In answer to all those Buick customers clamoring for a high-performance version of the LaCrosse, we present the 2008 Buick LaCrosse Super.
What? You haven't heard that clamor? Whew! We haven't either, but we thought we just were listening to the wrong AM radio stations.
Rolling out as a 2005 model, essentially replacing both the Century and Regal, the LaCrosse was offered with a 3.8-liter, 205-horsepower V-6, or a more modern, peppier 3.6-liter, 240-horse V-6. A handsome, competent car that neither excels nor fails in any important area, the LaCrosse was a success.
But sales of the LaCrosse have sagged since its introduction -- Buick sold about 6,000 of them last August, down nearly 2,000 from August 2006 -- so the company looked for a way to inject a little excitement into a car that no one, even die-hard LaCrosse fans, would categorize as "exciting."
This calls for more engine, Buick decided, likely a two-step thought process:
One: We have a lot of 5.3-liter V-8 engines.
Two: And they seem to fit!
Never one to look gift horsepower in the mouth, I applaud the addition of the 300-horse V-8, an excellent engine which works just as well in a Buick as it does in a Chevrolet pickup truck, even if the horses are saddled with a four-speed automatic transmission instead of a more up-to-date six-speed. The V-8 in the LaCrosse makes this the LaCrosse Super, sort of a deluxe version of the Chevy Impala SS for about $3,000 more.
It also makes the LaCrosse Super slightly thirstier: EPA ratings are 16 miles per gallon city, 24 mpg highway. The LaCrosse with the 3.8-liter V-6 is rated at 17/28, and with the 3.6-liter V-6, 17/25. And the V-8 makes the LaCrosse Super heavier by about 200 pounds, most of which is unfortunately on its nose.
That's all the bad news. The good news is: Punch the throttle, and the LaCrosse Super feels like your father's Buick, and I mean that in a good way -- authoritative acceleration, nice burbling exhaust note. There is some torque steer under hard acceleration -- that's the tendency, in a front-wheel-drive car, for the engine's power to steer the wheels slightly -- but it's a minor annoyance.
The Super starts at $31,310, which is $4,000 more than the LaCrosse CXL, previously the most expensive model. The Super has lots of standard equipment plus a few exclusive features, such as the "leather-appointed seats with Dream Weave inserts," and a "rear aero wing" spoiler.
The LaCrosse Super won't steal sales from the Chevy Corvette, but it might bring a few former Corvette owners back to the GM fold.
Sentinel Automotive Editor Steven Cole Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.