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2011 Buick LaCrosse ReviewThe Good
A decently potent V6, quietly elegant cabin, plush ride, stylish exterior, and available all-wheel drive highlight the 2011 Buick LaCrosse.The Bad
Cramped trunk space, further complicated by a small trunk opening, as well as a few visibility and handling issues and an underperforming four-banger bring the 2011 LaCrosse down a notch or two.
The CarGurus View
Ride comfort, loads of standard features, and a stylish presentation, both inside and outside, make the 2011 Buick LaCrosse worth a serious look. Outstanding safety scores, above-average ride comfort, a potent V6, and a reasonable sticker price give this stylish sedan a distinct edge over much of its competition.
At a Glance
Extensively re-worked in 2010, the Buick LaCrosse for 2011 pretty much rests on its laurels. This snazzy five-passenger midsize sedan has drawn a ton of praise for its sleek exterior, as well as its pleasing, upscale cabin. A plethora of standard creature comforts only adds to this highly regarded cabin's ambiance, placing the higher-level trims just an eyelash short of luxurious. The 2011 LaCrosse is relatively unchanged from its 2010 reworking and features relatively agile handling and a reasonably plush ride, with the available Touring Package for the higher trims adding considerably more driving panache, though at the expense of some ride comfort.
Arguably the flagship sedan of the Buick lineup, the 2011 LaCrosse is delivered in three trims, the base CX, midlevel CXL, and top-shelf CXS. All are well equipped, eye-catching, and responsive, with the CX and front-wheel-drive CXL sporting the standard inline four-cylinder engine (I4) that was introduced in late 2010. The CXL trim is also available with full-time all-wheel drive (AWD) and, for 2011, gets a 3.6-liter V6 engine standard, while the flagship CXS also comes standard with the 3.6-liter V6. To the disappointment of no one, the underachieving 3.0-liter V6 has been dropped for 2011. Unfortunately, a rather small trunk, with an even smaller trunk opening, allows only 13.3 cubic feet of luggage space, which is definitely not cool for a purported high-end sedan. However, split-folding rear seats give this cramped area a bit of breathing room. A standard rear spoiler adds a bit of pizzazz to the rear deck of the CX and CXL trims, while a chrome grille and power rear sunshade give the CXS an aura of understated elegance.
The elegant 2011 LaCrosse is bred to compete with the Ford Taurus, Hyundai Genesis, Lexus ES 350, Infiniti G37, and Acura TL. Value-wise, the Genesis is the hands-down winner, and performance-wise, the Acura TL has it all over the rest. However, the LaCrosse ought to be able to hold its own against this well-heeled competition.
One change for the 2011 LaCrosse is the installation of the 182-hp (at 6,700 rpm), variable-valve-timed 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder (I4) in the front-wheel-drive CXL. Standard in the CX as well, this four-banger mates with a standard six-speed auto-manual transmission for 172 lb-ft of torque at 4,900 rpm. Should towing be required, this smallish I4 can handle up to 1,000 pounds, but keep in mind that a tow hitch is not among this sedan’s available options. Gas mileage for the I4, meanwhile, is estimated to be 19/30 mpg with regular unleaded gas.
Standard in the 2011 LaCrosse CXL AWD and CXS trims is a 3.6-liter V6, again with variable valve timing. Combined with its standard six-speed auto-manual transmission, the V6 puts out 280 hp at 6,300 rpm and 259 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. Mileage for this more fitting powerplant is estimated at 17/27 for the FWD CXS and 16/26 in the CXL AWD. Additionally, the 3.6-liter V6 is optional with the CX and FWD CXL trims. The CXL AWD trim, meantime, uses a mechanical, center-mounted, limited-slip differential to ensure power to all four wheels all the time.
Considered a bit underpowered by most reviewers, as well as somewhat raucous for what’s supposed to be a high-end automobile, the I4 ought to be only for those with a passion for driving a good-looking, if a tad noisy, automobile. Furthermore, most reviewers note that any gas savings generated by this puny I4 will probably be eaten up in trying to keep up with highway traffic. The V6, on the other hand, though less economical than the I4, is considered by virtually all reviewers as a perfect match for the midsize LaCrosse.
Ride & Handling
More than a few reviewers compliment the 2011 LaCrosse’s ride quality, courtesy of its standard four-wheel-independent suspension with modified MacPherson front struts. Doubtless front and rear stabilizer bars also contribute to what many reviews note is a ride comparable with, if not superior to, the Lexus E 350's. The sporty Touring Package, available only with the CXS trim level, noticeably degrades ride comfort, according to virtually all reviewers, but provides an undeniably more engaging driving experience.
Though the 2011 LaCrosse handles surprisingly well, it will never be confused with a dedicated sports car. Steering is noted by most reviewers as reasonably true and confident, and even better with the CXS trim’s optional Touring Package, though numerous reviews mention that the debilitated ride may not be worth the added agility. A driver-selectable “sport mode” on the standard six-speed auto-manual transmission is seen by a few reviewers as an adequate injection of driving panache without the added expense and distraction of the Touring Package. Brakes, however, have been described by a few reviewers as more than a little spongy.
The base CX trim level rolls on standard 17-inch steel wheels, while the CXL comes equipped with 18-inch painted alloy wheels. The top-shelf CXS, meanwhile, mounts 18-inch chrome alloy wheels, with 19-inch nine-spoke wheels an available option with the Touring Package. Reviewers note little difference in ride quality between the various wheel sizes.
Cabin & Comfort
As befits its pseudo-plush image, the 2011 LaCrosse, even at its base CX level, boasts cabin amenities above and beyond run-of-the-mill. Standard goodies in the lower trim level include cloth upholstery, trip computer, eight-way power driver’s seat and two-way power passenger’s seat, remote power door locks, power windows, and heated mirrors, tilt/telescoping steering wheel mounting transmission, audio, and cruise controls, OnStar communications, navigation, vehicle diagnostics, and hands-free interface, air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, simulated wood and simulated alloy console, door, and dash trim, memory for settings for two drivers, a single-CD player with seven speakers, and XM satellite radio.
CXL trims add leather upholstery, an eight-way-adjustable passenger seat, multi-level heated front seats, remote engine start, universal garage door opener and home security activation, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth/OnStar communications technology, and a Sun Sensor for automatic lighting and climate control modulation.
Standard amenities with the LaCrosse CXS include a power rear sunshade, premium leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, reverse tilting outside mirrors with driver’s side auto-dimming, keyless ignition, upgraded leather and simulated wood trim accents, and a 384-watt Harman Kardon audio system with 11 speakers, 5.1 surround, and a USB connection.
Options for the base CX trim include most standard items on the higher trims, while the CXL is available with the Luxury Package, which includes a heated steering wheel and keyless start as well as such standalone options as HD navigation with rearview camera and a power sunroof. Meanwhile, the high-end CXS adds rear-seat DVD entertainment and the Touring Package, with 19-inch, nine-spoke painted aluminum wheels and a sport-tuned suspension, to the options list.
The 2011 LaCrosse’s large gauges and well-marked controls are lauded by reviewers, though some smaller buttons and switches are a bit too alike for easy distinction, and the available HD navigation/audio functions can be a bit confusing. Despite some visibility issues due to its thick roof pillars, this cabin is well-wrought, comfortable, and quiet, according to virtually all reviewers. Further, reviews note the cabin has adequate, if not commodious, passenger room, with seats that are ideal for comfortable cruising.
Safety-wise the 2011 LaCrosse features such standard passenger protection equipment as four-wheel disc ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency braking assist, traction and stability control, dual front side-mounted airbags, front and rear head airbags, daytime driving lights, remote anti-theft alarm, OnStar safety management, and a post-collision safety system across the lineup. Additionally, turn-signal-integrated outside mirrors and front fog/driving lights are standard with the CXL and CXS trims, with the CXS also adding standard rear parking sensors that are optional for the CXL trim. Further optional safety features for both of the higher LaCrosse trims include HID headlights and blind-spot alert systems, with rear-seat thorax airbags available across the lineup.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2010 LaCrosse its highest five-star rating for front and side impact protection, with rollover protection in both the FWD and AWD trims rated at its second best four stars. Additionally, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2010/2011 LaCrosse its best rating of Good across the board.
What Owners Think
Visibility and cabin storage are a couple of glitches that owners think might be improved for the 2011 LaCrosse. As well, trunk space, a small trunk opening, and intrusive trunk struts leave owners a bit disappointed. Additionally, the standard I4 engine in the CX and CXL FWD trims leaves a few owners cold with its tepid power and raucous acceleration. Finally, most owners feel that gas mileage could be improved for the V6, while a few minor hunt-and-peck issues with the standard six-speed auto-manual transmission could be addressed.
On the positive side, owners are impressed with the LaCrosse’s styling, both inside and outside. A smooth ride, as well as comfy seats, available all-wheel drive, V6 performance, and the availability of the sporty Touring Package also have owners lauding this plush sedan. Overall, most owners feel the 2011 LaCrosse represents one of the better values in the segment.
Have Laptop. Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.
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