2014 Buick LaCrosse AWD Premium Review: Evolution in Affordable GM Luxury
The Buick brand does what few automakers in American attempt – offering premium luxury amenities with less than premium luxury pricing – and the LaCrosse is the brand’s full sized flagship sedan. The LaCrosse stormed onto the scene in 2005 with a fair amount of success, but when the second generation debuted for the 2010 model year, sales flourished. The look of the 2010 LaCrosse combined with the plush, roomy interior and a powerful yet fairly efficient drivetrain proved to be a big hit for those folks who wanted a big American sedan that offered Cadillac-like amenities with a price far below that of GM’s premium luxury brand. For the 2014 model year, the LaCrosse has received a revised exterior, an improved interior and some new high tech safety gadgets – all of which make this full sized Buick an even more attractive option for budget minded luxury lovers.
My 2014 Buick LaCrosse AWD Premium test car was pretty much loaded to the gills with the only options not included being the rear seat entertainment system and the Ultra Luxury Package, which adds a higher end Sangria Semi Aniline leather, real wood trim throughout the cabin, a suede headliner and a heated, leather wrapped steering wheel. I will get into what all my Buick LaCrosse Premium test car did have in the interior section below, but I can safely say that my test car left me wanting for very little – even from a luxury car standpoint. Of course, that comes with a fairly hefty price of $46,670, but when you consider all of the features that you get for that price, the LaCrosse is truly a bargain of a large luxury sedan.
I should warn my readers that I spent my time testing the 2014 LaCrosse in the grip of a nasty Detroit snowstorm, so while I had a chance to test the AWD system in some of the roughest conditions possible, my test car was a filthy mess on the outside. It was too cold and too crummy out to wash my test car for pictures so my images below showing the test car have a car that is very, very dirty on the outside.
The 2014 Buick LaCrosse wears a facelifted exterior design, but relative to the 2010-2013 models there are really very few changes. The overall shape of the car is largely the same in all of the basic dimensions while the front and rear end receive subtle, evolutionary changes from 2013 to 2014. The new headlights are a bit larger, with accent lighting running across the top and some slight blue trim within the headlights bringing the LaCrosse up to par with the rest of the Buick headlights. The overall shape of the grille is similar as the previous model, but it has gotten a bit taller and the spokes that run from top to bottom have a varying thick and thin design with a new angular design towards the top of the spokes.
Finally, the bottom fascia of the 2014 LaCrosse has a thinner opening in the center and a new covered element fog light in place of the chrome trimmed projection fog lights from the previous years. These changes are all subtle enough that someone might not be able to tell the difference between a 2013 and 2014 model year LaCrosse, but in an industry where being sporty looking goes hand in hand with being a proper luxury sedan – these changes help the LaCrosse to stay fresh in a growing segment.
Along the sides, the 2014 Buick LaCrosse hasn’t seen many changes outside of the triple opening vents on the hood being shifted from the top surface of the hood to the side surface. There is also a new set of wheels, but the other attributes of the LaCrosse, such as the long roofline, the high body line and the gently sloping rear glass has remained unchanged from the 2013 model year with just the subtle integrated lip spoiler on the trunk lid giving the rear end a slightly sportier silhouette.
Out back, in addition to the slight rise in the trailing edge of the trunk lid, the 2014 Buick LaCrosse wears a new, larger set of taillights with bright LED lights lining the inside. The layout of the taillights has been changed, moving the reverse lights from the bottom up into the middle of the lenses with a large chrome strip extending from above the headlights inward to the license plate area where a prominent black and chrome Buick emblem is found. Finally, the new LaCrosse has a set of chrome integrated exhaust tips built into the bottom of the rear fascia – another addition which bolsters the sport luxury feel.
The changes made to the midcycle refresh of the 2014 Buick LaCrosse are subtle at best, but they go a long way in allowing this big sedan to keep up with the Jonses. The luxury segment is all about LED trim in the headlights and taillights along with a sportier feel where applicable and, relative to the 2013 LaCrosse, the 2014 model checks all of those boxes.
My 2014 Buick LaCrosse AWD Premium came loaded with almost every available option and that was immediately evident as soon as I climbed into the driver’s seat. The front seats are wrapped in black leather with contrasting white stitch work with both cooled and heated and power controls for the driver and front passenger. The front seats have surprisingly deep bolsters that comfortably cradle the buttocks on a long drive while also proving excellent lateral support when you are cutting through life’s corners.
Shaquille O’Neal endorses the LaCrosse and while I would have a hard time seeing Shaq driving a Buick, I could definitely see a 7 foot tall person daily driving this car comfortably – or riding in the passenger seat. These seats aren’t quite as soft as what you get from the Cadillac lineup, but they are a great deal more padded than a great many other large sedans sold in the US today. For those seated in the back, although the rear seat doesn’t have enough leg space for someone the size of Shaq, there is more than enough space in every dimension for an adult of average height to comfortably sit in either of the outboard positions…even with a very tall person seated in front of them.
The black leather from the seats of the 2014 Buick LaCrosse Premium is also found on the door panels, on the steering wheel, on the dash and on the center console armrest while an interesting gloss black marbled finish fills in the non-leather spaces on the door panels, around the shifter, around the HVAC controls and across the upper portion of the dash. While some buyers might not like this marbled finish, I like how it contrasts against the matte looking leather throughout the cabin. Capping off the interior finishes is a collection of satin silver components around the gauges, on the steering wheel and around the infotainment system. The predominantly black lower layout of the LaCrosse is contrasted by a light colored headliner which plays host to a huge panoramic sunroof that I consider a must-have in this big Buick sedan.
In terms of technology, the 2014 Buick LaCrosse continues to borrow features from the pricier Cadillac lineup. This begins with a new gauge cluster that has a large thin film transistor center section that allows the driver to select from a long list of available readouts including a digital speedometer, an analog speedometer, a small navigation screen and media information such as the artist and name of the song playing on the radio. This setup looks like the setup offered in many new Cadillac sedans, with a new steering wheel featuring a refreshed look relative to the 2013 models. The functionality of the steering wheel buttons are the same, but the 2014 LaCrosse steering wheel has a slightly cleaner look than the previous models. I really like the look of this new gauge cluster and I absolutely love the LaCrosse’s new heads up display.
Finally, the 20914 Buick LaCrosse features a new touchscreen layout that has the screen mounted high in the center stack of the dash with a small collection of traditional buttons and knobs just below the screen. The 2010-2013 LaCrosse was criticized by some for crazy number of buttons mounted in the center stack so for the 2014 models, these buttons have been broken up and moved around for easier use while driving. The buttons and knobs for the sound system are moved up the dash to the screen while the number of HVAC buttons has been reduced thanks to a new touch sensitive control panel for the driver and the passenger with a final few buttons nestled between these gloss black touch panels.
Again, this isn't a huge change, but it is enough to give the interior of the LaCrosse a new, fresher look while also exorcising some demons from the previous models.
From top to bottom, the 2014 LaCrosse most certainly looks the part of a modern luxury sedan with plush leather seats front and rear, a dark and styling cabin layout and high tech infotainment system that includes a large touch screen on the dash, a reconfigurable gauge cluster beyond the new steering wheel and just enough buttons on the center stack to give full control of the vehicle’s amenities to those who don’t love relying only on touch sensitive controls.
My 2014 Buick LaCrosse Premium AWD was powered by the 3.6L V6 engine that is used across pretty much the entire GM lineup with a 6-speed automatic transmission funneling the available 304 horsepower and 264lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via an advanced all wheel drive system. This drivetrain is expected to return 17mpg around town, 26 on the highway and a combined figure of 20 miles per gallon; numbers which I found to be very realistic while testing the new LaCrosse. Due to the snow that pounded the Detroit area while I was driving the LaCrosse, I got worse fuel economy than I would expect in clear conditions. However, even with all of the slipping, sliding and wheel spinning through the deep snow, I was able to achieve a week long average of 18.6mpg. The good news is that when on a longer highway drive in better conditions, the highway fuel economy hovered between 26 and 27mpg.
The 2014 Buick LaCrosse Premium is available with either front wheel drive or all wheel drive. Those who live in an area which does not receive significantly snowy winters should (in my opinion) opt for the front wheel drive layout, as that offers a touch better fuel economy and because I simply don’t see the need for all wheel drive in this vehicle if you don’t NEED all wheel drive. However, living in the Detroit area for one of the snowiest winters on record, I found the all wheel drive package to be a huge advantage and a good trade for the few MPGs that you sacrifice.
The morning that I received the LaCrosse, Mother Nature laid down some 3 inches of fresh snow heading into morning rush hour, and that was on top of roads that were already covered with thick, icy slush. In weather that made driving my rear wheel drive pickup a touch challenging, the all wheel drive system of the LaCrosse made this big Buick sedan nearly unstoppable. Even on the tertiary roads that had not been properly plowed or salted – roads that had people in pickup trucks waiting for friends to pull them to safety – the LaCrosse effortlessly forged ahead. At no point did I have any trouble stopping, accelerating from a stop or making a turn and even when I was applying excessive throttle to get the LaCrosse sliding around; it was very easy to pull it back to a safe position on the road. In fact, I would say that the LaCrosse performed as well in the snow as any AWD car I have tested in the past 5 years so those prospective buyers who live in an area that gets lots of snow may want to put the AWD LaCrosse on their short list. For the price, the LaCrosse AWD Premium is the nicest car that you are going to find on today’s market that can handle the worst winter weather. Also, regardless of the weather conditions, the LaCrosse has a heads up display for the driver that I absolutely love – listing your speed, the posted speed limit, the engine RPM and more.
While I spent most of my drive time in the 2014 Buick LaCrosse AWD Premium fighting the snow, I did have a couple days of relatively clear, dry(ish) roads on which I could test more than just the snow-going abilities of the new LaCrosse. With 304 horsepower and the surefootedness of all wheel drive, the 2014 LaCrosse offers pretty strong acceleration from a stop and when looking to obtain higher passing speeds out on the open road. As large sedans go, you won’t get the same neck breaking power of some of the competitors, but in no normal driving situations does the LaCrosse ever feel underpowered. This big Buick will leave a stop light in a hurry just as effortlessly as it will climb up an off ramp or hustle around slower moving traffic at highway speeds.
Most importantly, when you aren’t looking to flex the LaCrosse’s muscles – the acceleration is smooth and even throughout the powerband with subtle, nearly unnoticeable shifts. This combination of comfort and power is perfect for a car that aspires to compete with far more expensive luxury sedans. It won’t rock your go-fast world like the Cadillac CTS, but it will more than readily allow you to keep up with fast moving traffic during your daily drive.
Finally, the 2014 Buick LaCrosse offers a ride quality that isn’t quite as smooth and silent as what you get with the various Cadillac lineup, but the LaCrosse is incredibly smooth around town and when cruising on the highway. You do get just a touch of road feel through the steering and suspension than you would with, say, the new CTS, but the ride quality of the LaCrosse is really only rivaled by far more expensive large sedans. Best of all, the GM engineers were able to tune the suspension and chassis in a way that afforded this big Buick a great level of ride quality, but it also handles well for a car of this size. Around town, the LaCrosse is easy to ease through tight streets for a car of this size while also being surprisingly planted when hitting long, sweeping turns at highway speeds.
The 2014 Buick LaCrosse AWD Premium isn’t the smoothest, quietest large sedan in America but it is towards the top of the list and when you consider price, the LaCrosse is hard to beat. There is enough power to get you away from a stoplight with some urgency and to keep up with the quicker moving highway traffic, but it affords you these drive abilities without compromising the comforts that you would expect from a luxury sedan – even one that costs thousands less than the competition.
If you want a large luxury sedan that offers nearly every amenity that you will find from the likes of Lexus, Cadillac or Audi without the high price of those “premium” brands, the 2014 Buick LaCrosse should prove to be an excellent option for your next new car. While the LaCrosse doesn’t come with the same level of clout as the comparable options from those pricier brands, it offers all of the features that makes those more expensive brands what they are so if you are more concerned with the features of your vehicle than you are the badge on the front end – this is most certainly a car that you should drive before making your next automotive purchase. If you want tons of space in a plush, luxurious cabin that is packed full of all of the cutting edge gadgets more commonly found in far more expensive cars, the 2014 LaCrosse Premium is sure to please just as much as comparable models from pure luxury brands, but for thousands less.