First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

The driving experience surprise

Grandma, it turns out, still has her dentures, and she's grinning like a hooligan at a Buick that is more engaging than anything in recent brand history. The LaCrosse strikes the perfect balance of comfort and sport, with a ride that is never harsh and competent body control. It certainly isn't the second coming of the Pontiac G8, but the LaCrosse surprises with its admirable handling ability.

The steering wheel is the one place where the LaCrosse let us down, its variable-effort steering feeling feather-light and numb. This is the last nagging reminder of the old Buick that we'd love to bury six feet under.

Comfort, of course, is still a big part of the package. The powertrain is silky, and the automatic transmission makes smooth gear shifts. Buick has done an excellent job of blocking out wind noise and unwanted powertrain sounds with laminated glass and insulation. But the absence of some noises draws attention to frequent knocks from the suspension when it encounters broken pavement. Still, the overall package of luxury comfort and capable hardware creates an identity that we would love to see throughout the Buick line up.

Buick's brand new day

Set to go on sale in the fall of 2009, the entry-level CX model starts at $27,835; top-trim CXS models start at $33,765. The mid-level CXL begins at $30,395 for front-wheel drive and $32,570 for all-wheel drive. With a fresh design, a luxurious interior, and well-balanced driving dynamics, the 2010 Buick LaCrosse certainly redefines our perceptions of what was once a brand we regularly looked right past. Not only does the LaCrosse prove that the Buick Enclave crossover wasn't just a one-time badge engineering triumph, the new midsize car trumpets the arrival of a newly reinvigorated brand.

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