By on July 5, 2006

front.jpgThey come from around the world to duke it out in the US of A: mid-size sedans from Germany, Japan and South Korea.  Each arrives armed with a unique selling point: German engineering, Japanese quality and South Korean value.  Their upbringings differ but their mission is the same: capture the hearts and minds of Middle American car buyers– and keep them.  The clear winner in this automotive Battle Royale is the American consumer, who’s never enjoyed so much quality and choice for so little money.  Meanwhile, once stalwart American brands and models are falling by the wayside, as their “foreign” competition continues their ceaseless campaign for mid-market hegemony.  One such victim is the Buick LaCrosse CXL.   

Appearances deceive; for Buick has mad coach building skills.  The LaCrosse blends feminine curves and masculine edges with continental flair.  Buick's ovoid adaptation works at every angle that the last Ford Taurus failed: gentle creases accentuate the toned quarter panels, while the rakish c-pillar puts the Ghost of LeSabres Past to rest. Witness the minimalist approach to body cutlines, a lost art in these days of excessive plastic ornamentation.  (Never mind the dorky fender-mount GM badge: five minutes with a hairdryer and they’re a memory.) The LaCrosse' true visual appeal lies in its perfect proportions: badges, lights, trim, glass and sheetmetal all know their place, harmonizing like a barbershop quartet on ecstasy.  

interior.jpg

Fine proportioning continues within, as economy of line ensures that the LaCrosse’s interior elements complement each other perfectly.  Unfortunately, the cabin makes no bones about Buick’s state of the union: this economy is deep in recession.  It’s littered with portal trimmings befitting a Chevrolet. Comically placed wood accents are about as convincing as Buick's tagline, and attract jewelry abrasions like a magnet.  The Buick’s standard six-speaker audio system delivers mega bass and crystalline treble for front seaters, and nothing sonically stunning for backseat bombers.  The tiller's stiff leather wrapping begs Calgon to take it away, away, away.

All is not lost.  Peep the wood and chrome accents surrounding the LaCrosse’s headlight controls: the vinyl, chrome and woodgrain dash proclaims “tres chic” (even if the slick console sits on a house of cards foundation).  Seating is standard Buick decadence, with the handy addition of fold-flat, pass-through, split-decision rear seats.  Pop the finely chiseled decklid and there’s room for both golf bag and golfer.  Once properly stowed, the lid's double-linked hinges and zero-leverage grab handle ensures a clean palm print on dirty sheetmetal will finish the job.

engine.jpgWhile the trunk fails high school physics, torque multiplication is the favorite subject of ye olde 3.8L V6.  The 90-degree six-pot provides pure pushrod satisfaction. The powerplant’s 230lb-ft of torque assures gratuitous grunt from the git-go, while 200 horses whip the LaCrosse CXL to redline at a moment’s notice.  Yes, but– with only four speeds in play, the LaCrosse needs all the Grand National heritage it can muster.  The mill’s trashy tenor at high revs quickly kills Buick's luxo-muscle image.  Although the CSX' 3.6-liter VVT DOHC engine stables an 40 extra horses, it's still not enough to lift the Lacrosse’s acceleration above more-than-merely-adequate.

Put the moves on the LaCrosse CXL and it’s clear this Prom Queen won't tango.  The car’s steering system walks the line between responsive and relaxing, but moderate understeer and nautical body roll are a total buzz kill.  When it’s time for the "fun" to stop, monumental nosedive threatens to trip the airbag sensors.  The cushy dampers and mundane Goodyear donuts make it clear the LaCrosse CXL is aimed at elderly drivers who prefer a quiet library to a discotheque (that’s a club to you and me).  Which brings us straight to “Quiet Tuning.”   

quiettuning.jpg The Buick on the QT delivers a smooth ride and a hushed ambiance (marred only by the pissed-off 3.8L's presence at part throttle). It's quiet fo-sho, but that’s not what you call “sizzle” in the highly-competitive, mid-size sedan market.  In fact, cruising down the freeway in the CXL, two words seemed to distill the experience: rental car.  It’s easy on the eyes, sports a proven powertrain and possesses the kind of dynamically challenged demeanor that takes the trouble right out of a "troublemaker.” 

As Bob Elton reported, Buick dealers are currently shifting a handful of new cars per month.  “Value Pricing” or not, there’s no question that superfluous LaCrosse inventory will finds its home in the rental car market.  Meanwhile, Hyundai is busy selling conservatively styled, value-added sedans aimed squarely at Buick's niche.  A country that's been a democracy all of 19 years makes rides that hand David Dunbar Buick's legacy its collective ass.  Sorry, but today's market needs more than a pretty face and reasonable reliability.  The LaCrosse is a solid, good-looking dog– that won't hunt.

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58 Comments on “Buick LaCrosse CXL Review...”


  • avatar
    montess

    You guys really need to add someone to the staff to balance out your blatant GM and Ford bashing. Face it, American cars aren’t nearly as bad as you “experts” think they are and guess what, the foreign jobs aren’t nearly as wonderful as you suggest.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Montess,

    Stay tuned — however, I think we give all cars a very fare shake.

    Read my Ford Focus review — I mentioned how lousy and pitiful the interior is (and it IS), but how wonderfully the car drives (because it does). How is that “bashing?”

    Sajeev seemed to be overly fair in his LaCrosse review — he called that hideous monster good looking. But, how else do you review a new car with what essentially amounts to a 25-year-old engine and dime-store materials inside? BMW would never, ever do that. Also — read our BMW reviews — they ain’t very nice.

    -Jonny-

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Guess my glowing review of the Corvette Z06 wasn’t good enough…I also have to like the GM products that don’t cut it.

    But, if anyone cares, my current fleet of vehicles are 100% Detroit Iron. Yes, I’m an Asian dude with nothing but American cars.

  • avatar
    Hutton

    It doesn’t sound like anything got “bashed” in this review. It just reiterates the point that in a competitive market “good” is no longer “good enough” and in vary few cases can a good car hope to compete with an excellent car if they exist within the same pricepoint.

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    … and nothing from Detroit ever got the “flying vagina” treatment here!

  • avatar

    It’s called the truth about cars. Read ‘em and weep.

  • avatar

    I hate Fords so much I own three of them.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Yeah, since Mark mentioned it, I really hate Ford.

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    Even though the criticism of the domestic industry is a little over the top, the reviews are fair, at least the ones for the cars i have driven myself.

  • avatar
    Schmu

    I actually Like the exterior…..haven’t figured out why. Maybe I need a shrink? GM’s engine troulbes are something I discuss often. Almost all of the regular mid size cars have more powerful engines, and smaller in size to boot. While I am not saying all cars’ horsepowers should be the same, they should at least be in the same ballpark as the vehicles it intends on competing with. This is a Buick; it is supposed to be better than the regualr mid size car. Instead, we find a decent enough vehicle with an underpowered engine harnessed to an old transmsission. What fact that I just typed is wrong? If it is not wrong, how is it bashing? Me? I really like the G6. Not everyone here will agree, but I am fair enough to acknowledge, and complain about any vehicle’s shortcomings. That is why I like it here so much.

  • avatar
    Schmu

    Jeez, I cannot type today. Please excuse the previous typos.

  • avatar
    wstansfi

    Every now and then, you get surprised.

    I rented a Mercury Grand Marquis for a week in Hawaii and after 20 minutes behind the wheel I said “Now I get it – now I understand why old people love these things!” That car was everything I had wanted for that trip. If I were 25 years older, I would have wanted it for regular life.
    Did someone say it’s being discontinued?

    Later I rented a Malibu for a week that started out with 6 miles on it. As soon I got up to speed something loose in the steering wheel started vibrating. Quality… what quality? Speaking of anemia, I couldn’t keep the car above 45 mph on uphill grade highway without dropping the pedal and pushing the car, screaming, into 2nd gear.

    Returning to a rental Taurus a week later I was amazed that the seat wouldn’t quite go far enough back for a guy with 32 inseam, and the seat was painfully uncomfortable. I would have imagined that after all these years, they might gotten these simplest of things correct (for this vehicle). It’s easier for me to fit comfortably into a Mini! Even my wife, who has absolutely zero intererest in automotive concerns, said “wow, this is a crap car.” (But I will admit that it was quiet on the highway at speed.)

    So you really have to wonder, when GM or Ford produce cars that are not comfortable to sit in, and are making loose vibrating sounds when you drive them off the lot… you have to wonder if they do it on purpose, or if they don’t know, or if they know and don’t care.

    I don’t know… Any thoughts?

    wstansfi

  • avatar
    Lesley

    He speaks the truth. In my opinion anyway.
    Up here in the Great White North, it’s rebadged as the Allure (la crosse being french slang for pleasing oneself, or crossing the palm). That’s absolutely the last thing that comes to mind while driving this car. In fact, not much of anything came to mind. It’s about as offensive… as dry toast. The only feeling, um, aroused in me.. was the intense dislike I felt for the steering. Other than that, the performance was unenthusiastic at best.
    But it’s not ugly. :)

  • avatar
    chandler

    I’m personally surprised that someone (under the age of 70) actually likes the exterior design of this car. It manages to recall pretty much every midsize car that Buick has built in the past thirty years without modernizing the design in any way.

    I have seen this car from the inside and Sajeev’s comments about the interior are pretty objective as far as I can tell. I’m not sure that the comments about the powertrain hold, however. While it’s clear that the elderly pushrod plant won’t move like an Accord V6, this car isn’t competing against said Accord anyway. Next time you’re on the road, try to find the V6 emblem on the Accords you stop behind. Most of what I count are 4 cylinder models. The midsize market has already reached the point where it’s driven by value, mindshare, and perceived reliability, not horsepower. From that perspective it’s pretty clear where performance-minded models like the Accord V6 6-speed fit in to the picture: to build mindshare among the folks who steer the mass-market herd. (Yeah, my analogies suck.)

    Buick has no mindshare, which is why it’s a damaged brand. GM says it’s a Lexus-fighter, which means this car should be fighting the ES350. Instead it’s priced like a mass-market midsize sedan, and built like one.

    Of course I’m such a domestic-hater that I drive a Vectra Saturn.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    wstansfi,

    I wound up getting rear-ended twice in two months (Both times by a Volvo and in two different WRXs…) So, I had a week with a Pacifica (Boo) and a week with a Taurus.

    The Taurus was perhaps the very worst car it have ever driven. It smelled cheap. Even if you could have got the seat where you wanted it, you would have been sitting on foam with no side or back support. Just a miserable experience all around — and that was Ford’s main passenger product.

  • avatar
    Lesley

    A Lexus fighter?
    Maybe a Sonata fighter.
    I’d take the Sonata.
    Not even a Fusion fighter… it was fun to drive.
    Sajeev was kind enough not to mention that rear visibility is worse than terrible. But.. there is sonar, yay! Nor that the powerplant sounds like a box of pissed off bees once it’s awakened. There’s so much soundproofing and “quiet steel” you don’t really notice it though.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    wstansfi:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1413

    You certainly “get it”, thank you. :-)

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    wstansfi,

    I think it’s simple. The management at GM and Ford are not car people. There’s no passion for the product. It’s a commodity to them.

    Take a look at the Ford Bold Moves video, and look at the people in the boardroom with Mark Fields.

    Do you really think any of them have the same emotions about cars that the readers of TTAC have ?

    Toasters, televisions, furniture and automobiles……it’s all the same to those people, and their cars totally reflect that.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Hyundai and Toyota are looking like the new Buick these days – in a decade or two, they’ll be the old folks’ car, and Buick might still be on sale in China. Sort of how Britney and Ashley will someday be the Beatrice of today – a nursing home honorific.

    I haven’t a clue what Lutz has in mind for the future of this damaged brand. Enclave will do okay if gas prices stay low, but there’s no other product for the next few years.

  • avatar
    mistercopacetic

    Even though I am less than half the age of Buick’s target demographic for the LaCrosse, I for one like the styling. It has curves without going overboard. I’ve seen a few in traffic, and they look pretty good. If I was in the market for one, the thing that would turn me off most is the engine. How can GM get away with a pushrod+four speed auto in this century? It doesn’t need a hot rod engine, just something smooth and powerful enough to take highway traffic.

    P.S.: Love the line, “Pop the finely chiseled decklid and there’s room for both golf bag and golfer.”

  • avatar
    pswillb

    i tend to favor cars of the honda and bmw ilk. however, as a lifelong business traveller, i have to say that rental cars get a really bad rap. some of them are actually pretty good. i’m not crazy about the lacrosse, but i do like the lucerne (where do they come up with these names tho??) and the one thing about the evergreen “one gallon” 3.8 V6 that no-one ever mentions is the remarkable over-the-road fuel economy they get…usually around 30 mpg in a car this big, heavy and quiet is nothing to be sneezed at. yes, it is a bit wheezy at upper rpm’s, but if old PM (Pushrod Motors) can make the C6 small block breathe, the V6 could similarly be made a bit more competitive. the 4-speed auto would be a deal killer tho…

  • avatar

    Schmu wrote: I actually Like the exterior???..haven???t figured out why. Maybe I need a shrink?

    Most of today’s cars are ugly. My new fridge looks better than your average car. That said, the LaX is a lot less ugly than your average car. One thing I really hate are those sharply-pointed eyes that hold the grill up on either side. The grills are generally awful. There is something very messy about this look. My own beloved Accord from the previous generation typifies it. The LaX’s face is much cleaner than those of most of the appliances out there.

  • avatar
    stanshih

    Looks are always going to be subjective…
    Having said that, the exterior styling and execution of GM’s post-2004 vehicles has been very good (in my eyes) without exception. They look OK on TV and in print but really look great up close in person:
    G6, Lucerne, LaCrosse, Torrent/Equinox, Solstice/Sky, Tahoe/Escalade, Impala, HHR, STS, DTS, Cobalt (weakest of the bunch, but still OK).

    In fact I prefer GMs new exteriors over every manufacturer out there excepting VW and maybe Ford’s Volvo lineup.

    I’ll get some flak for my opinion, I’m sure…but hey, that’s what “comments” sections are for! =)

  • avatar

    Direct your attention to the LaCrosse that Buick builds in China:

    http://www.buick.com.cn/en/c_model/lacrosse.aspx

    The side profile is relatively generic, but clean and attractive (shades of G6 and Saturn Aura?). The front end is where the money’s at on this one. It gives and impression of substance and maturity. Truly “Executive.”

    Buick only going to be successful if it gets back to making cars to which people aspire. Quality ratings and even quality of materials will only get you so far (those are the things that *keep* customers). But you’re never going to get them in the door if you don’t build something people want to be seen in.

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    ‘Round my current Purgatory (rural Ohio) people LOVE this stuff. In their ignorance, these people still truly aspire to own Buicks and Oldsmobiles. I understand this is just a Midwestern anomaly – the last stronghold of the former Big 3.

    Still – even young (uneducated never been outside of Ohio) people will say “Wow – John’s new (meaning 1 year old former rental car) Buick is really nice.” In other words, they don’t know or care about powertrain technology until they get the $1,500 repair bill for the leaking rear main seal at 70,000 miles. Even if they’ve been in or driven a Lexus/Honda/BMW they don’t know enough to notice the difference in interior materials, fit and finish or feel.

    So – GM and Ford will continue to sell a few of these cars here for the time being. It’s just not a long term plan for success or even survival. It just seems like a really slow painful way to go out.

  • avatar
    vallux06

    Sajeev,

    You tell it as it is. I for one appreciate this. Driving various, if not all, home grown products other then the econo boxes that are also available in other parts of the world, I come away with the feeling that these mid size vehicles are at least two production cycles behind the competition. They are.

  • avatar
    Schmu

    The comment about GM management not being car guys is dead on. They are businessmen, bean counters and the like. They drive R&D (if any), engineering decisions, design decisions, etc. Without vision, how can one expect a bean counter to make the proper decision? Taste is subjective. But the old decision making process on a winshield wiper motor is the same across the makes. Supplier A can make 1mil motors for $20 a piece at a failure rate of 1 in 5000. Supplier A can make 1 mil motors for $26 a piece at a failure rate of 1 in 12000. Bean counters will choose the $20 motor every day of the week, while car guys (or gals) will choose the $26 part to avoid the ‘cavalier look’ of driving down the road with the wipers pointing the way to the moon. GM’s problems are more than retirement; everythinn needs an overhaul from the top down.

  • avatar
    Glenn

    Schmu, you made me laugh.

    Every time I see a car with windshield wipers that “won’t park” and just sit there “pointing the way to the moon” – it is a GM product. Every time.

    Other quality control issues: Visible engine smoke.

    Chrysler minivans (older ones). Ford LTD’s (often ex-cop cars but not always). Hot rodded Hondas (at least they have the excuse of being highly abused).

    Even my Newfoundland dog knows how to “point” out quality problems with her nose and glaring eyes. When my dog was about a year old, I was sitting on a grassy knoll near a mall store with my her, waiting on my wife to finish shopping, and my Newf kept “alerting”. So, being the car guy I am, I started to look at what she was “alerting” at (and appeared to be highly annoyed by).

    You guessed it. EVERY single car was GM. Moreover, it was virtually EVERY GM car that came by, both newer and older, not just some of them. (Could she hear “squeeks” that are beyond my hearing? She didn’t always just alert when they appeared to put their brakes on to turn into the parking lot, either. Pity I can’t ask her).

    Hyundai? No alert. Ford? Yawn. Think I’ll lay down, daddy. Toyota? She ignored them. Buick? ALERT! Nissan? Sniff, snuff. The grass smells nice, daddy. Chevrolet? ALERT! Mitsubishi? How about a sloppy kiss, daddy? Pontiac? ALERT! Oldsmobile. ALERT! Subaru. Sniff sniff, have you got a treat, daddy? GMC. ALERT! Cadillac. ALERT!

    Yeah, it was absolutely hilarious.

    Even my DOG knows GM cars suck.

    Does that make my Newfoundland smarter than 23% of the American public?

  • avatar

    stanshih:
    July 5th, 2006 at 11:52 pm
    Looks are always going to be subjective???
    Having said that, the exterior styling and execution of GM???s post-2004 vehicles has been very good (in my eyes) without exception. They look OK on TV and in print but really look great up close in person:
    G6, Lucerne, LaCrosse, Torrent/Equinox, Solstice/Sky, Tahoe/Escalade, Impala, HHR, STS, DTS, Cobalt (weakest of the bunch, but still OK).

    I beg to differ about some of these cars looking great up close in person. If you had been around when the ’64 Impala came out, you’d never confuse the current impala with something that “looks great up close.” Same with the Buicks and the Pontiacs vs those of the ’50s and first half of the ’60s. The Solstice and the Sky do have nice styling (alas, if they only had the engineering of the Miata) and the HHR is pretty good.

  • avatar
    Gerry T

    You guys missed the most important point.

    “I rented a Mercury Grand Marquis for a week … I said ???Now I get it – now I understand why old people love these things!??? That car was everything I had wanted for that trip. If I were 25 years older, I would have wanted it for regular life.”

    We have an Acura RL, a 2002 T-bird, an F250, and a Crown Victoria. When we go on road trips, there is only 1 car we would ever choose… the Crown Vic. 30 mpg, lots of space, smooth ride, and since we have a white copy it looks just like a cop car. Goes all day at 90 mph and the cops must think we are one of them because I have never had a speeding ticket in it.

  • avatar
    Schmu

    Glen, glad i could help out ;) That is funny about your dog. Although, some GM worshippers would claim that you trainer her/him that way, and in essence, are committing some kind of animal cruelty. ;) My dog could care less (great dane)

  • avatar

    While the GM bashing is warranted in most cases, and I agree almost completely, I will still defend some of thier cars. I loved my Trailblazer, my grandfather’s DTS, and my parents old ’83 Delta 88 Broughm. Despite shortcomings on each, it doesn’t mean that they weren’t worth driving. There are grevious mistakes on some of these vehicles – a pushrod powering a 4 speed, for example, but not everyone cares.

    I think the readers of this site take for granted the amount of car knowledge you have. You need to realize you’re in the supreme minority. Those that are buying a LaX are not in the car for whiptastic handling through a perfectly paved curvy mountain-valley road. They’re not concerned with crumple zones – they subscribe to the more steel = safer mentality, which I find tough to argue with, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. You could 5-star crash test talk yourself til blue in the face about a Jetta, and I’d still take my Trailblazer in a wreck any day of the week.

    The LaX actually looks pretty nice. I like the look of the Lucerne better, but these two vehicles were at least a step in the right direction from GM. design rip offs or modern styling be damned. They Camry may be all wonderful and spotless or whatever, but i think the rear quarter of the car looks like crap.

    Back to my point – it’s all perspective. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned working in marketing, it’s that the only judgement that matters is “will it sell”. TTAC readers may or may not be caught dead in a Buick, but you also probably know more about vehicles than 90% of the rest of the world. And before anyone gets a big head about that, realize that if you are resonably competent on a PC (checking email, browsing the web, editing a photo from your digicam), you’re also in the 90th percentile. But also realize that most people simply don’t care – a vehicle in a color they like is most likely more important than a 4-speed vs. 5-speed for the rest of the world. It takes a lot of reading, learning, and passion to know as much as some of you do, and not everyone puts that into their car – they just want to get to work and not spend a lot of money on gas or repairs doing it, and have the car look nice. To that sentiment is where the LaX sells – it has some lux appointments, it’s got enough power to pass on the highway, and it’s reasonably comfy – an most of all, it looks somewhat classy, despite older curves and such. Chances are that a Buick buyer has never driven a BMW, and won’t have a chance to, and even if they did, it doesn’t mean they’d instantly be impressed. It’s easy to say that a DeVille or Lucerne or LaX drives like crap compared to a BMW, but when you’re stepping up from, say, an old Bonneville, that new LaX seems like a dream. I wouldn’t touch McDonald’s burgers with a ten foot pole, but there’s always a line at 5pm at the drive-thru. Get it?

    Just understand the perspective from which you post, and try to understand the perspective from which others do as well. Alright, now back to tthe detroit bashing…

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    It’s easy to say that a DeVille or Lucerne or LaX drives like crap compared to a BMW, but when your’e stepping up from, say, an old Bonneville, that new LaX seems like a dream. I wouldnt touch McDonalds burgers with a ten foot pole, but there’s always a line at 5pm at the drive-thru. Get it?

    Ronin317,

    I don’t want a Buick (or Hyundai, Mercury, Toyota) that carves corners like a BMW. I want a Buick with decadent door panels, a smooth/quiet engine, and a little less drama when making emergency maneuvers. Oh, and maybe a hood ornament too.

    You are right, TTAC (and its readers) are not the average car buyer, but I know firsthand that the line at the McDonald’s drive-thru is a stark contrast to the tumbleweeds rolling through my local Buick dealer.

    Buick is getting out-Buicked these days…they gotta make better rides in today’s global market.

  • avatar

    Sajeev Mehta:
    July 6th, 2006 at 11:29 am
    I don???t want a Buick (or Hyundai, Mercury, Toyota) that carves corners like a BMW. I want a Buick with decadent door panels, a smooth/quiet engine, and a little less drama when making emergency maneuvers. Oh, and maybe a hood ornament too.

    I want a Buick that moves me–metaphorically speaking–like a ’64 Wildcat.

  • avatar

    Sajeev…

    Word. I want to be clear though, I wasn’t critiquing the review – I like the review. And you’re right, they are being out-buick’d.

    Oh…the hood ornament. great call.

  • avatar
    airglow

    How many car buyers actually know how many speeds are in their automatic transmission or how the valves in their engine are actuated?

    Most of my fellow car nuts seem to believe the average car buyer knows (or even cares) about valve actuation and gear count in their AT. They don’t.

    I’ve driven several rental Lacrosse’s, I prefer them over 4 cylinder Camry’s and 6 cylinder Sonata’s.

    The LaX is not slow, looks good, is quiet, reliable and gets good mileage. What more do most people want in a vehicle?

    I will take even marginal fake wood grain over boring gray plastic any day. Bland gray plastic dashboards along with analog speedometers are two curses the automotive press has stuck the car buying public with due to their universal ridicule of fake wood grain and digital speedometers in the 80′s.

  • avatar
    mistercopacetic

    Ronin317:

    Your well thought-out rebuttal of the simplistic “Detroit sucks” attitude is correct: most people just want a car that will take them to work and back. The thinnest of marginal slices in quality and performance are what ethusiasts like ourselves get excited about. But I still believe that even though people want basic transportation, they shouldn’t have to put up with it.

    My parents just bought a big screen tv. I helped them choose a particular model because of its performance. They couldn’t tell you more about the tv than its size, but they did see which tv looked better and went along with my choice. Similarly, if you had two fast food drive-thrus, and one has a reputation for tastier food, why would you settle for the less tasty choice? Buick may make a good car, but why settle for a good car when you can get a great car? The market is so full of competitive cars that drivers should sample everything before signing on the dotted line. And no buyer, no matter how rich/poor, enthusiastic/disinterested, should have to buy a product thinking, “well at least it’s better than my last one.” How sad is it that Detroit has to bank on its patrons’ collective disinterest in foreign cars?

    “Chances are that a Buick buyer has never driven a BMW, and won???t have a chance to, and even if they did, it doesn???t mean they???d instantly be impressed.”

    -The fact that people who don’t know much about cars are jealous of BMW/MB drivers says a lot about how far Buick has to go. Unless of course the competition for Buick in 2006 is Buick in 1994.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Ronin: thank you for writing, your original post spurred a healthy debate. Its not a matter of thinking Detroit makes bad cars, its that their products relative to their competition aren’t very good.

    Now we all know there are lower and higher levels of anti-Detroit thought, or something. :-)

  • avatar
    Schmu

    Maybe people do not know jack about the tech in a car. but teh flaw in the ‘people don’t know or care about waht you guys care about’ (paraphrased, of course) idea is that it is all about sales. GM still leads, but is in sharp decline. The people obviously care about some of waht we are complaining about here.

    Honda and Toyota did not gain popularity overnight with the mythical force of PR espousing misleading and dazzling reliability numbers. The Accord arrived in 76 as a slightly more-than-a-rollerskate size that the Civic slotted into. It had no power, was ugly, was tiny. Was it not Motor Trend that started realizing years later that these little boogers were not breaking? Like Hyundai is doing now, yota and honda created their repuatation from the ground up.

    Now in the 90′s, a lot of Honda buying was for popularity. toyota had slightly more reliable vehicles, but charged an arm and a nut for that quality. When they revamped their pricing structure, the Camry became #1.

    Buick is the most reliable American brand. I would have no qualms about buying one. But I am not their market. What is in GM’s many divisions that I like, do not share the quality that Buick has. Why is that? GM assumes that no one cares about it? Just tell everyine it is a quality product, and that makes it so, they will buy it. GM is light years better than it was a decade ago. But as it is run in to the ground here; they need stellar, innovative products that push the edge of that automotive field, not producing a good car that is 4 years behind the current models.

    Am I still typing? The point, which was lost, is, if people don’t care about the tech lagging in GM, or their supposed reliability, then why are people not buying them unless they are 3-8 thousand dollars cheaper than the competition? Reputation is everything in this field. The company that assumes they can get anything by their customers will not lead very long. If someone is a GM only person, they can get away with that. Anyone who actually test drives, or does research on a car will notice the differences. Peace.

  • avatar

    schmu:

    Those early Civics weren’t exactly the most reliable cars on the road, and it took a while for Honda to figure out how to build Accords that wouldn’t rust.

  • avatar
    chandler

    Ronin317: it’s all well and going to boil things down to “will it sell”, but the fact of the matter is that Buicks aren’t selling. At that point it’s time to take a closer look at what’s going on.

    Now, TTAC is a site which is written to a knowledgable audience in more ways than one. I’d guess that most of the people here are in the 90th percentile when it comes to computers, too. Of course the review is going to focus on aspects that matter to us. But a brand which is supposed to be a cut above the rest of the market needs to rely on positive buzz from the elite.

  • avatar
    Schmu

    I hate rust, losing my chevy truck to it now. Yes, they were rusty. And yes again, honda’s didnt really start becoming reliable until the 80′s. But they were enough so for motor trend to take notice. Me? still playing with matchbox cars. I am going by memory of a story which motor trend was rememebering how honda came form nothing to what it was in the 90′s. Far be it to take on a minor point in a broader presentation.

  • avatar

    All I’m saying is this – Advance Auto Parts/ AutoZone/Napa offers free wiper blade installation for a reason. Dig?

    Oh, and I’m fully aware that TTAC is written for us…although I’ll readily admit my car knowledge is severely lacking – but the title of the site is TRUTH. And the truth is that, as Airglow said above, people don’t even know how many speeds their tranny has. Hell, go to a mall and ask mommy shopper if she has any idea when her van hits second gear.

    I’m enjoying playing devil’s advocate a little too much in this discussion. And what a great discussion this is…

  • avatar
    mastermik

    yeah… i also hate ford. the dealer has had my stupid 6 CD changer for an eternity and i’m stuck with a godamned radio. I hate ford. the car is an escape by the way. on the other hand my mom’s little nissan… lovely!
    thats my share of the detroit bashing. Seriously though, as an american-engineer-in-training, i really do wish they were doing better than they are right now. By the way, the like the lucerne much better than the lax. the lax looks so big and rounded … it reminds me an old boeing aircraft. so huge and inefficient. leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  • avatar
    Schmu

    You will see that GM only wants master's level engineers or higher. What does this mean? It is not for a lack of brains, it goes back to the management. the wrong decisions are being made on a day to day, and long term basis. Anyone see the CNN story on Wagoner and the hydrogen powered car they were displaying? Talk about putting everything into one basket…….jeez.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    The unbearable lightness of being Buick

    What Buick must do is figure out what makes them unique, what purpose they fill in peoples life. They need too understand their own raison d’aitre.

    And here’s my two cents: Buick is almost on their way to brand recognition-oblivion. Their only real purpose in life right now would be to become “the” preferred GM-brand to provide stealth-luxury for people. And to acheive that they need a good portfolio of stealth-luxury cars.

    Ditch the entire line except for the LaCrosse, Lucerne and the new Enclave. What the world doesn’t need is more badge-engineered generic and bland and even mellow sedans and trucks like the current line-up. It is not enough to let them die of old age, they need to be discontinued to-day. The brand has to be born again from the ground up. They need to concentrate on the stuff they can provide that no other GM-brand can provide anywhere else. And they need a new beautiful full-size coupe. A two-door hardtop like the new Mercedes CL, based on the Lucerne and heavy Buick heritage wouldn’t be too hard. Especially dressed in black.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Ingvar: you know, after personally talking with some of the Buick folk, this might actually happen. We shall see if the products are good enough to help GM recover. The Enclave has promise, more than the LaCrosse.

  • avatar
    rjwillis

    I really, really wanted to like the La Crosse. I wanted to move into that next-up GM level, one step below Cadillac, the way it was when GM was king. I actually kind of liked the La Crosse’s interior, and the exterior was a few steps better than “inoffensive.” I really wanted to like this car, especially for $24,000.

    But then I drove it. And it drove like a Buick. Felt just like the ’86 Century I knew and loathed. Felt just like an Impala LS or Taurus, and not as good as a Grand Prix. Amazingly, incredibly ordinary. I guess this is what Buick customers want.

    Me, I ended up parting with the extra $6K for a CTS.

    If GM was really serious about saving this brand, it would have found a way to make a CTS-like car with a Buick badge. Imagine how well Buick might have done with a CTS-like coupe as the next-generation Riviera.

  • avatar
    qeorqe

    I rented one. Not impressed at all. Cheap interior. Egonomics are …. what ergonomics? Handled oddly. Power is adequate. Hard to use the multiconfusinginstrumentationalitiies.

  • avatar
    hitman1970

    Even though I am less than half the age of Buick’s target demographic for the LaCrosse, I for one like the styling. It has curves without going overboard. I’ve seen a few in traffic, and they look pretty good. If I was in the market for one, the thing that would turn me off most is the engine. How can GM get away with a pushrod+four speed auto in this century? It doesn’t need a hot rod engine, just something smooth and powerful enough to take highway traffic.

    P.S.: Love the line, “Pop the finely chiseled decklid and there’s room for both golf bag and golfer.”

    That engine you are looking for is in the CXS trim. 7.1 0 to 60 MPH is more than acceptable for a comfortable family sedan. The FE3 suspension definately improves the road manners. I hated the exterior so much I bought one.

    It is light years ahead of my Hyundai in comfort. Did I spend more money on it? You bet. If you drive in a well equipped CXS you will definately like the vehicle.

    I do not think GM should be selling dumbed down decontented cars within it’s near luxury brand. Leave that to Chevrolet.

    I am 35 years old and have owned four import cars (of course two were actually domestics because they were German cars I owned in Germany). I also owned two domestics prior to this purchase.

    The CX trim should be dumped altogether.

    I will be happy to own this vehicle for six or seven years. Hopefully RWD will become part of GMs sedan vocabulary again for less than $35,000.00 by then.

  • avatar
    NickR

    I had one of these yesterday for a rental car. I was pleased to have the opportunity to try one to satisfy my curiosity. In short, Mr Mehta was being too kind at least as far as the inside goes.

    Walking toward my pale blue example, I still like the design from the outside. One of GM’s better efforts of recent years, and more appealing than many other sedans.

    But then my business associate and I sat inside. While we were waiting for the car to defrost, my associate said without any prompting ‘Who the hell thought acres of cheap, grey plastic was a good idea?’ It is everywhere and it is dreadful! And that vast blast centre stack of almost equally grim black plastic. Couldn’t it be smaller? Or could they at least not make the HVAC and radio bits bigger to take up some that real estate?

    Later, I leapt out to scrape madly at the rear window. (Business travel in blizzards, it’s the best.) The dollar store, Avis-supplied snowbrush was, and I am not embellishing here, made out of the same quality of plastic and had exactly the same texture. If it had been grey, not green, I would have thought it came with the car.

    How GM can spoil a design like this with this retrograde interior is beyond me.

  • avatar
    raast

    There was some concern about “bashing domestics” on this site, but I’ve found a lot of the comments to be dead-on. Reviews controlled by threats of ad removal (LA Times & GM example see
    http://www.autoblog.com/2005/04/08/gm-pulls-ads-from-la-times/)are useless to anyone but the
    corporations. I’ve had GMs since the 70′s for example, and there is something drastically wrong with the organization at the present. Johnny Canada said there was “no passion for the product” and I think that’s it – it’s all bottom line now. I stopped counting the number of times where I cursed the latest failure and said to myself – “don’t these guys get it – if they has paid the extra .03cent on every failed part I would have paid the extra $50 on the vehicle in the first place and been a lot happier. If anyone has read DeLoreans book you can see there was a passion there. (No wisecracks about later please – talking about his time at GM). Now that I’m looking at replacements I see there are a number of imports around where they DO seen to “get it”, and the owner satisfaction levels and depreciation figures would confirm it. As for the LaCrosse (Allure here in Canada), it does appear to have a decent assembly quality and reliability. Basic transportation with a long warranty if GM remains viable.

  • avatar
    adharvey2

    This is a great site – wish i’d never found it!
    You people are depressing me. A few weeks ago I set out to replace the best car I ever had, a ’70 Buick Wildcat coupe. A stylish, if not truly sporty, car with unlimited power and comfort. The other day I went to the Buick dealer and sat in the back seat of a Lucerne (because it was open and the Lacrosses weren’t). There is no Buick “sport coupe” anymore, apparently. Good grief. If that is what passes for a comfortable rear seat these days, there’s no hope. I’m assuming the Lacrosse is no better.

    Sajeev, I still have a ’64 Wildcat convertible and there’s nothing “metaphoric” about the movement of that car – just supernatural. It’s effortless to the point of defying physics. One of the things that irritates me about new cars (and one of the reasons I gravitated toward GM) is the need for five and six speed transmissions. To me, the smoothest shift is no shift. The Wildcat only needs one gear – 3rd. Yes you can kick it down to second if you want to shift some unsuspecting passenger from the front seat to the back seat, but you certainly don’t need it for passing or climbing hills. Buicks shouldn’t NEED to downshift, ever.

    But now we get a coarse 3800 or a torque steering sb chevy. Great choice.

    I knew it would be problematic at best to find a good, stylish, “full size” sport coupe (or sedan) for undar 30K, but I didn’t think it was going to be impossible!

    Grand Marquis here I come – reluctantly.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    adharvey2: you certainly get what makes a Buick. One of my parent’s friends had a 64 Wildcat…it sat in the garage covered in junk, but my goodness it was a gorgeous car.

    Sadly, they sold it when the kids came around, but got an Accord Coupe to keep the legacy of their 2dr Buicks alive. (hey, they did what they could given market conditions)

    Best wishes to you and the Wildcat: keep the Ghosts of Buick’s past alive, please?

  • avatar
    matcatameba

    I have a Buick Lacrosse CXS. I got it because I had a Buick Regal GS with super charger. I loved that car. When I went to buy a new one they did not make them any more. I explained to the salesman that the thing I loved the most was the supercharger. He reccomended the CXS because it was sports charged he said. Well it turns out that it is just a lower gear ratio in the transmission not a better engine. To my dismay the thing has a delay from push gas, to go, of at least 3 secconds. Then it whams into the lower gear. You could leave your head on the pavement. No one better be drinking anything or they will be wearing it. I took it back to the mechanic thinking there was something wrong with it. What was wrong is the driver was driving it like she used to drive her Regal. It just does not have the same response that it had. The inside looks like a Gott Cooler, within the first year the paint all chipped off of the radio knobs and under it was lime green plastic it’s real attractive now since it lights up at night. The arm rest got a hole in it from an arm resting on it. Who ever heard of that? It’s just poor quality plastic. It is really stripped down compared to my Regal that had self dimming mirrors both front seats were power. All I got instead was on star that I didn’t even want. The speed ometer is missing every other number so you never really know how fast you are going. I got out of a ticket once though by showing the officer that it looked like I was doing 55 when I was really doing 60. Sorry but I won’t be buying Buick any more. I really, really loved my GS but I really, really hate my Buick LaCrosse.

  • avatar
    matcatameba

    I just got some more news that denotes the quality of the Buick LaCrosse. My car is 2 years old and both rear wheel bearings have gone out. The cost of replacing them is $1000.00. Don’t buy a LaCross and think hard about any Buicks. the company has cut costs and cut reliability at the same time.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    The LaCrosse is a not a bad car but could have been better. The exterior is the best part except for the Lexus copied little headlights and the too small grille(somewhat remedied for 2008). The interior is a mixed bag. The door panals are too plain along with the seats. And who came up with the way too light gray and tan cloth seat material in the CX models? Charcoal and dark blue should be available. Some interior components feel high quality and some are positively cheap. The dash vents feel real solid and everything lines up and feels strong. But the still fake woodgrain seems to wear off the console and the gear shift lever would have been better made of leather. The silly bar of chrome that stretches from one side of the dash to another is treacherous in the sunlight so watch your eyes. Buick at least fixed the dumb white guage needles for 2007 and instead went to far more readable red. Back seat legroom follows the example of other W-body GM models with very limited legroom with the front seats back more than half way. There is a rear seat center armrest but why is a split folding rear seat an extra cost option on a luxurious Buick? Buick would have been better off just offering the 3.6 liter Global DOHC V6 instead of the outdated thrashy 3800 pushrod motor that still has the same 200 HP rating it had in 1996 in the Regal. And the old 4T65 4 speed automatic with it’s huge chasm between first and second gear has no place in a car this expensive. As it is the Impala offers better value for me with the more powerful 3900 V6, larger trunk, flip and fold rear seat and sportier driving dynamics and look.

  • avatar
    Mr. Gray

    I drove one of these for a short time and I hated it, but that’s because I love cars and I love driving. As young as I am, I felt weirdly out of place in its over-automated, wood-grain, completely silent interior. My first thought was, “This is an old guy car.” The LaCrosse doesn’t feel like a car to me at all. It feels like some kind of space pod that floats along strangely while isolating you from the outside world, entirely disconnected from the space-time continuum. Being powered by a V8 (or was it a V6? I couldn’t tell.) , one would hope to be thrilled by screaching tires and a vicious roar, but I found myself wondering if the vehicle was being propelled by some completely silent, alien-made, dylithium crystal-fueled warp engine. Turn the key and then try to find the answer to the question, “Is it on?”

    I’m not saying this car is a total loser. If you like absolute silence and computer-assisted comfort while you drive, this car might work for you. For those of us who like to feel as if we’re still on planet Earth, don’t bother.


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