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Buick's largest sedan, the LaCrosse, is a quiet and peaceful riding car with a spacious interior that is updated for 2014 with new seats, styling and luxury appointments.
The 2014 LaCrosse also has flashier exterior styling than its 2013 predecessor — from a bigger waterfall-type grille and long, shiny, silver strip on the trunk — and offers new radar- and camera-based safety features.
Among them: Cross-traffic alert that can briefly vibrate the driver's seat cushion if an oncoming car is detected while the driver is backing up out of a parking space. It's difficult to ignore this car-to-human communication, and it's more effective than merely adding another beeping sound or warning light to a car's interior.
Plus, with 40.5 inches of legroom in the back seat, the LaCrosse is ready to carry passengers. Some sedans don't have this much legroom in the front seats.
Starting retail price of the LaCrosse is up but competitive, and that's before taking into consideration Buick's free regular maintenance on the car. All 2014 LaCrosses come with two years/24,000 miles of free, regular scheduled maintenance, which includes oil and filter changes, tire rotations and multi-point inspections.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $34,060 for a base, 2014 LaCrosse with front-wheel drive.
At this price, buyers get to choose between the 182-horsepower four cylinder with eAssist hybrid technology, which delivers the LaCrosse's top fuel economy numbers, or the more powerful, 304-horsepower, direct injection, gasoline V-6 with no eAssist. The V-6 engine is a no-extra-cost offering in the base LaCrosse, and each engine comes with a six-speed automatic transmission.
In contrast, the starting MSRP, including destination charge, for a 2014 Lincoln MKZ sedan is $37,085, and this front-wheel drive model has a 240-horsepower, turbocharged four cylinder. The 2014 MKZ with V-6 has a starting retail price of $38,315.
Another competitor, the 2014 Lexus ES, has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $37,280 with 268-horsepower V-6 and six-speed automatic. Note that the base ES includes a power moonroof. The base LaCrosse does not.
The lowest starting retail price for a 2014 LaCrosse with all-wheel drive is $39,140 and includes the V-6. All-wheel drive is not available with the LaCrosse four-cylinder engine. This price is below the $40,205 starting retail price for a 2014 MKZ with V-6 and all-wheel drive. But Lincoln also offers an all-wheel drive, 2014 MKZ with turbo four cylinder with a starting retail price of $38,975.
Slotting in the lineup atop the Buick Verano compact sedan and the mid-size Regal, the LaCrosse is nearly 7 inches longer from bumper to bumper than the Regal and nearly an inch taller. Most of the extra length goes for the generous LaCrosse back-seat legroom.
In fact, the smaller Regal has a larger trunk than the LaCrosse. Maximum trunk capacity is 13.3 cubic feet in the LaCrosse vs. the Regal's 14.2 cubic feet.
The Lexus ES and Lincoln MKZ also offer more trunk room. But the 2014 LaCrosse has rear seatbacks that fold down, nearly flat, in two sections. This provides additional cargo room, especially for long items.
The two LaCrosse powerplants are largely carried over from last year.
The test LaCrosse had the 3.6-liter V-6 that delivered power smoothly in regular driving. Passengers, cocooned in a Buick QuietTuning interior and talking in normal conversational tones, rarely noticed engine sounds.
In pedal-to-the-metal acceleration — during passing on highways, for example — there was just a bit of a wait and then the power came on steadily. Peak torque is 264 foot-pounds at 5,300 rpm.
Even with highway passing demands and hilly terrain, the test car averaged 23.9 miles per gallon in driving that was 70 percent on highways. The federal government's fuel economy numbers for this model are 18 mpg in city driving and 28 mpg on highways for a combined 21 mpg.
Only regular unleaded gas is needed. With V-6, the LaCrosse has an 18-gallon fuel tank, so the range of the tester was 430 miles.
With the 2.4-liter four cylinder with eAssist technology that stops the engine automatically at idle to save fuel, the LaCrosse's top fuel mileage is 25/36 mpg.
The ride in the test LaCrosse wasn't just quiet and relatively agile. It was stable and compliant, with the MacPherson strut front suspension and rear H-arm suspension configuration keeping most road bumps away from passengers.
Speeds can be deceptive in this comfortable riding car. What felt like 60 miles per hour on the highway was actually 75-plus mph. This was a good reason to use the optional head-up display in the test LaCrosse. It projected the vehicle's speed in large, digital numbers onto the windshield ahead of the driver, allowing a close watch on speeds.
The LaCrosse's easy-to-read, white gauges allowed for customization, too, and the navigation system allowed the front-seat passenger to input destinations as the car traveled. Many other navigation systems allow destination inputs only when a vehicle is stopped.
The LaCrosse's tastefully crafted interior has a low top of the dashboard, giving an airy feel.
Front-seat interior lamps, in particular, give more light than what's found in many other cars. It's as if the LaCrosse's interior comes alive with light at night when the interior lighting goes on when doors open.
A thin line of ice-blue, light-emitting diode lighting that runs along the front of the dashboard is eye-catching and soothing at night. Too bad this arc of light doesn't extend to the doors.
The test car's trunk had no hooks or latches on which to attach bags and other items.
New, optional safety features include lane change alert, blind spot warning and adaptive cruise control that can automatically adjust vehicle speed as the LaCrosse comes upon cars in front.
Only frontal crash test results are available from the federal government, and the 2014 LaCrosse earned five out of five stars for passenger protection.