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2014 Buick LaCrosse Test Drive Review
The 2014 LaCrosse remains composed when tackling sweeping turns, and the steering exhibits a pleasant weightiness at higher speeds.
Like other GM brands, Buick uses each new model year as an opportunity to further annihilate any memories of its not-too-distant mediocre phase. The updated 2014 LaCrosse is further proof of how far the company has come with its contemporary styling, ultra-premium-grade refinement and materials, and integration of leading safety and convenience technologies.
Look and Feel
Updated for 2014, the 5-passenger Buick LaCrosse sedan hits the streets with ever-so-slightly tweaked LED taillights, LED-accented headlights and a revised hood boasting more obvious faux portholes. Inside, changes have been made to the layout of primary controls, additional high-quality materials have been introduced and designers have worked to make the seats more comfortable.
Those features and improvements are included in the 2014 LaCrosse base trim’s $34,060 starting price (all figures include a $925 destination charge), as are dual-zone climate control, a remote start system, 17-inch alloy wheels, ambient interior lighting, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system offering Bluetooth streaming audio and iPod compatibility. A mild hybrid powertrain, dubbed eAssist, is standard on this front-wheel-drive (FWD) variant.
Next up in the LaCrosse lineup is the Leather trim level, available in FWD eAssist or all-wheel-drive (AWD) V6 guise. Buick starts the bidding at $36,135, a sum that’s accompanied by a rear-view camera, push-button start, heated power-adjustable front seats with memory settings for 2 drivers, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, rear parking sensors and, as the name suggests, leather upholstery. Buyers who select the AWD version also get standard 19-inch alloy wheels. Those with a few extra dollars to spend may want to check out the optional rear-seat entertainment system with its Blue-Ray DVD player and dual monitors, a Driver Confidence Package 1 stuffed with advanced safety technology, a power moonroof, or an Ultra Luxury Package consisting of perforated leather upholstery, genuine wood trim and a suede headliner.
Following the LaCrosse Leather is the Premium I, powered by the V6 engine and equipped with either FWD or AWD capability. Priced from $39,735, the 2014 Buick LaCrosse Premium I serves as host to an 11-speaker Bose Surround Sound system, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, a power rear sunshade and an upgraded suspension (FWD only). Among the options is a Driver Confidence Package 2 with even more safety features.
That brings us to the Premium II, the cream of the 2014 LaCrosse crop. This V6-powered, FWD model adds 20-inch alloy wheels and a navigation system.
To get an up-close-and-personal look at Buick’s revised premium sedan, I attended a company-sponsored event in Kentucky, where I had the opportunity to test-drive FWD and AWD V6 models decked out with varying levels of equipment. All carried sticker prices hovering around the mid- to high-$40,000 range.
Unlike many of its competitors, the 2014 LaCrosse doesn’t come with a V6 by default. Instead, the eAssist hybrid powertrain is standard, comprised of a direct-injected 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine supported by a 15kW lithium-ion battery, an electric motor and a 6-speed automatic transmission. Net output measures 182 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque, and the EPA suggests drivers will average 25 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg combined.
eAssist is not offered on AWD models, but the available 3.6-liter V6 is. This direct-injected powerplant produces 304 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque, and offers an EPA-estimated 18 mpg city/28 highway/21 combined in FWD guise, or 17/26/20 with the added weight of an AWD system. During my test drives, I consistently recorded mileage in the high teens.
Those stints behind the wheel also afforded me the opportunity to get a good sense of the 6-cylinder’s performance. While not a push-you-into-your-seat bruiser, the engine did provide ample grunt for what is a substantial sedan, and the easily modulated throttle meant power delivery was smooth and predictable. Buick does provide a manual-shift feature for drivers who prefer to dictate the car’s shift points, but the placement of the system’s +/- button—on the left of the console-mounted gear lever—is a bit awkward. FWD trims add a Sport setting, yet when used, I didn’t notice any difference between it and regular Drive mode. And, frankly, that’s just fine in the LaCrosse, as the vast majority of buyers won’t likely be expecting an athletic demeanor from this Buick. Those who do will be disappointed by the velvety-but-not-at-all-racy powertrain, as well as the comfort-tuned chassis. It should be noted that FWD V6-equipped LaCrosse models, like one of my test cars, are fitted with the company’s front HiPer strut and rear H-arm suspension setup, which should amp up the vehicle’s handling capabilities. However, with and without Sport mode activated, this behind-the-scenes hardware didn’t offer me any extra degree of confidence on Kentucky’s narrow winding back roads.
Simply put, this is not the sport sedan of the brand’s lineup (that designation belongs to the smaller Regal GS), though, to its credit, the 2014 LaCrosse does remain composed when tackling sweeping turns, and the steering exhibits a pleasant weightiness at higher speeds. Plus, and perhaps more important to the LaCrosse’s audience, bumps and road abnormalities are successfully isolated from the cabin and its occupants, leaving them to enjoy the ride without unfilled potholes causing them to be jostled.
Form and Function
As I’m looking through my notes, one thing is clear: I didn’t uncover anything inside the 2014 Buick LaCrosse worthy of a legitimate criticism. I don’t go out of my way to find them, but most test cars usually have at least a few points that could be remedied or improved upon. In this case? Not so much.
The driver’s seat is a good place to start. That’s where I found soft yet supportive cushions, a comfortably curved backrest, moderate side bolsters and supple leather upholstery. Those bits of animal hide were also present on the shift lever and tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, while padded surfaces highlighted the sills, door and center armrests, dashboard and the side of the center console (against which a driver’s knee might rub). A quality mesh material is used on the headliner, visors and upper pillars. Hard plastic is mixed in, too, but its use is generally limited to more out-of-the-way places.
Rear-seat passengers enjoy similar accommodations, albeit with slightly firmer cushions and a little less thigh support. But they do get the padded surfaces, generous overall room and extras like a 120-volt outlet that’s perfect for recharging portable games and DVD players.
Regardless of where your backside is planted, chances are you’ll appreciate the LaCrosse’s quiet interior. Wind, engine and road noise are all extremely well isolated from the cabin. Storage provisions are also commendable, and include door and seatback pockets, a large felt-lined glovebox, cubbies on the dash and console and an illuminated dual-level front center armrest with a power outlet, USB port and auxiliary input jack.
Behind it all is a fully lined trunk that measures 13.3 cu-ft with the V6 or 10.8 cu-ft with the eAssist powertrain. Here, a bit of criticism is deserved for the LaCrosse's high liftover (the height you need to lift items to get them into the trunk). Also, the driver-side section of the rear split-folding seat is noticeably heavy and may be uncomfortable for some folks to lift back into place.
Buick approaches technology from multiple fronts, loading the 2014 LaCrosse with several new safety features (read more about those in the next section), a choice of powertrains and chassis setups, and creature comforts such as the available rear-seat entertainment system.
Among the related goods is the company’s IntelliLink infotainment system. Components include an 8-inch touchscreen display offering crisp detail and customizable icons that are intuitive and quickly activated with a light finger tap. When linked to a smartphone or iPod, drivers can access Pandora Internet radio (app required), make calls via Bluetooth, or simply venture into their personal music library using steering-wheel-mounted controls or 2014’s enhanced voice-recognition software. Everything is now seamlessly integrated, so queuing up a song from your MP3 player is as easy as selecting your favorite SiriusXM station.
Another upgrade for 2014 is the new gauge cluster screen that lets you not only scroll through menus showing fuel economy and tire pressure, but also audio settings, maps for the optional navigation system and various safety alerts.
For those of you out there who view positive safety scores as make-it-or-break-it criteria in your search for a new car, now’s the time when I suggest you put the red pen down and leave the 2014 Buick LaCrosse on your short list.
In crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the LaCrosse earned an overall rating of 5 (out of 5) stars. As this review is being written, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hasn’t published its results for the 2014 LaCrosse, but the similar 2013 model was named a Top Safety Pick.
Among the features contributing to the LaCrosse’s impressive safety performance are 8 standard airbags, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist and electronic stability control. In addition, all models are equipped with the OnStar telematics system offering emergency response services, roadside assistance and more.
Going above and beyond the call of duty is the optional Driver Confidence Package 1, within which Buick has bundled adaptive HID headlights, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a blind-spot monitor. There’s also a head-up display. Though not considered cutting-edge, I’m a big fan of this technology, as it puts key information clearly within the driver’s line of sight, thereby avoiding the need to take your eyes off the road.
Driver Confidence Package 2, available on LaCrosse Premium I and II models, tacks on intelligent cruise control, automatic collision preparation, and a Safety Alert seat that warns the driver of a potential impact (the seat vibrates on the left or right, depending on where the other object is relative to the vehicle).
A car’s value, or cost effectiveness, is largely based on an individual buyer’s needs. It’s also somewhat dependent on who you believe. Case in point: the 2014 Buick LaCrosse’s quality and reliability ratings. According to J.D. Power and Associates, this large domestic sedan will reward its owners with above-average reliability, while quality is deemed to be merely average. The other leading provider of this type of data, Consumer Reports, predicts below-average reliability for eAssist models and downright poor reliability from LaCrosses fitted with the V6 engine. Hmm.
If there is a problem, the automaker has your back with a 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and powertrain coverage spanning 6 years or 70,000 miles. Those figures match those of Lexus, one of Buick’s target competitors.
Since it’s still relatively new to the market, residual values are not yet available for the 2014 LaCrosse. In terms of pricing, the base LaCrosse eAssist undercuts models like the 6-cylinder Lexus ES 350. To get a V6 in the LaCrosse, you’ll need to opt for the Leather trim level, which carries a $1,800 premium but also adds AWD, a feature not available on the Lexus.
Thom Blackett is a lifelong car nut, owning cars ranging from Datsuns to Mustang GTs and, currently, a Ram 2500 plow truck. He has spent the past decade writing objective, thorough vehicle reviews and consumer-focused feature articles for Autobytel.com, Kelley Blue Book, The Boston Globe, Cars.com, and other leading websites and publications.
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2014 Buick LaCrosse Top Comparisons
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- Leather AWD
- Avg. Price: $19,556
- Leather FWD
- Avg. Price: $19,831
- Premium I AWD
- Avg. Price: $21,738
- Premium I FWD
- Avg. Price: $21,346
- Premium II FWD
- Avg. Price: $21,284
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