2005 Buick LaCrosse CXS

This car drives better than it looks and offers interior comfort. But it fails to appeal to younger buyers

Strong Points: Drivetrain performance; Interior comfort; Steering; Reliability

Weak Points: Brakes; Interior and exterior design

Mfr.'s Suggested Retail Price: $32,750

Surveys in bygone years indicated the age of the average Buick buyer was creeping steadily upward. The situation got so bad that the company worried that its average customer would soon be dead. Buick had to do something to appeal to younger buyers. The all-new LaCrosse is one of Buick's latest efforts to attract the youth market. The automaker may well achieve its goal, but the buyers are unlikely to be in their 20s or 30s. Even 40s might be a stretch.

Buick lost a great opportunity to grab younger buyers by being too conservative with LaCrosse's styling. Had it stuck to the bold, low-slung look of the concept car that this production model was supposed to be based on, Buick would have had a sure winner. Styling sells. Just look at the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum. The LaCrosse is as good a car as they are -- and better in some respects. But it looks bland and nondescript, just like the other vehicles in Buick's lineup, including those it is supposed to replace, the Century and Regal.

The Buick LaCrosse drives far better than it looks, charging off the starting line and showing good power as the revs build. Steering response is quick and snappy and, combined with a firm suspension, this vehicle proves excellent in crash-avoidance maneuvers.

Buick's traditional pillowy soft ride is replaced by one offering more controlled suppleness. This fairly large car stays well under control, even in response to sharp bumps, although the self-centering action of the steering could stand some slight improvement. The brake pedal has a firm feel and performs well in everyday driving. In our simulated panic braking tests, however, stopping distances proved surprisingly long. Different tires might help.

While roomy and comfortable, the LaCrosse's interior won't win any design awards either. Please do yourself a favor and order the satellite radio. It will keep you entertained while you endure the extremely bland interior, the automotive equivalent of minimalist art.

Dashboard controls are within easy reach of the driver, including those on the steering wheel that operate the decent sound system.

The seats for front passengers are wide and supportive. Backseat passengers will be able to spread out in comfort as well. A large trunk can hold lots of golf bags, soccer balls, scuba gear or other sports equipment of your choice.

In a recent survey by J.D. Power, Buick rated high in reliability, surpassing most European makes.

The Buick LaCrosse is a good car, but it could have been so much better. Count this as yet another example of a vehicle developed by GM with too heavy a corporate hand in styling decisions.

Chrysler was able to turn itself around by bringing cars to the market that remained true to their concept designs. With a bold appearance, the LaCrosse could have been great. As it is, it's just very good -- for a driver in his 50s.


Engine: 3.6L V6

Horsepower: 240 @ 6,000

Acceleration: 0-60 mph 6.9 sec.

Braking: 60-0 mph 138 ft.

EPA city/highway: 19/27 mpg


Bumper-to-bumper: 3/36,000

Powertrain: 3/36,000

Rust-through: 6/100,000
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