Replacing the Regal and soon-to-exit Century, the front-drive LaCrosse is Buick's new, younger-thinking midsize mainstay. Although it borrows heavily from GM's aging W-body platform that also underpinned the Regal/Century, the LaCrosse gains 1.5 inches of wheelbase--to 110.5 inches--plus multiple improvements that enhance both its structural integrity and overall sophistication.
The lineup includes CX, CXL, and CXS models. Traditional Buick character is more evident in the latter pair, but the CXL trades leather upholstery for cloth, adds a Driver Information Center, and nets dual-zone auto climate control in place of manual A/C. The top-line CXS moves beyond with a more powerful engine and Gran Touring sport suspension, plus numerous other amenities.
Vertical bars in an oval grille are all that really speak to Buick lineage on the soft-lined exterior. Otherwise, styling reflects a pleasantly modern potpourri of domestic and international cues set off by subtle chrome accenting. Overall finish is impressive and body panel gaps consistent, reflecting the Lexus engineering target for this breakthrough Buick. The CXS also comes with 17-inch aluminum wheels and 225/55TR17 tires in place of the 16-inch rims--steel on CX, alloy on CXL--that wear S-rated 225/60 rubber.
Tasteful understatement with an emphasis on serenity is the order of the day inside. Marginally convincing faux walnut trim notwithstanding, there's a look and feel of quality. Main controls are logically positioned, although legibility of the instruments--light grey-on-charcoal rather than true white-on-black--suffers in low-ambient-light conditions and brightwork on the dash can cause annoying sun flare.
The front buckets are more about cruising comfort than lateral support, but the LaCrosse does offer a bench seat option that allows it to carry six. While the wheelbase stretch makes the aft quarters more adult friendly, taller occupants may find head- and legroom marginal. Both CXL and CXS have a 60/40 split-folding rear seat with a pull-down armrest and dual cupholders. A locking glovebox, open storage in the console, a covered bin in the center armrest and mini-pockets in each front door hold smaller items, while a 16.0-cu-ft trunk with reasonably easy access takes care of the big stuff.
All models feature a full range of power assists, keyless remote entry, six-way power driver's seat, and retained power plus a six-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system with auto tone control and speed-compensated volume. Available nine-speaker upgrade units add either a six-disc changer or CD/MP3 capability, and XM satellite radio also is available. Another neat touch is optional remote starting. Quirks include manual adjustment for the driver's seatback and cumbersome two-lever activation for the tilt/telescope steering column that's a CXL/CXS standard. Most glaring omission: No navigation system is offered. At the heart of the LaCrosse is Buick's "Quiet Tuning" technology. Using the Lexus ES sedan as an NVH bogey, engineers sought to give their new sedan world-class refinement, complementing the platform redesign process with massive amounts of sound deadener plus other innovative touches like Quiet Steel laminate in the forward clip, acoustic laminate in the front and side glass, and noise-quashing baffles in the roof pillars. For those efforts, the LaCrosse does merit at least "Lexus-like" marks under nearly all conditions.