By on April 30, 2008

x08bu_lc055.jpgNormally, driving a car with a stonking V8 engine powering the front wheels is like watching Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh make out. It's so wrong on so many levels. Can you squeal like a pig? Just so. Will that pig's snout dart about like an amphetamine-crazed truffle-sniffer? Uh-huh. But here's the kicker: what if it doesn't? And what if you, uh, like it? Does that make you a deviant pistonhead? No, it makes you a closet fan of the quietly nutty, deeply cool Buick LaCrosse Super.

The LaCrosse Super is not cool in the traditional sense– as in sex-on-wheels or race-car-for-the-road. It's got that James Dean/Steve McQueen thing happening: effortless, been there done that, I don't need to show you shit (but I can and will). Alternatively, you could say the Super Buick has a large dose of that ineffable "WTF did you buy THAT for?" appeal.

x08bu_lc028.jpgThere is no flash. The Super's sheet metal offers clean, feline haunches, graceful proportions, a porthole or eight and some dual stainless steel exhausts– with chrome tips! Everything is round and fluid to a rental car lot fault. There is so little drama in the design that nothing grabs your attention. It flies completely under the radar; no bad thing for lead foots.   

Some say the Buick LaCrosse is ugly and cross-eyed. I'm not going to argue. Why spoil the hushed vibe inside the Super's cabin? Buick has touted its QuietTuning technology– but not loudly enough. Baffles, foam filler, sandwich windows and exhaust note-sculpting create a tomb-like still. Insert octogenarian Buick drivers remark here. And it's true: noise reduction isn't exactly a sexy selling point. It's got to be like tenth on most shopper's list (right after change holder). But the aural placidity certainly creates an impression of quality.

x08bu_lc027.jpgUnfortunately, first impressions don't last. This is a Potemkin cabin; the Super only looks sumptuous. The burled wood is buried under more plastic than a fetishist at a PVC party. Gary Wright fans will rejoice in the abundant DreamWeave leather, but the good stuff went to Lexus. As with most GM products of the past quarter century, the plastics are harsh and brittle. (Yes, it's important.)

On the positive side, the Concert Sound III nine-speaker audio system will have you believing Sean Hannity is in the back seat (making out with…?) And there's a lovely set of buttons across the center of the dash that are as easy to manipulate as BMW's iDrive (after you take the 10-week course).  But push those buttons and the whole housing moves ever so slightly. It squeaks ‘weak.'

Not so the Super's 5.3-liter 300hp (323 ft.-lbs. of torque) V8 engine. As a good little TTAC reviewer, I jumped on this rolling couch's throttle, making the tires squeal like a guest on Hardball. And yet, no torque steer. The LaCrosse Super goes like Hell– zero to sixty in a reported 5.7 seconds– directly forward. No steering wheel squirm to rattle the ice in your Manhattan.

x08bu_lc059.jpgI know, I know: every single review of this car bemoans the LaCrosse Super's massive torque steer. But, like so many GM products, The General's lieutenants have sorted this shit out– after the press pool party was over. It's a shame…

x08bu_lc013.jpgIn the corners, the LaCrosse Super is plenty fast and not much fun. A large front wheel-drive car is always going to be less of a hoot than a rear wheel-drive sedan. And yes, discerning drivers will certainly feel the difference in the curves. But the big Buick's biggest bugaboo has been beaten. Floor it, tighten your biceps and nothing. Buick achieves this without any obvious tricks (i.e. fatter tires on the front). The unobvious ones: closer-fitting gear teeth on the steering rack, tighter bushings, a stiffer torsion rod controlling the variable-effort power assist, and a tweaked Stabilitrak system.

Buick's magnetic steering is not what I would call track worthy, or feelsome, or engaging, or reassuring, or fun. It works well in enough. For parking or emergency lane changes, the amount of effort you don't need is astounding. If this is a deal breaker, buy a Subaru WRX STI. Same price, same power. (Cough. Different driven wheels, different weight.) While you're working up a sweat, the guy in the LaCrosse will give you a half smile. 

x08bu_lc054.jpgClearly, Buick's fastest-ever car (150mph top end) makes no sense. How many of the GM faithful want a vehicle that costs $3470 less than a Cadillac CTS V6; a prestige product that offers the same horsepower, a six-speed tranny, slightly better mileage, no need for premium fuel and fewer tumbleweeds blowing through the dealership? Or how about a cheaper, rear wheel-drive Pontiac G8? Or anything else, really. Not to mention the fact that the LaCrosse is a lame duck, slated for 2010 replacement. I mean, how many ways can you say depreciation?

The Super is super though: a stealth near-wealth machine that makes a coherent case for itself. Providing you're sick or senile. Or, preferably, both.

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55 Comments on “2008 Buick LaCrosse Super Review...”

  • avatar

    i love domestic depreciation…i’ll see ya in five years

  • avatar

    See, TTAC can like GM products. Not my particular style of car but it might be worth a look. But Buick does not come across as a performance car company (cough Pontiac) but rather as the Mercury equivalent of GM. So I guess a hot rod Buick is a product whose market one has a hard time defining.

  • avatar

    See, TTAC can like GM products.

    The real question is will those who read TTAC like GM products?

  • avatar

    I wonder if the Super is actually moving the needle on LaCrosse sales (too lazy to look them up at the moment)? I also find it interesting that the G8 GT gets better fuel economy than this thing. I know which one I would prefer.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    I haven’t driven the super yet, but the regular 3.6 liter V6 in this car is a very pleasant ride.

    It’s a shame Buick’s image is in the nursing home, and this car gets zero advertising. Because it’s really quite good. I’m looking forward to checking out this Super now.

  • avatar

    As for the car's super-quiet interior, I have to disagree that it's unimportant. (Especially compared to the quality of plastics, which seems to get a lot of attention at TTAC.) A quiet cabin in a big cruiser like this (or in nearly any car) is a huge part of the car's feel and the driver's experience, especially at high speeds.

  • avatar

    It’s essentially a sort of gussied-up Impala SS. Either way, it’s something I’d seriously consider – in a few years when the price is half of new.

  • avatar

    The LaCrosse is indeed a very nice car and displays what GM has learned about torque steer from previous attempts (i.e. Grand Prix/Impala). Nice stealthy vehicle in Super guise (at the auto show I had to look at the badge to make sure it had the V8). However, being what Buick is, I’d still recommend it to my grandma (and not the Super version either).

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    I don’t care. I LIKE it. Like a ’67 GS. Or a ’65 Wildcat. Or ANY Wildcat.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Oh and I have to agree with everyone so far – this car will be a slapping good deal in 3 years when it’s $14k.

    And just as an FYI in case anyone wondered, yes the automatic is a 4-speed. The platform this car is built on cannot accept GM’s 6-speed auto. The next Lacrosse, which is already testing, is built on GM’s Epsilon II platform, and it will have the 6-speed.

  • avatar
    John R

    I really don’t care for this movement of further isolating the driver from the outside world. All the automakers seem really keen on this. Isn’t it a little dangerous not to hear what is going on outside of your “tomb”?

  • avatar

    Who reads TTAC and likes GM products?Mikey raising his hand,I do! and I’m really partial to Oshawa built cars.
    The Lacrosse/Alure isn’t exactly paying a lot of bills around here,but right now who can be picky?
    Great review Michael.

  • avatar

    When my wife was looking for a new car, she liked the Outlook / Acadia / Enclave.

    I pushed her towards the enclave, because imo, it’s the sharpest looking of the 3. But, she wouldn’t even give it a thought because “I’m not driving a Buick.”

    I see alot of Enclaves around here, so Buick is definitely making some image changes, but it’s at a glacial pace. If they could do something with the Lacrosse that Cadillac did with the CTS (which I think is the best looking Sedan out there), they could be on to something. I’m also guessing the v8 that got high marks in this review is going to be replaced by the DI v6 in the nextgen model.

    I still don’t fully grasp the concept of having 3 different branded models separated by 3 grand worth of “upgrades” that are the same car/cuv. 32 grand for a v8 scores high on the bang for the buck chart, but no 30-something guy with a couple of kids (me) is going to give this car a second look. It falls into the “almost, but still some ways to go” category.

  • avatar

    I’m sorry, but I couldn’t read any further after I read QuiteTuning. Quite != quiet.

  • avatar

    Isn’t it a little dangerous not to hear what is going on outside of your “tomb”?

    There’s noise and then there’s noise. The noise I hate is the constant noise (wind noise, tire noise, engine drone). All of these help to mask the critical noises that you need to hear.

    Constant background noise is fatiguing, so I would argue that this sort of effort to eliminate it is a good thing rather than a bad thing.

  • avatar

    If you polled 100 people for their opinion on this car you would find that most would assume that it is much worse than it actually is. Actually, for the class of car, and for a Buick, it is damn good. And yes, quietness inside is a good thing. Fixing the torque steer after the press party indicates the General still needs to exorcise some of the old GM practices. However, unless Consumer Reports noted this as a problem, most potential buyers won't even know it once was since they are not likely to have read any real auto reviews. And I guess the bean counters still haven't fully learned their lesson that removing quality from select parts that the driver touches every day is bad for long term business.

    So where does this leave Buick? Well, as previously posted, this car will not represent a great new car value, unless you buy your cars and keep them until resale is not an issue. For me, this will make a great used car in five years when I need an extra car that can seat five in comfort (something that never seems to be possible with anything that I buy new) and can double as my station car. I mean no negativity by that comment, either. I can't fault GM for trying, though. I firmly believe that product is the answer to Detroit's woes. But I would make sure that the biggest push for product improvement is made for the biggest sellers. Far more important than advertising is the talk of people over dinner at social gatherings. It is here where somebody's tale of early transmission failure will be told over and over, and how the maker said too bad, we won't help you because your warranty ended at 36K and you are now at 42K miles. This stuff is what sticks in people's heads.

  • avatar

    Cool car. It looks like Buick is doing a little better at understanding its roots and its place in the market.

  • avatar

    I’m sorry, but I couldn’t read any further after I read QuiteTuning. Quite != quiet.

    The typo is fixed, so you can resume reading.

  • avatar

    Nice stealthy vehicle in Super guise (at the auto show I had to look at the badge to make sure it had the V8).

    Breaking the Buick code: If it has three portholes on the side, it has a V6. If it has four per side, it’s a V8.

  • avatar

    nice work, Buick but a little late doncha think?

  • avatar

    The more torque on tap, the FEWER gears you need.

    Why mess this car up with a hyperactive econobox gearset? 3 speeds plus overdrive is plenty.

    What never made sense, from a mechanical aspect, were the 2-speed automatic, 6-cylinder cars of the ’50s and ’60s.

  • avatar

    Too bad that GM has decided that Buicks are now required to scream “BUICK!!!!” while they are still a mile away. Of all of GM’s designs, the Buick line is pretty decent looking after one overlooks the overlarge waterfall grille.

    Also too bad that the interior design folks weren’t given a few dollars more to invest in decent materials.

    The most telling part of the review is “…for a Buick”

  • avatar
    Ralph SS

    “It literally flies under the radar.”

    Finally! I can go and buy my flying car!


    “Baffles, foam filler, sandwich windows and exhaust note-sculpting create a tomb-like still. Insert octogenarian Buick drivers remark here. And it’s true: noise reduction isn’t exactly a sexy selling point. It’s got to be like tenth on most shopper’s list (right after change holder).”

    While I am, indeed, closing in on octogenarian status I have always prefered my vehicles quiet. However, I gave up on change holders long ago. About the time I gave up on coins to buy gas with, I believe.

    I sure would like to know who GM’s market research thought would buy this thing.

  • avatar

    Ralph SS:

    “It literally flies under the radar.”

    Finally! I can go and buy my flying car!

    Text amended.

  • avatar

    I don’t mind the looks of the outside. I always thought that Buick kind of picked-up where Jaguar left off in terms of Sir William Lyon’s classic rear fender haunches.

    But the front overhang! You could FIT an STi in there.

    And the center console…it reminds me of my new espresso machine: not what I am looking for in a car, but cleans right up with a sponge – I expect.

  • avatar

    Buick is in a somewhat nutty position as well with its Lucerne Super with the Northstar.

    Bigger car, much less torque.

    Speaking of torque, glad to hear they’ve got the torque steer problem sorted out.

    P.S. Are there any plans to review the Lucerne Super in the near future?

  • avatar

    Even though I’m 25 and would rather like to think of myself as the type of guy who wants to rocket around in an STI, bothering neighbors and frightening children, I have to admit there’s a real allure to the idea of soaring across the North Dakota plains in a quiet, comfortable car like this… this thing sounds like it was built for the prairie.

  • avatar

    It’s a fine review, but I am disturbed by the writer’s multiple references to a variety of political pundits “making out” or “squealing”… [[[shudder]]]

  • avatar
    night driver

    I am curious — has the torque steer issue has been fixed in the Impala SS as well?

  • avatar

    I drove a rented LeSabre a few years back that porpoised through the full range of suspension travel when it resonated with the expansion joints on the Delaware Turnpike (to the point of tires losing touch with the concrete). At least it sounds like Buick rediscovered the shock absorber. Or did your test just not find the magic road like I did?

  • avatar

    Ya, I saw the front overhang as well. I’m not sure who thought the side profile was its best angle, because it clearly is not.

    Also, what is up with that completely flat dash? Straight out of the 70’s. Is there a version of this car with a bench front seat perhaps?

  • avatar

    Also, what is up with that completely flat dash? Straight out of the 70’s. Is there a version of this car with a bench front seat perhaps?

    Nope, but you can get one in the Lucerne.

  • avatar

    The real question is will those who read TTAC like GM products?

    I like Vettes..and as I’m so often’s a Chevy.
    I also like the Acadia, CTS, GTO and Lucerne (for what it is).

  • avatar

    Put me down for quiet cabins too. It’s one of the things that I don’t like about the Hondas I’ve had – too noisy.

  • avatar

    Hertz gave me a (non-Super) LaCrosse the week after I’d been driving a loaner ES300. I’d say the two cars were virtually indistinguishable.

    Brand is all.

  • avatar


    you can’t get the Super with a front bench seat, but you can get the lesser LaCrosse’s with a front bench seat.

    you better act quick though if you want one with a front bench seat. they are selling out QUICK!*

    *(please note sarcasm)

  • avatar

    those portholes are called cruiserline ventiports.

  • avatar

    No steering wheel squirm to rattle the ice in your Manhattan.

    Well, I like my Manhattans up, so that was never a problem for me. Must say I appreciate quiet. Most of my driving is hour long chunks. I used to take asprin before hopping into our ’84 Jetta. There wasnt a surface or component of the dashboard that didnt rattle on that car.

  • avatar

    It’s curvy like the Azera. I like it!

  • avatar

    the trends may be in the wrong direction, but Buick still outsells Acura and Infiniti.

  • avatar

    When the hell are they just going to kill Buick? Cadillac has the high quality GM rep and cool image, which it deserves. Some of the time.

    Seriously, who would by a Buick that wouldn’t buy a Lexus? The same old farts that buy these cars are the same old farts that want a vehicle that they can pass down when the Will’s being read.

  • avatar

    When profit is taken into consideration, I’d guess that Buick’s larger volume does not equal the profits made on Acura and Infiniti.

    Then again, GM has been selling cars at cost for years in order to push their trucks…

  • avatar

    I think you need to update your specs, Michael. According to the Buick website, the 2008 LaCrosse CSX (with the 3.6 liter V-6 as standard) is no longer available. And the LaCrosse Super comes with the 5.3 liter V-8 as standard (instead of the 3.6 liter V-6 that’s listed as being standard).

    It’s a pity because the 3.6 liter V-6 sounds like the engine to get. They must need them for all of their Enclave/Acadia/Outlook crossovers and Malibu/Aura mid-size cars.

    Also, you didn’t mention the cramped rear seat in such a large and heavy car. And it seems pricey for what you get for the money. But then, you can look forward to big discounts, I’m sure.

  • avatar

    This car does have its charms, but I’d rather have an accord, solara, hey or altima coupe. Nothing against GM, I just think those cars look about eight times better than the LaCrosse. In the end, I wouldn’t buy a LaCrosse Super, but I’m glad it exists!

  • avatar

    The review doesn’t mention this car’s (and the Impala SS’s, and the Grand Prix GXP’s) weakest aspect: the four-speed automatic. The gears are way too tall and widely spaced to exploit half the engine’s potential at at around town speeds.

    That aside, for driving enthusiasts the discontinued Pontiac is the way to go. It handles surprisingly well for a powerful front-driver–and much better than the Impala SS. I haven’t driven the Buick, but assume it handles much more like the Chevy than the Pontiac.

    Sadly, none of these cars are included yet in TrueDelta’s reliability survey. The people who buy them aren’t terribly active online.

  • avatar

    Sounds like a respectable machine.

    Now if GM would actually advertise it. Honestly, I keep up on ‘car things’ and I didn’t know it existed until I read this review.

    GM, please, if you are going to build something worth selling…sell it!

  • avatar

    This is available in the L.A. area.

    They do lose their value quickly.

  • avatar

    From the side it seems to have a very long nose.

    Is there a prize for most sheet metal forward of the front wheels? If so, would this car win it?

  • avatar

    On test drive of a FWD Maxima and you will quick come to understand why no one wants a LaCrosse.
    Simply outclassed! Nissan has continuiously made the Maxima a better car model after model. Even with Infiniti models that overlap with the Maxima Nissan is still committed to this model and it does show.

    GM on the otherhand has spent the last 20 years short-shafting their mid-sized and full-sized sedan and it clearly show in the lackluster designs and quality. The LaCrosse is best made use of as a premium retnal car. Renting one of these would be a please until you spend a couple of hours with GMs piss-poor ergonomics.

  • avatar

    Secretly I like Buicks.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    I’ve been in a couple of these. They’re quite nice, but disappointing in so many ways. Why does the front look like a Korean knockoff of a British car? Why does the rear end look like the automotive equivalent of pleated chinos? Does Buick realize that the large flat area of painted silver plastic on the center stack doesn’t remotely look like anodized aluminum? It’s a bummer because I really like the attention to detail on GM cars lately. But as solid as this car is, it’s very clear that the finishing touches of the LaCrosse reflects the tail end of GMs bad-old-days.

  • avatar

    The problem I have with the Super is just that–its name. “Super” is not only pretty generic (like “LX” or “Custom”), in Buick tradition the label refers to a luxury model slotted just under Roadmaster. It would have been better to call the V-8 LaCrosse “Wildcat” or “Gran Sports.” Buick used them in the past to refer to high-performance models.

    If Buick had not cheapened the Century badge in recent years, that name would have been a great choice. It originated in the 30’s to brag about the Century’s ability to do a hundred. In 1955, the California Highway Patrol bought only Buick Centuries because they were good pursuit vehicles.

    Come to think of it, maybe Buick would be smart to offer a LaCrosse in a law enforcement package. Good (and cheap) image-changing marketing.

  • avatar

    No law enforcement agency would buy a Buick now. The police package for W-bodies is in a Chevy Impala; they wouldn’t make two W-Body cars with a police package, anyways.

  • avatar

    In 1955, the CHP began buying only the Buick Century models because a CA Buick dealer made the CHP an offer they couldn’t refuse.

    The Buick dealer offered a better price to the CHP, which had been buying Olds 88’s from an LA Olds dealer since 1950. The dealer sold Buicks to the CHP at $200.00 below the invoice price. $200.00 was a lot of money back then. The Olds and Buick’s were two door sedans, not four doors, nor two door Hardtops.

    How do I know this? My family owned the Olds dealership that originally had the CHP contract.

    Remember the old TV show ‘Highway Patrol’ starring Broderick Crawford? Episodes shot prior to 1955 have Olds 88’s, 1955 and later episodes featured Buicks.

    btw: When I look at a 2008 Buick LaCrosse, what I see is a gussied up 1996 Regal with a fugly grille.

    You can dress a pig up to look glamorous, but underneath, it’s still the same old pig.

    Frank Williams: Here’s the original Buick code: Go back to the introduction of the portholes in 1949.

    The Special and Super had three port holes, the Roadmaster had four (no Century models till 1954).

  • avatar

    I agree with this review. I recently drove a plain-Jane Impala (don’t ask why) and an SS version. While it had torque steer up the wazoo, the SS was a killer car for a rental weekend. Unfortunately, it was still a plain white Impala on the outside.

    This car seems to be similar but even better. I kind of want to try one out now – under the radar, indeed. Hope Buick gets it perfect one day. This gives me a bit of hope.

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