2011 Buick LaCrosse
2011 Chevrolet Impala
The Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Impala represent two polar opposites of the GM big sedan spectrum, but they're both in line for some heart surgery for the 2012 model year that should have the same effect on each: A nice bump in power, efficiency and customer appeal. The story here is that GM is updating its 3.6-liter V-6 engine with a new integrated exhaust-manifold cylinder head that shaves 13 lbs. off the powerplant's weight.
That's a relatively impressive weight savings, the likes of which we don't see too often from the General. Whether it's the Chevrolet Cruze or the Cadillac CTS Coupe, even GM's products have a tendency to be on the porky side, so even though they can showcase some nice EPA numbers, it's clear they could do even better if their curb weights were a little closer to that of the competition. Thus, the lighter V-6 is another good sign for GM in general (so to speak) and particularly good news for the LaCrosse and Impala in particular.
Is the LaCrosse Getting Lost?
The sleek and stylish LaCrosse is a long-time Krome on Cars favorite, and it's been a fan fave as well ever since its 2010 redesign. But that being said, its sales have come down to earth in the past few months. Sales for the car were still up 119.9 percent in 2010, but most of that increase was built up during the beginning of the year; sales were only up 12.2 percent in December and this year, since the LaCrosse's numbers are being compared to its red-hot performance early in 2010, the sedan is in a negative situation through April, with sales off by 5.1 percent.
Of course, some of what's happening here is related to the success of the new Buick Regal. The freshest Buick is priced about $800 less than the LaCrosse, so there's a fair amount of overlap, and the Regal is certainly attracting a significant chunk of customers who would otherwise be looking at the LaCrosse. But the latter's powertrain choices are also playing a part. The starter engine on the LaCrosse is an I4 with 182 hp/172 lb.-ft. of torque, and that's adequate for someone whose focus is on fuel efficiency. On the other hand, the LaCrosse's current V-6 makes 280 hp/259 lb.-ft. of torque'”less power than the V-6's found in potential rivals like the Infiniti G37, Hyundai Genesis 3.6 and both configurations of the Acura TL. And with those competitors all having noticeable weight advantages over the LaCrosse, the Buick's disadvantage is exacerbated further.
The early word on power figures for the new V-6 reflects the good news, bad news paradigm: For the former, the number of horses under the hood will now be up over 300 hp; as regards the latter, torque actually looks to be down a few lb.-ft. Yet this is a very effective engine that should deliver some amount of improved performance and, just as importantly, some amount of improved performance feel. Oh, and don't be surprised if the LaCrosse ekes out another highway mpg or two and that's important.
The current LaCrosse V-6 is rated at 17 mpg city/27 mpg highway, with the result being that not only does the LaCrosse trail its competition in terms of power, but it doesn't make up for that lack with superior fuel efficiency: The G37 can go 19/27, the Genesis reaches 18/27 and the Acura is at 18/26. GM hasn't provided any info on expected EPA numbers with the new V-6, but marks closer to those of the Chevrolet Camaro V-6'”19/30'”shouldn't be unexpected. And when you also consider the 2012 LaCrosse lineup will open with an eAssist version as its base model, and that that car is expected to see an EPA line of 25/37, you can see how the LaCrosse range will offer a compelling combination of sophisticated power and surprising fuel economy.
The Big Chevy Shapes Up
A few words also are in order for the Impala. Chevy's full-size sedan is far and away the best seller in its segment, with sales last month that more than doubled those of its next closest competitor: The Chevy found 21,071 new customers in April, while the Dodge Charger only reached 8,485. Now, most folks ignore the impact of the Impala on the marketplace because so many of its sales go to fleet customers, but that does a disservice to the car. According to those in the know, fleet sales of the Bowtie's sedan have been running north of 70 percent, but guess what? Assuming 70 percent of the Impala's sales last month were, in fact, to fleet buyers, that still means about 6,321 retail customers took one home. Which would still beat out the total April sales of both the Ford Taurus (6,262) and Chrysler 300 (3,263).
Add in the new engine that will deliver over 90 more horses, about 40 more lb.-ft. of torque, and EPA ratings that should reach at least 20 mpg/30 mpg highway, if not higher, and you've got what should be a very attractive package for a certain not insignificant customer base. And yet another way for GM to earn more sales, too.