As it stands, the Buick LaCrosse is currently the brand’s best selling passenger car, and second-best selling vehicle overall year-to-date, just behind the Enclave crossover. That being the case, it was very important that Buick got it right when it came to the mid-cycle refresh for the 2014 model year sedan that’s launching now, if the brand was to continue flourishing. Did they get it right? Definitely.
I had the chance to drive two variants of the 2014 LaCrosse: a front-wheel-drive V6 model equipped with HiPer Strut front suspension, and an all-wheel-drive V6 model. Both of these feature new suspension tuning, with some bits having been changed out altogether. But unlike the Cadillac XTS — which is still a few more degrees upscale than its LaCrosse platform-mate — the 2014 LaCrosse does is not equipped with Magnetic Ride Control. Regardless, the ride is still tailor-made for comfort, with its supple, updated shocks absorbing most of the imperfections found on any given Michigan back-road.
As far as the steering goes, it’s… targeted toward the customer. And by that I mean driver feedback leans towards minimal, the effort is low, and detaches the driver from the road. In effect, it brings another level of isolation to the soft, nearly sound-proof and comfortable cabin that is found in the LaCrosse. That’s not to say the car doesn’t handle tidily, and it’s unfair to demand track-ready steering feel from a car that’s meant to relax its occupants. However, the required steering effort does increase with speed, in the same way any other electric steering unit found in a GM vehicle does. But for those wishing for a more athletic driving experience, there’s the Buick Regal. Of note, the front-wheel-drive LaCrosse with HiPer Strut felt a little sharper than the all-wheel-drive model, while the braking feel was linear. The engine choices — a 304 hp 3.6L V6 LFX or a 36 mpg HWY 2.4L eAssist powertrain — remain unchanged from the outgoing model.
Along with the visual and dynamic updates, the most impressive, most pleasant update from the outgoing model is the new center stack. It seems GM has really found a great balance between touch-screen and buttons with the 2014 LaCrosse, narrowing the button count from 17 to just seven — leaving just the volume and tuning knobs, along with a home screen button. The genius here is that the lowered button count removes the button clutter that ailed the outgoing unit, while at the same time avoiding the issues ailing Cadillac CUE in that there are no buttons at all. But while there are a reduced number of buttons on the center stack, the steering wheel now feels like an Xbox 360 controller, though remains comfortable and easy to figure out.
While it bears several similarities to CUE, like storing 60 favorite presets — which along with radio station presets can include navigation destinations, Pandora stations, and even tone presets — along with the ability to swipe nav and radio information from the center stack to the instrument panel, the updated IntelliLink system does not utilize haptic feedback, meaning that it won’t respond to hand gestures the way CUE does. Instead, the system utilizes capacitive touch, and only responds to physical touches. The color (rather than monochrome) Heads-Up Display is also a welcome update.
Starting at $34,060, the 2014 LaCrosse comes in at an incrementally higher price than the 2013 model, featuring more content this time around. For example, the base all-cloth seats have been replaced by cloth seats with leatherette inserts. Those looking for a little extra will find be glad to find the $2,495 Ultra Luxury Package, which offers unique dark stained Tamo Ash wood throughout the cabin (supposedly exclusive to the LaCrosse), jet black synthetic suede headliner and vanity mirrors, and Semi-Aniline full leather seats in a red Sangria hue. The 2014 LaCrosse models that we tested during a regional media event were all far from basic, with prices floating around $47,000.
Will the 2014 LaCrosse help Buick continue its stellar growth and high conquest rate (43 percent in May)? It certainly checks all the boxes from our viewpoint, with a lot of content for the price, a high level of comfort, and elegant styling.