We hadn't much hope for Buick's reinvention, seeing as most concept cars from the stodgy division were either pie-in-the-sky convertibles or coupes with gullwing doors. That changed last year, when the General unveiled a concept at the 2008 Shanghai auto show. Called Invicta, it was a mid-size sedan that was both clean and contemporary - adjectives not used on a Buick since the 1995 Riviera. Better yet? We were told it was close to production.
Fast forward to the present: GM seems to have held its end of the bargain, as the 2010 Buick LaCrosse, unveiled at the 2009 Detroit auto show, is virtually a dead-ringer for last year's Invicta concept.
This is, of course, a good thing. While the outgoing LaCrosse wasn't an ugly car, it felt dated even when new. Sharp-eyed Buick historians quickly noted that the car's shape was quite similar to the XP2000 concept shown in 1995.
The new car (shown here in range-topping CXS trim) is more original, though it's still a bit derivative. Independently, the front fascia has a slight Lincoln tinge, while the taillights look as if they were ripped from an old Lexus ES. But when incorporated with other cues - including the distinct rear fender kick and the traditional portholes (now mounted on the hood), the LaCrosse begins to carry its own visual identity.
We'd almost go so far as to say the LaCrosse's interior carries more gravitas than it's exterior. Copied almost exactly from the Invicta concept, the new LaCrosse gains a wrap-around two-tone cockpit, complete with a French-stitched dash pad and blue LED accent lighting. Eliminating the old corporate radio allowed designers more freedom in crafting the center stack, but we're not sure the result - a busy group of knobs and buttons that would look at home in an Acura - is an ideal solution.
Changes under the LaCrosse's skin are equally plentiful. GM moved the car from the dated GM-10 chassis to the new Epsilon II platform, which is shared with the Opel Insignia and the next-generation Chevrolet Malibu.
Both the base CX and premium CXL models receive an all-new 3.0-liter direct-injection V-6. Rated at 255 hp and 211 lb-ft of torque, the new V-6 is mated to a six-speed automatic. While the CX is strictly a front-wheel-drive car, the CXL is also available as an all-wheel-drive model - a first for Buick, and a feature that helps the LaCrosse compete against Lincoln's MKZ.
If that isn't enough power for you, look towards the LaCrosse CXS. Buick fits this car with the same direct-injection 3.6-liter V-6 found in the Cadillac CTS, though it's been de-tuned to 280 hp and 261 lb-ft of torque. The CXS also includes features like active suspension, heated and cooled seats, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
We'll reserve our final judgment on the car for this summer, when production starts and we're expected to actually drive it. Still, from our limited first glimpse, it looks promising - something we've not said about a Buick sedan in quite some time.
To read more about the 2010 Buick LaCrosse, go to our 2009 Detroit auto show blogs coverage. All the latest blogs from the Editors of Automobile Magazine can be found HERE. We've got our whole staff wandering the floor at Cobo Hall bringing back live photos and more information about all the new debuts from Detroit.
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