2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS
2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS. Click image to enlarge

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First Drive: 2010 Buick LaCrosse

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General Motors of Canada

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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2010 Buick LaCrosse

By now, you’ve probably tired of auto writers finding new and innovative ways to write about the strides Buick has made recently, and how they’re shocked that they’re impressed with this traditionally elder-buyer brand. So I’ll cut to the chase. Buick has made great strides with the LaCrosse, and I’m impressed.

A complete redesign for 2010, the LaCrosse is the latest incarnation of the car that always went by that moniker south of the border but, due to the off chance of it being mistaken for a naughty slang term in French, was called the Allure up here. Piffle, say I: the pandering cost GM a fortune in Canadian-specific badges, advertising and materials. Production has also shifted from Ontario to Kansas; the upcoming Buick Regal will fill the void in the Canadian plant.

2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS
2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS. Click image to enlarge

Now considered the flagship among Buick sedans, the LaCrosse comes with a choice of two engines. A 255-horsepower 3.0-litre V6 powers the base CX and mid-range CXL, while my tester, the top-line CXS, comes exclusively with a 3.6-litre V6 that produces 280 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque. All use a six-speed automatic. The CXL can be ordered in all-wheel drive, but the CX and CXS are front-wheel only. Pricing starts at $32,745 for the base CX; my top-trim tester clicked the meter at $40,795 before laying on a hefty $8,715 in options. Given that the LaCrosse puts a long stride into Cadillac territory, I wonder how many people will find themselves checking off all the boxes in the Buick showroom.

The smaller V6 is just fine for everyday use, but the bigger-engined CXS provides the greatest driving pleasure, especially if it’s outfitted as mine was with the optional Touring Package. For $895 – and it’s well-spent – you get 19-inch wheels in place of the standard 18-inchers, a continuously variable automatic suspension that adapts for road conditions, and an H-arm rear suspension, shared with the all-wheel model, that keeps the rear end more firmly planted. There’s not much body roll or sway in non-equipped models, but the Touring Package screws everything down a bit tighter, and for all its size, the LaCrosse performs admirably on twisting roads.

2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS
2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS. Click image to enlarge

The floating, wallowy Buick of years gone by has been put out to pasture. Steering feedback and road feel aren’t as in-your-face as the sportier German sedans, but that really isn’t its market. Instead, it immediately obeys steering inputs and snaps crisply around corners, but retains the highway cruiser feel that its customers expect when they get into a Buick. It’s like putting on the brand of comfortable shoes you’ve always bought, and suddenly discovering that they now also do an awesome job of supporting your arches.

Official fuel figures for the 3.6-litre are 12.2 L/100 km (23 mpg Imp) in the city, and 7.3 L/00 1km (39 mpg Imp) on the highway. In very cold weather, and with a lot of city driving, I turned in 13.9 L/100 km (20 mpg Imp).

2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS
2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS; photo by Chris Chase. Click image to enlarge

This being the top of the line, luxury features abound: the CXS includes auto-dimming mirrors, a heated wood-and-leather steering wheel, power rear sunshade, heated and cooled leather seats, and premium stereo with USB port and satellite radio. My tester was further optioned with a navigation system, adaptive xenon headlamps, panoramic sunroof, rear seat side airbags, and a head-up display that projects vehicle speed and a number of other driver-selectable information screens on the windshield. Depending on your outlook, it’s either very handy or very annoying, and can be turned off if you fall into the latter camp.

Outside, the LaCrosse is a handsome machine, with just enough chrome to look fancy without being gaudy. The famous Buick “portholes” are retained, but they’re moved to the tops of the fenders rather than the sides, apparently because the designers felt they broke up the car’s flowing lines. News flash: they were way-cool fifty years ago, but they’re well past their best-before date. It’s time to give them back to the boat crowd.

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