retuned chassis dynamics and noise cancellation. The automaker seems to have also perfected the fuel-saving stop-start ignition. In the LaCrosse, the engine shutting down when idling and firing back up was nearly imperceptible. Were it not for an indicator on the instrument cluster, I might not have even noticed it happening.
So far, the Buick and I are off to good start.
Under the hood is 3.6-liter direct-injected V6 engine that is mated to an eight-speed automatic and, ultimately, the front wheels. The V6 makes an impressive-sounding 310 horsepower and 282 pound-feet. However, on the road, that doesn't really translate into "sport sedan" performance. In the LaCrosse's defense, it doesn't actually make any sporty claims.
The LaCrosse is tuned for more relaxed performance and feels confident around town and when merging at highway speeds. The eight-speed automatic transmission's shifts quite smoothly and the paddle shifters were nice when I needed more immediate power for passing, but the overall power delivery is understated to a degree that it doesn't really feel like 300+ ponies.
A $1,625 Dynamic Drive package adds the 20" wheels, Buick's HiPer Strut front suspension, Continuously Variable Real-Time Damping and a Sport mode to tie it all together. The HiPer Strut is an evolution of the familiar MacPherson strut, tweaked by the automaker to reduce torque steer and improve front end grip. Even with the upgrades, the LaCrosse never feels like a sport sedan, so drivers with a more relaxed demeanor behind the wheel could consider skipping it.
An optional all-wheel drive system is available only with the top Premium trim level (but not equipped here) and will add $2,200 to the bottom line as well as subtract about 2 mpg across the board.
Speaking of mpg, fuel economy isn't really the LaCrosse's strongest point. The EPA reckons 25 mpg combined for the midsize sedan, breaking out to 21 mpg city and 31 mpg on the highway. I only averaged 20.6 mpg despite my best efforts and a testing cycle that was heavy on highway driving. This is disappointing.
Things start looking good again as I direct my attention to the dashboard. Buick's IntelliLink is standard for all LaCrosse trims and I've always been satisfied with this twin of the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system. I particularly like the use of onscreen shortcuts along the bottom edge of the touch display that can be used to quickly call radio stations, addresses or even contacts for hands-free calling. Pretty much any function of the infotainment system can then be stored and quickly accessed with a single touch.
A new addition since my last outing with IntelliLink is standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity for navigation, audio streaming and messaging. This tech addition makes the optional $1,145 Sights and Sounds Package, which adds onboard navigation and Bose audio, a skippable option for many smartphone-toting owners and a place to potentially save cost over our as-tested price.
The automaker's Onstar 4G connection with telematics and Wi-Fi hotspot functionality is also included as standard, but requires a subscription to activate.
Our vehicle featured a Qi wireless charging pad, but it required shoving my phone into the weirdest, tightest little toaster slot on the center console. My Nexus 6P, which doesn't support Qi wireless charging, barely fit into the slot, so I'm guessing an iPhone 7 Plus with a Qi charging case is out of the question. My Nexus 5 backup handset tucked in nicely and started charging right away.
The Premium tier model that arrived for testing features many very useful and standard driver aid features, including a color head-up display, forward collision alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, rearview camera with cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring. Many of these features also integrate with the LaCrosse Premium's Safety Alert Seat haptic notification system that buzzes your bum to alert the driver to potential danger.
With just these features, the Buick already checks so many of the right boxes for a modern, premium sedan's safety loadout, but we've also got an optional Driver Confidence Package ($1,690) that adds automatic braking and pedestrian detection to the forward collision alert system, adaptive cruise control that works at stop-and-go speeds, and -- perhaps my favorite car tech feature -- one-touch, automatic parallel and perpendicular park assist.
The LaCrosse also features one of the oddest safety features that I've ever tested: a rear seat reminder. When activated, the IntelliLink system will remind the driver with an onscreen prompt to check the back seat before exiting the vehicle. It's such a simple and oddly specific feature that seems aimed at forgetful grandparents, but also one that could prove useful when there's a sleeping child or pet back there or I just need a reminder to hide my belongings when parking in an unsecured area. It's also ridiculously easy to ignore -- I stopped paying attention to it by the third day of my testing -- but it's better than nothing, I suppose.
The 2017 Buick LaCrosse doesn't try to be a luxury car -- that's a Cadillac's job -- but it is a marked improvement over its predecessor, is a solid entry in the $30K to $50K premium sedan class and it's easy to recommend among the best of its contemporaries. Yes, the "That's a Buick?!" commercials are a bit cliche and annoying, but I genuinely came away from this evaluation impressed with the automaker.
The base model starts at $32,065 and is very well equipped with HID headlamps and Buick IntelliLink with Android and Apple's smartphone technologies onboard. Many people would probably be happy at this value-priced level.
As tested, we start with the $41,065 Premium tier model with its already impressive suite of standard features and $395 Quicksilver Metallic premium paint. To that, we've added the Sights and Sounds and Driver Confidence packages, as well as the Dynamic Drive package. All in with a $925 destination charge and the ever-important optional floormats, this is a $47,035 car as equipped -- a premium price for this premium ride.
The pricing is very interesting; at the lower-to-midtier prices, the LaCrosse trades blows with the likes of the affordable Toyota Avalon, Hyundai Azera and Kia Cadenza, matching or beating all for comfort and performance. However, at the top tier level, the LaCrosse Premium's MSRP punches a bit high for this class and becomes a better cross-shop against second-tier luxury models like Lincoln's MKZ.