By definition, large sedans are meant to be easygoing road-trip companions that provide plenty of quiet, room, and comfort, yet don’t command the premium price associated with an elite luxury brand. That pretty much sums the traditional definition of Buick, and it is one that the LaCrosse large sedan fits perfectly. As promised, Buick's flagship LaCrosse has a hushed cabin, a well-trimmed interior with a roomy rear seat, and a cushy ride. Add in a powerful and economical V6 engine, up-to-date electronics, and available all-wheel-drive, and the LaCrosse provides a compelling entry in the large sedan segment.
But don't think that the LaCrosse is trapped by tradition; it's not a heavy gas-guzzling road yacht of yesteryear. The 2017 redesign made the car lighter, even though it's now longer and wider than before. These weight savings combined with a new eight-speed automatic help improve fuel economy to a respectable 24 mpg overall. Power is ample, making for stress-free merging.
Even though SUVs have been stealing sales away from large sedans, the LaCrosse doesn't give up without a fight, offering optional all-wheel-drive. (Expect a fuel economy drop of about one or two mpg for the added traction.) That makes it one of the few large sedans available with that Snow Belt–friendly feature. Rival big sedans, like the Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon, are strictly front-wheel drive.
Then again, buyers like SUVs because they have chair-height seats and easy entry. But the sleeker silhouette with the 2017 redesign brings a lower stance that makes it harder to get in and out. Visibility is considerably improved over the previous 2010-2016 LaCrosse, but not stellar.
Ride comfort is a strong point, smothering just about any type of pavement flaw. Be aware though that comfort depends on the version. Cars equipped with the 20-inch wheels and continuously damping suspension struggle to absorb road impact; harshness sneaks through in a very un-Buick way. Buick promotes library-like quiet as a brand cornerstone, and the LaCrosse clearly delivers. Handling is sound and secure. Typical of this class, agility falls well short of being sporty or engaging.
Roomy and well-finished, the LaCrosse's roomy cabin has a spacious rear seat and neatly organized controls. The new dash is much less cluttered than it was in its predecessor. GM's IntelliLink touch-screen infotainment system is intuitive to use and includes standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
Our biggest gripe about the controls is the new electronic gear selector. Many drivers will be puzzled at first and even then finding Reverse is tricky often resulting with the car wounding up in Neutral. This design is intended to increase storage space, but going to the trouble only yielded a small cubby below the center console. Frankly, that gain is not worth being forced to relearn how to shift an automatic transmission. At least the design includes safeguards to prevent the car from rolling away if you accidentally don't put it in Park.
On the safety front, we wish forward-collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB) were more widely available. (We want both to be standard on all cars.) FCW is standard on the top Premium model but not available on the more mainstream Essence trimline. At least the Essence has the option of blind-spot warning with lane-change and rear cross-traffic alerts; these systems are standard on the Premium trim.
Buick has been able to attract a new younger crowd to the marque with crossovers like the Encore and Enclave. With the LaCrosse's more dynamic styling and high tech content, Buick tries to extend the appeal of its large sedan while remaining faithful to the traditionalists. It largely succeeds but shortcomings like the newfangled shifter and compromised access from the lower stance are unlikely to satisfy either crowd.