It was the perfect winter night in Michigan.
The stars sparkled like glitter. The crisp air burned my nose and stung my eyes, and hinted that snow was coming.
The light blue numbers on the dash of the 2010 Buick LaCrosse said the temperature outside was 11 degrees. Retreating inside the new LaCrosse was a welcome relief after a long day of mingling with auto executives at the North American International Auto Show.
Even before I hit the highway, the heated seat warmed my backside as Mark Levin finished a rant on WJR.
I turned Levin off and just drove.
The LaCrosse is as remarkably quiet as it was when I first test drove the preproduction models last summer. And I took to this car as much as I did the model, a confirmation that my instincts were spot- on. I picked up speed and headed south through the cold. Buick calls it QuietTuning -- a system engineers track to eliminate wind, engine and road noise in the cabin. Buick appreciates that customers equate quietness to quality. and I appreciated not having to listen to the drone of the grooved highway or the wind.
When you test drive a car from a dealership, you never have the chance to really just enjoy the vehicle. You might get a giggle from the LaCrosse's 3.6-liter direct injection V-6 launching this big car down the road -- 280 horsepower can do that. You may even get a chance to push the car through a hard corner and feel how the LaCrosse's independent suspension keeps the body relatively flat through the corner, the variable speed power rack-and-pinion letting you hold your line through the turn.
But it's just a moment and many people, including myself, can't fully admire a car's capabilities in an afternoon.
At a dealership, there's always someone talking. The salesman wants to talk about the usefulness of GM Onstar (it is useful). He wants to tell you about the beautiful interior (it is beautiful) and why the leather seats will add value down the road (they will). While he's talking, you're worrying about just how much this luxurious car will cost you. Making the second biggest purchase in your life can put a big load on your rear axle.
Dealerships can put almost anybody on edge, and if you're driving from one or to one, there's just not the same relaxed feeling you can have as you would have cruising down Interstate 75 on late Sunday evening in January. LEDs part of light scheme
The 3.6-liter engine hummed along as I hit my cruising speed -- a little more than the state of Michigan recommends but not so much to draw attention to this sleek sedan.
At night, a sliver of blue cuts across the dash, part of Buick's interior lighting scheme. LEDs have become night-time chrome accents for posh interiors, and the LaCrosse is light years ahead of its major competitors -- the Toyota Avalon and Lexus ES350. Those interiors are crisp, but the LaCrosse is elegant.
The lighting is so nice, every person testing the LaCrosse should make it a point to test drive it at night and then test drive the competition after the sun has set as well.
Nowadays, nearly every carmaker wants to talk about the thrill ride they offer. The LaCrosse doesn't pretend to be the next Le Mans winner, though it is well-mannered on the open highway or even around town. On the firm to soft ride scale, the LaCrosse leans toward soft without feeling like it's a waterbed on wheels.
Actually, a well dampened ride is something people don't appreciate as much as they probably should. Why should I feel every crease in the road? There's nothing enjoyable in that when all I'm trying to do is get home after a long day.
By the time I crossed the River Rouge, my seat was simmering and I had to turn the heat down so my eyes didn't dry out. There's an optional heads up display that lets me keep my eyes on the road and later when I take the big sweeping exit, the adaptive headlights will swivel up to 15 degrees to light up where I'm going instead of simply straight in front of me.
The LaCrosse also offers blind spot detection that will notify you if a car is cruising just off your rear fender. It's a feature that will spoil you and eliminate future creaky necks. Once you have it, you'll never want a car without it.
Add to that the optional backup camera, and you'll never have to turn your head more than a few degrees in either direction for you entire ride home. Stress be gone. Car handles daily necessities
The rest of the drive was just as relaxing. The sharp and curvy LaCrosse carried out its job with aplomb. In fact, the entire week I drove the LaCrosse, I found myself looking forward to hopping behind the wheel more and more.
It may not have the flash as some cars or even the reputation of others, but this Buick represents the brand better than any nameplate to enter the brand over the past decade. It's modern, complete, comfortable and well-appointed.
The understated luxury can be felt inside the cabin and seen throughout its sheet metal.
More importantly, any car needs to handle all of life's daily grind. It needs to handle groceries and soccer matches, movies on Friday and fancy dinner on Saturday. The LaCrosse handles it all, with room for five adults, a nicely sized trunk and good gas mileage.
Pulling into my driveway, I hoped out and felt winter's icy fingers again. I hit the remote lock and walked inside, feeling more refreshed at the end of the journey than I did at the beginning.
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Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Joe Wiesenfelder||Cars.com National||July 15, 2010|
|Kelsey Mays||Cars.com National||July 30, 2009|
|Cars.com Staff||Cars.com National||February 27, 2009|
|Sara Lacey||Mother Proof||August 16, 2010|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||April 11, 2010|
|Clifford Atiyeh||Boston.com||February 17, 2010|
|Scott Burgess||The Detroit Newspapers||January 23, 2010|
|Sherrice Gilsbach||Mother Proof||November 19, 2009|
|Steven Cole Smith||Orlando Sentinel||November 13, 2009|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||September 20, 2009|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||September 13, 2009|
|Dan Neil||Los Angeles Times||August 7, 2009|
|Scott Burgess||The Detroit Newspapers||August 6, 2009|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||July 24, 2009|
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