Attractive 2015 LaCrosse, Buick's top-selling car, gets high reliability rating

Markets Associated Press

The 2015 Buick LaCrosse is absolutely, positively not like the stodgy Buicks of old.

Continue Reading Below

The LaCrosse sedan's comfortable ride and attractive styling make it seem more expensive than it is. It offers two smart engine choices: A fuel-saving four cylinder with electric-assist for added zip and a strong V-6. Premium materials and a quiet interior define an upscale LaCrosse passenger environment.

Plus, there's so much rear-seat legroom in this four-door car — 40.5 inches — it's akin to what some other cars offer in the front seats.

A variety of luxury features are available on the LaCrosse, including a power panorama moonroof, and for 2015 a rearview camera becomes standard.

Also for 2015, the LaCrosse comes with OnStar 4G LTE that can create a Wi-Fi hotspot at the car so passengers can use their mobile devices for video streaming or posting to social media. Initial three-month/3-gigabyte data plan is free; subsequent use charges apply.

Best of all, Consumer Reports recently named the LaCrosse with four-cylinder engine as having the highest predicted reliability in the large-car segment. In fact, Buick was the only domestic brand in Consumer Reports' top 10 for predicted reliability of 2015 models.

Continue Reading Below

With the average new-vehicle sales price now topping $32,000, the 2015 LaCrosse is priced just a bit above that.

Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $34,560 for a front-wheel drive, 2015 LaCrosse. This is increased just $100 from the base, 2014 LaCrosse.

Buyers can select either the 182-horsepower, four-cylinder engine with eAssist or the 304-horsepower V-6 at the same price.

The 2015 LaCrosse also is offered with all-wheel drive. The lowest starting retail price, including destination charge, for a 2015 LaCrosse with all-wheel drive is $39,655. All-wheel drive comes with the V-6 only.

Competitors include a wide range of mid-size and premium sedans.

The base, 2015 Toyota Avalon, which comes with a 268-horsepower V-6 and has 39.2 inches of rear-seat legroom, has a starting retail price of $33,110.

The 2015 Lexus ES 350 sedan, with 268-horsepower V-6 and 40 inches of rear-seat legroom, has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $38,475.

Note that Consumer Reports put the LaCrosse in the "large" car class. But the federal government, which provides official fuel economy ratings, classifies the LaCrosse as a mid-size sedan.

To be sure, the base LaCrosse doesn't have everything on it that the Avalon or Lexus ES 350 have as standard equipment.

The base LaCrosse, for example, doesn't come with leather-covered seats as the base Avalon and ES 350 do.

But all 2015 LaCrosses have OnStar as well as remote start that allows a driver to start the vehicle from, say, inside the house to get the interior warmed on cold winter mornings before starting the commute to work.

Parked next to an Avalon, the LaCrosse arguably looks more upscale on the outside.

The shiny, silver-colored grille distinguishes the LaCrosse from other mid-size sedans, and the LaCrosse's side profile, with subtle contours on the side sheet metal, hints at a sporty, fastback look.

The test 2015 LaCrosse had the V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic and provided plenty of power to pass other vehicles, even on highways in the mountains.

Engine sounds came through predominantly during hard acceleration and conveyed confident power. Otherwise, the interior was impressively quiet. Even road and wind noise were minimal in the test car.

Shift points were scarcely noticed, too, especially during leisurely cruises.

Torque from this 3.6-liter, double overhead cam, direct injection V-6 peaks at 264 foot-pounds at a high 5,300 rpm and compares with 248 foot-pounds of torque at 4,800 rpm that's produced by the ES 350's 3.5-liter V-6.

Unfortunately, the test car, driven somewhat aggressively, averaged just under 18 miles per gallon in travel that was a majority city driving. This compares with the federal government fuel economy ratings of 18 mpg in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway, for a combined average of 21 mpg.

As a result, the test car's travel range was less than 330 miles on a single, 18.5-gallon tank. With today's lower gasoline prices, filling the LaCrosse tank can cost some $55.

But remember, the LaCrosse also can be had with a 2.4-liter, double overhead cam, EcoTec four cylinder with what's called mild hybrid technology that helps boost performance while saving fuel. The system is called eAssist, and it includes a small battery pack to store energy recouped from regenerative braking. The electric power then is supplied when added torque is needed.

The eAssist LaCrosse also automatically shuts down the engine when the car is stopped, such as at stoplights, to save fuel and includes grille shutters that close when appropriate to improve the vehicle's aerodynamics. Fuel economy ratings for this LaCrosse version are 25/36 mpg.

The test LaCrosse had a solid, stable feel and steering that felt a bit better than mainstream.

With Buick's Hi-Per Strut suspension system, the test LaCrosse had a supple, well-managed ride that kept bumps away from passengers while not compromising good road feel for the driver.

One drawback in the LaCrosse is the trunk space. In the test car, it was 13.3 cubic feet, which compares with 16 cubic feet in the Avalon.

The 2015 LaCrosse in both front- and all-wheel drive earned top, five out of five stars in federal government crash testing.

Standard safety equipment includes frontal, curtain and side air bags, electronic stability control and antilock brakes. Many of today's newest safety features, such as blind-spot monitoring, lane departure alert and cross-traffic alert at the rear of the car, are offered as options.