The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 7, 2013

Buick LaCrosse upgrades for 2014 with styling, advanced technology

By Derek Price
CNHI News Service

— Buick has come a long was from its days of making "grandma cars," as my wife calls them.

If you don't believe it, take a look at the new LaCrosse. This full-size sedan is in the same class as the floating, boat-like Buicks that tempted many grandmothers of yore, but it looks, feels and drives nothing like them.

To me, the LaCrosse feels like a cross — or crosse, if you will — between a Toyota and a Cadillac.

It exudes the quiet, unassuming but incredibly well-built confidence of a Toyota Avalon, for example. You get the sense that it's designed to last, with tight-fitting switchgear and a carved-from-granite thud when you close the doors.

It's also available with the same bells and whistles you expect from its flashier cousins at Cadillac. My test car came with a heads-up display that projects digital data onto the windshield and radar-based adaptive cruise control that adjusts your speed with traffic.

My favorite feature, though, is something General Motors calls the Safety Alert Seat. That's a fancy way of saying "a seat that vibrates when you're about to do something stupid."

Radar sensors and video cameras keep an eye on what's happening around the car, and they'll make the driver's seat buzz on the left or right side depending on where your attention needs to be directed. If you're backing out of a parking spot and the LaCrosse senses another car approaching from the left, for example, the left side of the seat will buzz.

It offers some other smart safety features, too, including the ability to sense fast-approaching cars in the next lane that are up to 230 feet behind you, Lane Departure Warning that alerts you when you wander across the stripes in the road, and automatic emergency braking if it senses you're going to crash.

For 2014, the LaCrosse continues to evolve as Buick's direction-setter. It looks elegant and understated with the old-school portholes and waterfall grille, but it adds a trendy touch this year with LED accent lights around the headlights — basically the hipster, Warby Parker eyeglasses of the car world.

The interior was also updated to be more contemporary. There's an eight-inch driver information display that looks spectacularly high-tech, a new center stack and new front seats with headrests that can be adjusted four ways.

Buick also adds an Ultra Luxury Interior package with a suede-like headliner and real ash wood trim.

Thankfully, it has a zesty, youthful driving feel, especially with the 3.6-liter V6, but remains quiet and comfortable to drive — even more so than some Cadillacs I've driven.

It's an interesting mix, trying to combine classic American comfort with modern, trendy technology and styling, but the LaCrosse makes it work beautifully.

Derek Price is an indepedent automotive columnist. Reach him at carcolumn@gmail.com.