As Buick’s flagship model, the 2015 Buick LaCrosse has a greater sense of occasion than the typical full-size sedan. Tasked with showcasing the brand’s best attributes, the LaCrosse comes with ample standard features. Styling is decidedly upscale, a nod to Buick’s premium-brand aspirations. On the road, the LaCrosse whisks you along in near silence, expertly soaking up bumps without feeling floaty. This car is a favorite across the Pacific among chauffeur-driven Chinese dignitaries, and it only takes one drive to understand why.
We’ve appreciated the latest generation LaCrosse’s well-rounded nature since it debuted for 2010, and changes over the years have maintained its luster, including last year’s interior overhaul with improved materials and enhanced touchscreen functionality (though it’s still slow on the uptake at times). Indeed, the cabin is a real highlight, boasting an unusually sleek dashboard and acres of legroom for rear occupants. The LaCrosse’s biggest weakness continues to be its entry-level “mild hybrid” four-cylinder powertrain, which provides sluggish acceleration, forgettable-for-a-hybrid fuel economy and even less luggage capacity than the already space-challenged trunk of six-cylinder models. But with the satisfying V6 engine under the hood, the LaCrosse is a much more compelling package, competing well with a variety of alternatives in this price range.
One such alternative is the recently redesigned 2015 Chevrolet Impala. It doesn’t feel as special inside but otherwise it drives very similarly and offers many of the same accoutrements. The 2015 Chrysler 300 appeals with its powerful engines, nicely trimmed interior and traditional rear-wheel-drive layout. The soothing 2015 Lexus ES 350 and its hyper-efficient 2015 ES 300h hybrid variant certainly merit consideration. If you can find the excellent rear- or all-wheel-drive 2015 Hyundai Genesis V6 at a comparable price, it’s a particularly compelling alternative to the LaCrosse.
But the Buick’s cosseting interior and world-class ride quality keep it in the running against any of the above, at least with the V6 aboard. If you like the idea of a reasonably priced large sedan with flagship bona fides, keep the 2015 LaCrosse in mind.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2015 Buick LaCrosse is a large luxury sedan available in five trim levels: 1SV, Base, Leather, Premium 1 and Premium 2.
The 1SV LaCrosse comes standard with the V6 engine (full details in the Powertrains and Performance section), 17-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming mirror, split-folding rear seatbacks, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, the OnStar system with 4G LTE connectivity and WiFi capability, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an 8-inch touchscreen display, a rearview camera and a seven-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack, a USB port and smartphone app integration. If you want any other equipment, we advise you to move up to the Base trim level at least, as the 1SV isn’t eligible for most options.
At the Base trim level you get all the 1SV’s equipment plus the four-cylinder engine, an eight-way power driver seat (with four-way power lumbar) and a cargo net.
Spring for the Leather model and you get an auto-dimming mirrors, rear parking sensors, keyless ignition and entry, leather upholstery, heated front seats, driver memory settings, and an eight-way power front passenger seat.
The Premium 1 raises its game with the V6 engine, 19-inch wheels, dual exhaust tips, adaptive shock absorbers (only with front-wheel drive), heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a 120-volt power outlet, a power rear window sunshade and an 11-speaker Bose audio system.
The Premium 2 adds 20-inch wheels, a torque-steer-resistant front suspension design (“HiPer Strut”) and a navigation system.
Optional on all but the 1SV and Base LaCrosse is the Ultra Luxury Interior package, which features upgraded leather upholstery with extended coverage (including the center and door armrests), a faux-suede headliner and real wood accents.
Also optional on all but the 1SV and Base models is the Driver Confidence 1 package, which includes xenon headlights, foglights, a head-up display, a blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure alert and forward collision alert. The Premium trims can upgrade to the Driver Confidence 2 package, which adds adaptive cruise control, a collision mitigation system with automatic braking and a vibrating “Safety Alert” driver seat.
For Leather trim levels, the Experience Buick package bundles the contents of the Driver Confidence 1 package plus navigation and the Bose sound system. Other notable options include a sunroof and a rear-seat entertainment system with dual screens mounted behind the front headrests.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2015 Buick LaCrosse is offered with a choice of two powertrains. Standard on base and front-wheel-drive Leather trim levels is a mild hybrid system that pairs a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with an 11-kilowatt electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. Combined peak output is 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is a six-speed automatic, with front-wheel drive the only layout offered.
In Edmunds track testing, a LaCrosse with this configuration sauntered to 60 mph in 9.2 seconds, a leisurely performance for this segment. EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 29 mpg combined (25 city/36 highway): fine numbers for an ordinary four-cylinder sedan of this size, but far behind hybrid competitors like the Lexus ES 300h (40 mpg combined).
Optional on the above trims and standard on the rest is a 3.6-liter V6 that cranks out 304 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is again a six-speed automatic, but all-wheel drive can be substituted for front-wheel drive, which comes standard. It’s worth nothing that many of the LaCrosse’s competitors do not offer AWD.
At the track, a front-wheel-drive LaCrosse V6 sprinted to 60 mph in a satisfactory 6.8 seconds. The EPA pegs LaCrosse V6 fuel economy at 21 mpg combined (18 city/28 highway) with front-wheel drive and 20 mpg combined (17/26) with all-wheel drive.
Standard safety features on the LaCrosse include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen vehicle assistance and turn-by-turn navigation. Every LaCrosse comes with a rearview camera, and all except the 1SV and Base model have rear parking sensors as well.
Optional safety features are provided via the two Driver Confidence packages discussed above, highlighted by lane-change alert (which issues a warning during a lane change if another car is rapidly approaching in the new lane) and a collision mitigation system with automatic braking. The “Safety Alert” driver seat (included with the Driver Confidence 2 package) is a novel offering that vibrates to indicate the direction of a crash threat.
In Edmunds brake testing, a LaCrosse V6 with 19-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 mph in 116 feet — excellent for this segment. A four-cylinder LaCrosse with 17-inch wheels turned in a similarly strong performance, stopping from 60 mph in just 115 feet.
In government crash testing, the LaCrosse earned an overall rating of five out of five stars, with a five-star rating for both frontal and side impacts. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the LaCrosse its highest rating of “Good” in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset test as well as the side-impact, roof strength and head restraint (whiplash protection) tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
From behind the wheel, the LaCrosse’s rakish, wraparound dashboard makes a strong impression. Its contours flow seamlessly into the door panels, joining with the gracefully angled center stack to produce a decidedly modern, upscale ambience. Thin blue light-strips trace those contours when it’s dark, adding to the premium vibe, and materials quality is fully competitive for the price.
One drawback to this artful design is that the controls aren’t quite as straightforward as some might like, though we’ve seen worse in other luxury sedans. The IntelliLink infotainment system is actually user-friendly for the most part, featuring crisply rendered icons on its large 8-inch touchscreen, but it may require an uncomfortable reach from the driver seat, and its reaction time to touch inputs can be painfully slow. On the bright side, the LaCrosse has become one of the few vehicles in this price range to provide 4G LTE data connectivity and mobile WiFi as standard.
As expected in this class, passenger comfort is a LaCrosse highlight. The front seats are supportive and provide ample adjustments for different physiques, while rear legroom is so generous that you could fit a couple NBA forwards back there without complaint. The LaCrosse makes an excellent case for itself as a lower-priced alternative to long-wheelbase executive sedans.
With all that space in back, apparently there wasn’t much left for the trunk. With just 13.3 cubic feet of capacity, the LaCrosse V6’s trunk holds less than some compact sedans. Moreover, the mild-hybrid model has a trunk-mounted battery pack that reduces capacity to a paltry 10.8 cubic feet. Either way, the smallish opening can make loading larger items problematic.
The 2015 Buick LaCrosse’s four-cylinder powertrain operates smoothly, rarely reminding the driver of its hybridized complexity. The auto stop-start system, for example, is unusually refined, lacking the telltale shudder on restart that plagues most of these setups. Unfortunately, the 2.4-liter gasoline engine sounds coarse under heavy throttle, and it feels pretty lethargic, especially with extra passenger or cargo weight. The V6, on the other hand, feels strong in all conditions, easily compensating for its fuel-economy deficit with authoritative, flagship-appropriate power.
With either engine, the LaCrosse’s driving dynamics are spot-on. The ride is exceptionally comfortable and quiet, but there’s more to this Buick than just its cruising credentials. It doesn’t feel like a land yacht from the driver seat; on the contrary, it’s surprisingly composed and steady when you’re driving it around turns. Marginal rearward visibility takes a bite out of driver confidence in parking lots, but the standard rearview camera and various safety systems make the best of it.