General Motors has come a long way in recent years trying to reverse decades of brand-tarnishing badge engineering, and the Buick lineup is a great example of its progress. The Buick Enclave, second-generation Buick LaCrosse and new Buick Regal are all great examples of what GM is capable of, but my recent road test of the Buick LaCrosse CX leaves me wondering if there aren't a few kinks left to be worked out in the GM product development system. While the LaCrosse CX features the same great styling, refinement and build quality that we've come to love here at Autotropolis - having been named the Autotropolis Car of the Year for 2010 - it is clear that this base model is intended either for the stereotypical Buick owner or a buyer seeking an entry-level near-luxury sedan.
One thing the base LaCrosse CX does have going for it is its price. While the top LaCrosse CXS has a price and equipment list able to compete against some big name luxury sedans like the Lexus ES, Acura TL and Lincoln MKZ, the CX has a much lower starting price of $26,245 allowing it to take on some of the more affordable luxury sedans on the market like the Hyundai Azera and Toyota Avalon. Toss in the destination charge and some optional wheels, and this 2010 Buick LaCrosse CX had an as-tested price of - about $10,500 less than the fully loaded LaCrosse CXS I tested last month. It is hard to fault GM or Buick for any of its recent product launches, but the LaCrosse CX comes up a little short while attempting to blur the line between luxury and affordability.
Read more about Buick LaCrosse prices.
2010 Buick LaCrosse CX Exterior
Even in its base trim, the Buick LaCrosse is still an attractive, elegant sedan, but there are minor changes that give it a more subdued look compared to the two higher trim levels. The biggest loss for the LaCrosse design is the lack of the chrome-trimmed, dual exhaust outlets integrated into the rear fascia, but other changes include a subtle decklid spoiler (standard on all CX models) and no fog lights which removes some of the chrome from the front fascia. The rest of the bold design elements are still there such as the large waterfall grille, chrome-trimmed portholes mounted atop the hood and the LED taillights. Although the LaCrosse comes standard with steel wheels and plastic wheel covers, this test model came with the optional ($350) 17-inch, nine-spoke aluminum wheels wrapped in Michelin all-season tires.
See more Buick LaCrosse photos on our photos page.
2010 Buick LaCrosse CX Interior
Even without the niceties available in the CXS such as the navigation system, heads-up display and wood-trimmed steering wheel, the base LaCrosse CX comes standard with plenty of luxury. If it wasn't for the cloth seats (which are standard on the CX and CXL), the LaCrosse would be hard to distinguish from the CXS due to the stitched leather accents, ambient lighting and the stylish wood and metallic trim throughout the cabin. Buick does deserve some praise for what has to be the softest cloth seats available on the market. All LaCrosse models offer a large cabin which is spacious enough to accommodate five adults plus their luggage in the trunk that can hold up to 13.3 cubic feet of cargo volume.
Despite its less opulent interior, there is still plenty of soft leather to be found in the LaCrosse CX including the steering wheel, shift handle and instrument gauge hood. In place of the touch-screen navigation system that is available higher trim levels, the LaCrosse gets a small display screen that sits deep in the instrument panel to control the audio system. The standard audio system is able to play AM/FM/XM and CD/MP3 from the single-slot, in-dash CD-player; the system produces a decent sound from its seven-speaker design. With the radio off, the engineering that went into building the LaCrosse is obvious at the cabin is quiet even at high speeds.
See more interior photos of the Buick LaCrosse
2010 Buick LaCrosse CX Performance & Handling
Built alongside the Chevrolet Malibu in GM's Fairfax Assembly plant in Kansas City, Kansas, it was no surprise that the two cars would share many basic components including the engine in this base model, the 2.4-liter Ecotec inline-four. Standard on the CX and CXL, this direct-injected engine only musters up 182 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque, but the EPA fuel economy estimates of 19 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway offer impressive gains of 2 mpg city and 3 mpg highway over the LaCrosse CXS I reviewed last month with the 3.6-liter V-6. The 2.4-liter engine is standard on both the base CX and the front-wheel drive CXL, and all Buick LaCrosse models are equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Down almost 100 horsepower to the CXS, the 2.4-liter Ecotec feels underpowered in the LaCrosse CX. Most people buying this car are more likely to focus on fuel economy rather than performance, but it is important to note that the Malibu with the same powertrain gets much better fuel economy (22 mpg city/33 mpg highway). One clear advantage the LaCrosse CX has over its equally priced competitors is the fact that it offers the same smooth ride designed to compete with Lexus and other luxury marques, and it also has the added benefit of electric power steering which is only available on the four-cylinder LaCrosse models.
More specifications can be found on our Buick LaCrosse specs page.
2010 Buick LaCrosse CX Safety
Safety is also a strong suit for the new LaCrosse with almost perfect five-star crash ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) except for the four-star rollover rating. Likewise, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also gave the LaCrosse 'Good' ratings across the board and named it as 2010 Top Safety Pick. Standard safety features for all 2010 Buick LaCrosse models include six airbags, daytime running lights, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, StabiliTrak electronic stability control with traction control, tire pressure monitoring system and, of course, GM's OnStar system with automatic crash response and stolen vehicle assistance.
In most trim levels, the 2010 Buick LaCrosse is a potent luxury sedan that proves Buick can compete with some of the best cars on the market, but the CX trim level lacks some of the more notable attributes that make the LaCrosse a true Lexus-killer. While the base LaCrosse has a great starting price, spacious interior and a fuel-efficient engine, it is interesting that Buick would offer such a non-luxury version of its highly acclaimed LaCrosse. Customers could easily save money by shopping other GM products like the equally sized and lower-priced Chevrolet Malibu or stick to the Buick showroom and check out the sportier 2011 Buick Regal.
- Inexpensive base model
- Same great styling
- Spacious interior
- Back to Old GM?
- Sluggish acceleration with base engine
- Cloth seats take away from upscale cabin ambiance
Buick provided the vehicle this road test review.
Select photos by Jeffrey N. Ross