REAL DEAL AUTO BLOG

RD Review: Does This Car Make My Butt Look Big? 2010 Buick LaCrosse

Posted in Uncategorized by wolferadio11 on February 9, 2010

I have been struggling with this one.

Over the last year in particular I can’t even begin to say how impressed I have been with the new product I have been seeing coming from General Motors. GM handed the reins of new car development to one of the automotive world’s super stars, Bob Lutz, and the end result has been great.

The development teams have brought down the stunning CTS-V, impressive redo of the Camaro, greatly improved Silverado with industry leading Hybrid technology, rip snorting Corvette ZR-1 and well executed large SUV’s. I can’t fault them for making the right choices in shedding the dark holes of Saturn and Hummer and, as of this writing, the perennial afterthought of Saab is also being wound down.

Unfortunate but necessary decisions have resulted in a lean product line that has the best quality ever to be produced by an American car company. The biggest move, and by far the one I have the biggest problem with, is the end of Pontiac. Ending the “Excitement” division could not be at a worse time because I had experienced the great Pontiac G8 GT.

The G8 was built by GM’s Australian Holden Division and was simply the best traditional rear wheel drive V8 powered four-door sedan ever produced by GM. It was fantastic, great handling, well proportioned and good looking. Driving it, you understood the guys in Detroit finally got “IT”. Here was a car that didn’t aspire to equal the competition but exceed it.

The guys in the glass tower overlooking downtown Detroit still had to cut one division so the others could survive and Pontiac, the G8, and the rest got the axe earlier last year. I still think it should have been Buick but in retrospect Buick had become the standard bearer in GM’s biggest growth market, China.

The power of the Chinese market saved Buick where it is regarded as a desirable luxury brand. Here in the USA Buick had become the preferred brand of octogenarians. This last year more cars were sold in China than in the US, I still think there should have been a way to keep Buick as a Chinese only brand and kept Pontiac alive, but alas the axe fell and the ships stopped picking up in Australia.

Back in the early days of General Motors the “brand management” philosophy was perfected by Alfred Sloan. He was the man credited for bringing GM together and finally pushing past Ford in sales. He foresaw a company with Economy Chevrolet, Sporty Pontiac, Luxury Buick, More exclusive luxury Oldsmobile and the hyper luxury Cadillac. The first of those core brands to fall was the oldest, Oldsmobile. It went down just as the Alero and Intrigue broke away from the corporate platform bland offerings. Oldsmobile had product potential but the opportunity was lost as the entire division was slashed.

Some of traditional Oldsmobile owners simply migrated to Chevy and Buick but unfortunately many of them headed down the road to Lincoln and even more opted to take the Lexus-Acura plunge.

Now I have told you all of this to give you perspective on why I have a bias against Buick as a brand. GM kept Buick and sacrificed Oldsmobile when Olds had a chance to shine. GM again kept Buick and shuffled off Pontiac now at a time when Pontiac was about to take the company into the new reality of world beating automotive excellence. If I hadn’t seen what they were capable of with the G8 GT, the LaCrosse might well have impressed me more.

The LaCrosse is a fine car and if you covered over the Buick logo’s you might mistake it for a Toyota Camry or any of the other midsized sedans in the market. Handsome and well proportioned the LaCrosse is a nice driving car that suffers from a lack of any distinct personality, much like the Camry.

The traditional Buick consumer might not embrace this car, not because it is not a good car because it is. They might find issue with the lack of any perceivable hood. From the driver’s seat the hood falls away and you get the perspective of driving a really big HD TV. The lack of “Corners” to pick up on might just be disconcerting to someone used to driving a car with a hood that arrives long before you do.

The other main issue is the way the dash wraps around. The interior is pleasing to the eye and exceptionally well equipped but the two-tone dash / Interior gave me a feeling of bulk that really wasn’t there. It is the first car that made me ask: “Does this Buick make my ass look big?”

I suppose it is more a “me” issue than it is a car issue. I have been writing about the car world for over 25 years and I just can’t imagine a Camry or Accord owner thinking Buick would be an option and this really is the biggest problem GM has right now. After generational shift away from the brand by young buyers Buick is now trying to appeal to a core buyer that may well never have entered a Buick store. The only time they may have is when they picked up there GMC Pickup or SUV.

The second problem GM has with the Buick brand is the relative age of the core demographic that has purchased them in the past. It is a fact that is not lost on the marketing people who understand that someone in their late 70’s is probably not going to be a potential repeat buyer and over the last five or ten years they have managed to migrate the median age of a Buick customer south of 65 due mostly to the SUV and truckish offerings.

Usually I try to use this place on Best of Texas to include something local along with the automotive side of the review. I just couldn’t think of anything that was appropriate for the car as I didn’t get a feel for a personality from the car.

Now allow me to explain.

A car’s personality does not necessarily come from the things done right but from the quirky things that may not be perfect. Everyone has had a car that had a rattle or squeak, a quirk in design. The LaCrosse really does not have any thing that is not done right. The designers and engineers at GM have done a fantastic job of benchmarking the Camry on design and build quality, but along with the tangible aspect of quality, comes a void of “quirky”.

The LaCrosse is too good of a car to mock by doing something nasty like shooting it outside a Luby’s or a “senior living” facility, but I will be honest, it did cross my mind.

What the LaCrosse has to offer is an exceptionally well thought-out car that happens to carry a Buick logo, and without my own bias towards the brand, and the lack of the Pontiac option, is a very good choice.

Aside from the optical illusion of bulk I perceived from the interior, the LaCrosse is a very well executed interior, large spacious trunk, great options from Bluetooth enabled GPS Sat/Nav and XM Satellite Radio and all the toys that seem to be necessary in today’s market. The seating is comfortable and the quality of the fit and finish of the entire car is excellent.

I am sure that GM can overcome the lingering effects of the brand; just look at how well Cadillac has repositioned itself over the last 10 years by creating great product. Caddie also got a considerable boost by being able to completely jump over the generation that would have shared the same kind of response I had to the initial rebirth.

When they began to re-brand Cadillac, I was skeptical. After the introduction of the CTS I started to be impressed, and since then they have managed to make that brand over in a way that has legitimized not just Cadillac but the entire corporation. So there might be some hope for the Buick brand but it is not going to be over night.

So with all this in mind I think I have explained the problem I was having with the LaCrosse. It is a very good car that deserves a shot at the business and if you are in the market for a four-door sedan like the Accord or Camry I think it is worth the look at the Buick. It hits all the right notes in the mid 20 to mid 30 price point and if you don’t share the Buick Bias I have it should be considered.

I just hope they consider finding a home for the Holden’s chassis that is under the G8 GT finds itself clad as a Chevy product. It would be a great platform for the next Impala especially in an “SS” and would give GM the ability to hop back into the Police package market with a proper Rear Wheel Drive.

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