Page 1: Introduction
CHICAGO, IL - Buick wants to move upscale, shedding its fuddy-duddy image to appeal to buyers who want a powerful, quiet, elegant, expertly crafted, and luxurious car priced under $30,000. In fact, Buick spokespeople have openly discussed their intention to take on Lexus head-to-head in the future. Serving as the first volley on this front is the 2005 Buick LaCrosse, an upscale midsize sedan that replaces the Century and Regal. Whether or not they've put the ball over the net remains to be seen.
Upon first inspection, the 2005 Buick LaCrosse is clearly a better vehicle than the Century or the Regal. However, we wonder how serious Buick can be about achieving its ultimate goal of competing with Lexus when the standard LaCrosse is equipped with an old-tech engine configuration, a four- rather than five-speed automatic transmission, express-down functionality for only the driver's window and 16-inch steel wheels with composite wheelcovers. And get this: antilock brakes are standard only on the top trim level. On paper that sounds like a rental car special and nobody shopping a Lexus, let alone a Volkswagen Passat, wants a rental car special sitting in the driveway.
Perhaps Buick's statements about competing with Lexus were premature. The company lists the Ford Five Hundred, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry as key LaCrosse competitors. To that list we might add the Chrysler 300, Mazda 6, Mercury Montego, Mitsubishi Galant and the aforementioned VW Passat. Lexus is still a distant target, but the LaCrosse is certainly an appealing alternative to some of these mainstream sedans.