While the 2005 Buick LaCrosse doesn’t exactly spark fantasies, it isn’t a bad vehicle. With two decent six-cylinder engines, a roomy cabin and a comfortable ride, the LaCrosse offers the masses a perfectly acceptable choice in transportation. Tack on the reasonable starting price and inoffensive styling, and this midsize domestic makes a plausible case for purchase, especially for those who prefer their vehicles be raised on North American soil.
But, there are a number of competitors, both foreign and domestic, that offer more features, better warranties, superior powertrains, and distinguished styling. Collectively, they work to push the competent 2005 Buick LaCrosse deeper into this competitive pack, and under shoppers’ radar.
Interesting is the Buick’s lack of standard antilock brakes, a safety component that is common on much lesser cars but optional on the CX. Other options include side curtain airbags; traction control; a trip computer with compass; a front split bench seat that increases capacity to six passengers; a folding rear seat; a power moonroof; and various audio systems that offer XM satellite radio, a six-disc in-dash CD changer, and an MP3 player. There are also a number of package groups, such as the Silver Convenience package with a remote ignition system, driver memory settings, and a telescopic steering wheel.
One step up is the 2005 Buick LaCrosse CXL, with a starting price of $25,995. Additional standard features for the CXL include dual-zone climate control, a compass, driver memory settings, driver power lumbar support, and leather seats. Also added is a folding rear seat, a leather-wrapped telescopic steering wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a trip computer. Options include a power passenger seat, antilock brakes, traction control, heated front seats, 16-inch chrome alloy wheels, and chrome exterior accents on the bumpers and side moldings. Also offered are power heated rearview mirrors, a rear parking aid and a Homelink universal garage door opener, all part of the Gold Convenience package.
At the pinnacle of LaCrosse’s range is the CXS, and buyers of this model will start the bidding at $28,995. In exchange for that extra green Buick packs the CXS with a more powerful and sophisticated 3.6-liter V6 engine, front fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels shod with 225/55R17 Goodyear Eagle LS tires, and a sport-tuned suspension. Ah, but there’s more, like the safety that comes with standard four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, and electronic brake force distribution. As with the CX and CXL models, side curtain airbags are optional, but the CXS adds to the list 17-inch chrome alloy wheels and a stability control system.
Our editors spent a week piloting a 2005 Buick LaCrosse CXS over the wet and muddy roads of southern California. Equipped with all of the options, our tester busted the scales at about $33,000. That price struck us as steep for what we were driving. However, drop some of the options, bring the final tally back into the $20s, and an argument can be made for the CXS. The CX doesn’t offer a great deal of equipment, and suffers without standard antilock brakes. The CXL adds some nice features, but for a few dollars more per month, shoppers intent on buying a Buick LaCrosse can get a better engine, standard antilock brakes and traction control, as well as the option of stability control in the CXS.
Propelled by one of two six-cylinder engines, the 2005 Buick LaCrosse runs just fine on good ol’ 87-octane fuel. CX and CXL models house a 3.8-liter, single overhead cam, 12-valve, cast iron V6 good for 200 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 230 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. Fuel mileage is rated at 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. The 2005 Buick LaCrosse CXS is motivated by a 3.6-liter, dual overhead cam, 24-valve, aluminum V6 that ups the horsepower to 240 at 6,000 rpm. Torque is rated at 225 lb.-ft., but peaks at a very low 2,000 rpm. This more powerful V6 includes variable valve timing, and fuel mileage dips a bit to 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
Under most driving conditions, the 240 horses in our CXS tester did a fine job of moving the LaCrosse through city and highway traffic, there was plenty of torque for quick takeoffs, and even at full revs the engine was composed and quiet. But don’t confuse quick with fast: Expecting driving excitement from this Buick is a setup for disappointment. The 3.8-liter V6, with 40 fewer ponies, exacerbates the power deficiency.
Regardless of which engine is under the hood, the only transmission choice is a rather old tech four-speed automatic, lacking the adaptive and manually-interactive shifting features found on many more contemporary gearboxes. This tranny is a tried-and-true part of GM’s powertrain arsenal, and manages the engines’ power with smooth shifts and relatively little gear hunting. But, after a week of mixed driving, our 2005 Buick LaCrosse CXS tester returned a rating of only18.5 mpg – a figure that would probably be bettered with a more efficient five- or even six-speed automatic transmission.
Controlling the ride, the fully independent suspension includes MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the rear, fortified with standard front and rear stabilizer bars. CXS models offer added control via larger stabilizer bars and a standard traction control system. The suspension handles bumps well, with little disruption felt through the steering wheel. Despite a bit of tire and wind noise and a rattling sunroof, our 2005 Buick LaCrosse’s cabin remained quiet under all driving conditions. This is due to what Buick calls “QuietTuning,” a process that includes adding laminate to the vehicle’s glass and more sound deadening material throughout the structure. While the LaCrosse is indeed quiet, it’s got a ways to go before it will be confused with a Lexus, QuietTuning or not.
Slowing the 2005 Buick LaCrosse are vented disc brakes up front and solid discs in the rear; the CXS model adds ABS and electronic brake force distribution. The result is impressive stopping power under dry conditions, though there is a marked decrease in performance when the brakes are wet. Regardless of the weather conditions, the LaCrosse’s brake pedal is responsive.
As with the brakes, visibility is an important safety factor. Overall, the 2005 Buick LaCrosse does a good job of giving drivers visual access to their surroundings, though a small rear window, thick C-pillars, and integrated rear outboard headrests are a bit of a hindrance. On a positive note, the exterior mirrors are large, encompassing a substantial viewing area, and small windows incorporated into the rear roof pillars somewhat offset their width.
Rear seat passengers also ride along on well-padded, comfy seats, with a handy fold-down center armrest. Headroom is at a premium for taller passengers, who may also find their knees bumping up against hard front seatbacks. Shorter rear-seat passengers shouldn’t have a problem. The door panels include a soft armrest that curiously narrows where an elbow will want to rest, right where support is needed the most.
Front seat passengers bask in warmth or cool air from an easy-to-use dual-zone automatic climate control system. With red arrows for warmer temps and blue for cooler, there is no threat of misunderstanding the climate controls. Our 2005 Buick LaCrosse CXS tester’s heated seats warmed up quickly, though it was odd that one click of the heated seat button made the seats hot, while two clicks made them warm – it seems that the seats should go from warm to hot rather than vice versa. What grew annoying over time was the need to repeatedly press various controls, such as the band button on the radio, to get them to work.
Featuring basic knobs and buttons, and offering XM satellite capability, the LaCrosse’s radio was a cinch to reach and operate. Steering wheel controls added to the usability, but the volume buttons mirrored the climate control buttons, and we often confused one with the other.
The remaining interior controls go almost without criticism. One steering wheel stalk controls the wipers and signals, with headlight and fog light controls placed on the left side of the dashboard. Power window and mirror buttons are on the driver’s door, as expected. The trunk unlock feature is incorporated into the power door button, also located on the driver’s door. Interestingly, the trunk only unlocks after depressing the button for an extended period, which means that all of the doors get unlocked, as well.
Using handy pull down tabs, the fully lined, illuminated trunk of the 2005 Buick LaCrosse can be expanded by folding the available split rear bench seat. Added cargo-toting features include a storage net and built-in storage hooks. Placing items into the trunk can be a challenge due to the lofty liftover height, but an integrated grab handle aids closing the decklid.
Interior storage is plentiful for front seat occupants, less so for those in the rear. Rear seat passengers get two cupholders and front seatback pockets. Up front there are large door pockets, a rubber-lined cubby under the radio, a roomy center console, and two adjustable cupholders.
Matching the conservative exterior design is the 2005 Buick LaCrosse’s interior, which on our CXS tester included a tasteful two-tone black and tan color scheme, with chrome accents on the door handles, shift plate, and around the gauges. The flat dash and instrument panel lack any creativity in terms of design. More pleasing were the materials used throughout the interior, such as padded and soft-touch plastics on the dash, instrument panel, and upper door sills, along with a high-quality mesh headliner with sunvisors and plastic pillar covers to match. Even the lower dash and console panels, though composed of hard plastic, felt substantial and offered matching grain patterns. Detractors included faux wood inserts, a steering wheel wrapped in fake leather, and a few interior plastic bits that appeared unfinished.
Overall construction of the 2005 Buick LaCrosse also appeared a bit hurried. Inside, most everything was bolted down tight, but the pillar covers featured significant gaps and popped off easily, and the headliner came up a bit short by the rear window and was loose around the sunroof. Outside were a misaligned hood and a very flexible front fascia.
Be that as it may, there is still a market out there for the LaCrosse. In fact, for those wary of technology, and who see average as acceptable, the 2005 Buick LaCrosse just might be your dream come true.
Test Vehicle: 2005 Buick LaCrosse CXS
Price as Tested: $33,650
Engine Size and Type: 3.6-liter V6
Engine Horsepower: 240 at 6,000 rpm
Engine Torque: 225 at 2,000 rpm
Transmission: Four-speed automatic
Curb weight, lbs.: 3,568 lbs.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 19/27
Observed Fuel Economy: 18.5 mpg
Length: 198.1 inches
Width: 73.0 inches
Wheelbase: 110.5 inches
Height: 57.4 inches
Leg room (front/rear): 42.3/37.6
Head room (front/rear): 39.4/37.2
Max. Seating Capacity: 5
Max. Cargo Volume: 16 cubic feet
Competitors: Acura TL, Acura TSX, Audi A4, Buick LeSabre, Cadillac CTS, Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 300, Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Stratus, Ford Crown Victoria, Ford Five Hundred, Ford Taurus, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Hyundai XG 350, Infiniti G35, Kia Amanti, Kia Optima, Lincoln LS, Mazda 6, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Mercury Grand Marquis, Mercury Montego, Mitsubishi Galant, Nissan Altima, Nissan Maxima, Pontiac Grand Prix, Pontiac Bonneville, Saab 9-3, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Avalon, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat, Volvo S40, Volvo S60
No, the LaCrosse is only available with front-wheel drive.
Are significant rebates and incentives available for the 2005 Buick LaCrosse?
The LaCrosse is a new vehicle for Buick, so rebates are currently very minimal. Unlike the Rendezvous crossover vehicle, which has been offered with up to $4,500 in rebates, the Buick LaCrosse is offered with only $500 on the hood. That figure will likely increase as time goes by. Initial finance rates for the 2005 Buick LaCrosse have been competitive, with 2.9 percent being the high for a 60-month loan.
Recently introduced was GM’s new Freedom Lease, available on the 2005 Buick LaCrosse in Atlanta, Boston, Providence, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., and all of California. Leasees can return the LaCrosse with up to 12,000 miles on the clock no questions asked, but must relinquish their $1,500 down payment.
Some new GM vehicles, like the Chevrolet Cobalt, are being offered with more competitive 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranties. What about the 2005 Buick LaCrosse?
GM has sporadically increased coverage from 3-years/36,000-miles recently, notably on the Chevy Cobalt’s powertrain warranty and Hummer’s basic warranty. However, the Buick LaCrosse carries the usual 3/36 coverage for both basic and powertrain warranties.
The sticker price for our CXS test model was $33,650. That’s not a typo. Clearly, General Motors is anticipating the need for huge rebates and incentives on the LaCrosse – that is the only way to explain such a number for a vehicle equipped with manual seat recliners and a stereo that emits sound quality on par with two Campbell’s tomato soup cans strung together with wire. But even with $5,000 in customer and dealer cash sitting on the LaCrosse’s hood, this car is no bargain.
Adding insult is the fact that the LaCrosse isn’t a new design from the rubber to the roof. Buick extensively updated the old Century/Regal platform and architecture, which originally debuted for the 1997 model year, to create this new model. So it’s not like the inflated price tag is required to pay for massive development costs.
Rather, the cash is needed to market the car. How can you have an ounce of respect for Aerosmith after watching the Buick LaCrosse advertisements that depict it as a glamorous luxury sedan with slot-car handling? Dream on, my ass. More fitting with reality was the bungled placement of the LaCrosse in this year’s hottest new TV show, “Desperate Housewives.” Mistake #1: The LaCrosse was in a scene with Eva Longoria, which virtually guaranteed that male viewers wouldn’t notice the car. Mistake #2: Eva’s character, a former model, was forced into and embarrassed about promoting the Buick because…well, the plot matters little. The point is that millions of viewers were left with the impression that selling a Buick LaCrosse is an unsavory position in which to be.
My personal gripes about the LaCrosse lay mainly in a lack of attention to detail, particularly on the inside of the car. At first, the new interior appears to be a work of art (for GM, anyway). The brushed aluminum sill plates, the soft-touch materials, the mesh headliner, the matte-finish plastics, the soft leather upholstery – it all looks first rate. Eventually, however, you must start using the LaCrosse, and you discover that the buttons require more pressure than necessary, that the controls are sized too small, that the headliner sags like a Twixster’s jeans, that your $34,000 Buick has fake wood inside, and that quality control could use improvement.
More frustrating was the design of the foot-actuated parking brake, which scarred the tops of my new Timberland work boots because it’s positioned in such a manner that the driver accidentally drags the top of his foot along the underside of the pedal. Thrice I did this in the four times I exited the car. But work boots are supposed to look ragged on the edges; had I been wearing a new pair of $500 Bruno Maglis, I might be a little more upset. But then, if I could afford $500 Bruno Maglis, I wouldn’t be driving a Buick. – Christian J. Wardlaw Photos courtesy of Erik Hanson