Buick’s 2013 LaCrosse near-luxury sedan leads the American brand’s effort to attract younger move-up buyers. To rival the attraction of imports, the LaCrosse has conservatively handsome styling, lots of standard equipment, capable road manners and impressive powertrain technology for the money, especially with the standard evolved-mild-hybrid eAssist system.
You'll Like The 2013 Buick LaCrosse If...
There are plenty of modestly upscale sedans that offer decent performance with impressive efficiency at a competitive price, but if you are pleasantly surprised to find those qualities from a traditional American brand, the Buick LaCrosse belongs on your short list.
You May Not Like The 2013 Buick LaCrosse If...
For many up-and-coming car shoppers, the Buick brand, though clearly on the move, is still not an aspirational target, and you might feel more naturally drawn to similar offerings from Lexus, Audi or Acura.
After eAssist's debut last year, 2013 is quiet for the LaCrosse. Option groups are arrayed in five packages now (previously seven), ranging from the base LaCrosse to the Touring package, with Leather, Premium I and Premium II levels filling in. All-wheel drive (AWD) is available on Leather and Premium I trim levels.
Inside the nicely-crafted cabin warm wood, smoked chrome accents and ice-blue ambient lighting create a comfortable, upscale environment. Complementing the exterior, a smooth-flowing design theme has the instrument panel wrapping into the doors and the high-grade leather has handsome contrasting stitching. All major buttons and controls – including those on the leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel – are conveniently large, well-marked and intuitive to use. Noise levels inside are commendably low and rear-seat space is notably generous.
Buick's now firmly-established family look gives the 2013 LaCrosse a big waterfall grille, a sculpted side "spear" sweeping from the headlamps to the tail lamps and a roofline that blends gracefully into a short rear deck. Thanks to underbody aero panels and electronically-controlled lower-grille shutters that close at higher speeds, an eAssist LaCrosse has slightly better aerodynamic efficiency than one with the V6 engine.
The key point about the 2013 Buick LaCrosse driving experience is how transparent its eAssist system is on the road. A 15-hp electric motor helps the 182-hp 4-cylinder engine during acceleration. When slowing, the motor flips its function to act as a generator, and it recaptures some of the car's kinetic energy, recharging a lithium-ion battery. The gas engine also shuts down but restarts quickly without the shudder typical of some hybrids. In short, the LaCrosse with eAssist drives absolutely normally. We found the steering precise, the brakes strong, the handling surprisingly agile and eAssist acceleration more than adequate though the engine can get a bit raucous at higher revs. A hill-assist feature prevents rollback during uphill launches with the engine stopped. An entertaining instrument-panel graphic shows electric power flow from the battery to the front wheels when it's being used and back to the battery during deceleration.
The 2013 Buick LaCrosse has a starting Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of around $32,500, including destination, with either the fuel-efficient eAssist "mild hybrid" 4-cylinder/electric motor system or the more powerful but less fuel-efficient V6. That compares to around $33,500 for a 2013 Audi A4 and near $37,000 for a Lexus ES 350. The LaCrosse eAssist also offers better fuel economy and is EPA-rated at 25 mpg city, 36 highway, compared to 24/31 for the Audi A4 and 21/31 for the Lexus ES350. (The full-hybrid Lexus ES300h is rated at 40/39 but with a price near $40,000.) The Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price lists an actual transaction price within roughly $1,000 of MSRP. Resale data is not yet available for the 2013 Lacrosse, but the 2012 model was projected to retain only about 33 percent of its value after five years.
The LaCrosse's list of standard features is long and comprehensive, including a full-color driver information center, OnStar (with a 6-month subscription), SiriusXM Radio (3-month trial), a manual tilt/telescoping steering wheel, remote keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels and both Bluetooth and USB connectivity. Standard safety features include traction and stability control, brake assist and six airbags.
The 2013 Buick LaCrosse's extensive options list includes high-intensity-discharge headlamps, Side Blind Zone Alert to help spot vehicles hiding in your blind spots, a (terrific) head-up display, heated and ventilated perforated leather-covered seats, power-adjustable lumbar support for the driver (but not the front-seat passenger), a heated steering wheel, GPS navigation, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a power rear sunshade and even a 110-volt power outlet for charging your phone or computer. All are available either stand-alone or in packages.
A clever and largely transparent marriage of a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, a small electric motor and regenerative braking, the eAssist evolved-mild-hybrid system significantly improves both fuel efficiency and performance without adding a lot of weight or cost.
It shows speed, navigation instructions, audio status (including song titles) and other key information in your line of sight, seemingly out there over the hood, and its brightness and vertical position are easily adjusted. It's one of the best we've seen.
Under the Hood
The eAssist powertrain - a 4-cylinder engine plus a small electric motor/generator to provide both a power boost and regenerative braking - is standard on base LaCrosse and Leather versions. A 303-hp 3.6-liter Flex-Fuel-capable V6 is a no-cost option on those two lower-level packages, and the sole offering on Premium I, Premium II and Touring versions. All-wheel drive is available on Leather and Premium I packages, with the V6 only. All combinations use GM's latest 6-speed automatic transmissions. Though the V6 is stronger, eAssist is frankly more interesting and appealing. It provides a 15-hp on-demand boost to the 182-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. When you're off the throttle, regenerative braking charges the 115-volt lithium-ion battery.
2.4-liter 4-cylinder (with eAssist)
182 horsepower @ 6,700 rpm
172 lb-ft of torque @ 4,900 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/36 mpg
3.6-liter V6 (Flex-Fuel E85-capable)
303 horsepower @ 6,800 rpm
264 lb-ft of torque @ 5,300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/27 mpg, 13/19 mpg (E85)
Buick's 2013 LaCrosse is intended to bring younger buyers to what has traditionally been seen as a nameplate for more senior folks. Conservatively handsome, well equipped, capable and polished, the car boasts eAssist, an impressive assortment of efficiency-enhancing technologies developed from GM's mild-hybrid system. A more powerful V6 engine is available, but we actually prefer the progressive spirit of the eAssist powertrain, with its 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, small electric "boost" motor and regenerative braking. In a rare win-win, the system improves both fuel economy and performance, and combines with the car's solid look and feel to create a thoroughly credible alternative to the established imports. After getting its eAssist system last year, the LaCrosse rolls into 2013 with only minor changes to trim and option packages.