I was quite excited to have the 2010 Buick LaCrosse for an evening. General Motors has been rolling out very competent products for the last few years and the LaCrosse is one of the last nameplates to be updated here in the U.S. Being one of the last "new" products in this offensive puts the LaCrosse in a tough place. The bar was set incredibly high with the new Cadillac CTS, the Buick Enclave, the Chevy Corvette ZR1, the Chevy Malibu, and even the GMT900 platform that underpins all of GM's full-size SUVs and pickup trucks. While the LaCrosse may have made incredible strides from its predecessor, GM didn't really show us new tricks with this car.
The interior is a pleasant place to pass the time, but there is still room for improvement. First off, I couldn't find the interior door handle after I sat in the driver's seat. It's true an owner of the car would rather quickly learn the position of this essential tool, but what about all the times you give rides to friends and family? I'd be embarrassed if I were a businessperson being driven somewhere in the LaCrosse and had to ask how to close the door. I am also not a fan of the cluttered center stack. GM used to have wonderfully simple controls for the stereo, climate control, and navigation systems. Now there's a whole lot of buttons, which look virtually identical, squeezed into a rather small area. As a spirited driver, it was impossible to make quick changes to the radio station or climate control without looking down and taking my eyes off the road. Lexus and the German competitors have better solutions here.
I'd really like to sample a LaCrosse with 18-inch wheels, as these 19-inchers make the ride a little choppy and don't really add anything worthwhile in the handling department. Sport mode, the other major component of the $800 Touring package, works well, but the entire driver-information screen displays a message indicating that sport mode is on, and it stays that way for an eternity. And when you decide to get out of sport mode, the opposite message occupies the same display for 20 or 30 more seconds. I'd much rather have a simple "S" or "Sport" light come on in the IP instead of losing the whole DIC display for a while. As an aside, why isn't the Touring Package called the Sport Package? I suspect that the 19-inch wheels would deter me from any real touring in this car.
My final complaint has to do with the incredible amount of torque steer present in this LaCrosse. If Buick's engineers couldn't dial in the suspension to get rid of the torque steer, why couldn't they offer awd as an option? This decision seems to echo the Cadillac Northstar days--all the power in the world means nothing if you can't put it to the ground. Take a page from the Audi playbook and embrace awd if doing rwd cars is the Cadillac mission. There's clearly room for both approaches in the market.
It probably sounds like I was unhappy behind the wheel of the LaCrosse, but I wasn't. The truth is the rest of the car is quite well done and my colleagues have done a good job of explaining everything GM has done right with this project. But in pointing out the LaCrosse's few shortcomings, I'm hoping it can make the leap from a very good car to a great car.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor