With the introduction of the LaCrosse sedan last year, Buick replaced both the family-focused Century and the sportier Regal, effectively reducing its midsize lineup from two vehicles to one. The front-wheel-drive LaCrosse features a modern look and an available aluminum V-6 engine. For 2006, several safety features become standard.
Three versions are offered — the CX, the midlevel CXL and the performance-oriented CXS — and two engine choices are available. Three levels of traction control, including General Motors' StabiliTrak electronic stability system, are offered. "QuietTuning" features include acoustical laminate on the windshield and front side glass and "Quiet Steel" laminate in front of the dash. The LaCrosse is the first Buick that can be equipped with both a factory-installed remote starter and remote-operated climate control.
A larger, more modern rendition of Buick's familiar elliptical vertical-bar grille is fitted on the LaCrosse, and it's flanked by dual headlights. Sculpted forms in the hood sweep back toward the windshield. Jewellike headlights and taillights, along with chrome body accents, are installed. Buick claims that the LaCrosse's headlight performance is 35 percent greater than the Century's and Regal's. Amber side marker lights are integrated into the outer lenses, which taper into the front fenders. CXS models include projector fog lamps.
In contrast to the Century and Regal, which had rear quarter windows in the back doors, the LaCrosse has these windows in the C-pillars. Buick says these crescent-shaped windows help reduce blind spots in the car. Rocker panels on CX models have a grained graphite finish, while those on the CXL and CXS have a glossy, body-colored finish. Chrome door handles are used on the CXS sedan.
Compared with the departed Regal, the LaCrosse has revised suspension tuning. Rebound damper bumpers are four times longer for improved cushioning, and the power steering has been retuned. With the standard suspension, the springs are about 20 percent stiffer than before, with higher-rate front and rear stabilizers. The CXS comes standard with a Gran Touring suspension.
The wheels measure 16 inches in diameter on the CX and CXL and 17 inches on the CXS. A power sunroof is optional. Built on a 110.5-inch wheelbase, the LaCrosse is 198.1 inches long overall.
LaCrosse sedans come in either a five- or six-passenger configuration. Five-passenger models have a console-mounted gearshift lever and a center armrest. Six-passenger sedans have a column-mounted gearshift and a "flip and fold" seatback cushion that can double as an armrest and storage bin. A 60/40-split, folding rear seatback is standard in the CXL and CXS models and optional in the CX.
Cloth seats are installed in the CX, but the CXL and CXS have leather seating surfaces. The steering wheel in the CXS has standard tilt and telescoping adjustments. Trunk capacity is 16 cubic feet.
GM's OnStar communication system and a PassLock III theft-deterrent system are standard. Other standard equipment includes remote keyless entry, a power driver's seat, power windows and locks, and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player. Heated seats, XM Satellite Radio, and auxiliary audio and climate controls on the steering wheel are optional.
Under the Hood
The CX and CXL models use a 3.8-liter V-6 engine that produces 200 horsepower and 230 pounds-feet of torque. A 3.6-liter V-6 with variable valve timing goes into the CXS and delivers 240 hp and 225 pounds-feet of torque. Both engines team with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
For 2006, all-disc antilock brakes and side curtain-type airbags are standard. GM's StabiliTrak and Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist are optional.
Acceleration is pleasantly energetic with the 3.6-liter V-6 in the CXS model. The LaCrosse is a highly traditional Buick, which could be good or bad depending on one's tastes. This sedan is easy to drive. Overall, the LaCrosse is surprisingly similar in personality to the old Park Avenue.
Transmission shifts are sometimes noticeable, but not annoying. Other than a mild growl when pushed hard, the smaller V-6 is very quiet.
The ride is generally gentle due to the soft suspension, but the LaCrosse can hit some bumps and holes rather hard. That softness also translates to considerable understeer and imprecise handling.
Front-seat space is bountiful, but backseat headroom and legroom are marginal. Visibility is good due to the amount of glass in this car. The controls are mostly sensible, but some are marked with cryptic icons. Some instruments — especially the fuel and temperature gauges — are somewhat difficult to read at a glance.