- The 2018 BuickLaCrosse is available in a new “Avenir” trim level.
- I tested a well-equipped $US47,485 version of the sedan.
- On a medium-length road trip, the Buick surpassed my expectations and made me question why I think we need a big SUV to haul around a family of five.
The passenger-car business is collapsing in the US. The big, soft-cruising sedan was once the mainstay, the great American family car.
But now the great American car is actually an SUV. Sales of utes have boomed for years, and the automakers aren’t complaining because they make hefty profits on these vehicles. Consumers like them better, and that has raised a conundrum: Are sedans worth keeping around?
If you’re planning any family road trips in the future, you might want to give sedans a second look – and your first-second look should be a Buick. Specifically, the new premium Avenir trim level.
Recently, I drove my family of five and my dog on a 500-mile round-trip journey. Normally, I use trips such as these to sample big old SUVs, with three rows of seating. But a planning screwup on my part led to a 2018 Buick LaCrosse Avenir landing in my driveway instead of a Cadillac Escalade.
So we undertook a throwback family jaunt. And it worked out far better than expected.
Say hello to the Buick LaCrosse Avenir, an upmarket trim level of the full-size sedan. Debuted in 2005, the LaCrosse was updated in 2010 and then again in 2017.
It’s not a small car, but Buicks always take some of the bulk off with smooth curves and sinuous shapes.
Our test car was a front-wheel-drive version that came in at $US44,870 with many options and the Avenir treatment. A Driver Confidence package, featuring adaptive cruise control, auto braking, pedestrian warnings, and parking assist added $US1,700 to the sticker, bringing the as-tested price up to about $US47,500.
The paint job was “Dark Slate Metallic.”
You could obviously call the styling a bit dull. Or you could say that the LaCrosse isn’t showing off.
The roofline slopes rakishly to the trunk decklid, ending in a spoiler lip.
Overall, the sedan is pleasantly sleek, wearing its size like a well-tailored suit.
Thankfully, Buick ditched the abstract chrome tri-shield badge and brought back the tri-coloured design.
The tail lights and headlamps are marvelously balanced, which is something you can’t say of every luxury car.
The ventiports are a Buick trademark, but they’re fake — they don’t ventilate the engine.
We’ve endured a challenging winter on the East Coast, so I took the opportunity to open the sunroof and let the actual sunlight in.
Oh where have you been, blue sky and glowing orb in the heavens?
The interior was a comfy two-tone: black and chestnut leather.
Some pretty premium woodgrain. Some of the best I’ve seen, actually, in a car that doesn’t have a German, Swedish, or English heritage.
Some Avenir branding, which isn’t terribly obtrusive.
For the driver, the view is straightforward. The steering wheel is heated and leather-wrapped, and the instrument cluster is an analogue-digital blend, with small informational screens that can display data. A head-up display is also available.
The joystick-style shifter is irritating. Easy to use once you get the hang of it, but there were a few times when I thought I was in reverse only to find myself in drive.
The power from the 310-horsepower, 3.6-litre V6 is piped through a pleasant nine-speed automatic that can be dropped into manual mode and shifted old-school via the paddles behind the steering wheel.
This is a darn good motor, continuing a long tradition of great V6’s at GM and Buick. Fuel economy is reasonable: 21 mpg city/30 highway/24 combined.
The capacious back seat swallowed a 15-year-old, a 12-year-old, and a 7-year-old.
The front seats, by the way, are both heated and cooled.
The truck provides a considerable 15 cubic feet of cargo space. That was more than enough for the family’s luggage, including dog treats and my worst and smallest acoustic guitar.
The Buick’s IntelliLink infotainment system is excellent. It supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and through OnStar provides a 4GLTE wifi connection.
Bluetooth device pairing was a snap, and the Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound audio system proved itself yet again – Bose was our Car Audio System of the Year award winner at Business Insider in 2017.
You have all the usual USB/AUX connections, and a nice extra in the rear seat area: a proper plug to charge gadgets.
The GPS navigation system seamlessly guided us from New Jersey to Maryland and back.
So what’s the verdict?
I’m a LaCrosse fan and have been for a while. Pre-Avenir, I sampled a similarly well-equipped sedan and came away with positive impressions.
“You might say that the total LaCrosse package sounds pretty boring, but it’s the opposite: it’s exciting to experience a car that is reassuringly unlikely to let you down, all while delivering a level of comfort, technology, and refinement that’s about as close to a proper luxury vehicle as you can get for under $US50,000,” I wrote in a 2016 review.
“The bottom line is that I liked the LaCrosse so much that I didn’t want to give it back.”
Of course, I wouldn’t normally even think about packing my entire family and pet into even the largest four-doors. But obviously, I should do some rethinking. The LaCrosse Avenir was just what we needed for a not-overly ambitious road trip.
Because each kid didn’t have his or her own seating region, as they would have in a three-row configuration, conversation broke out! My eight-year-old even played a licence-plate game! It was like 1979 all over again!
OK, not exactly. The 4GLTE wifi meant that everybody could get lost in their devices. But such is modern life.
The LaCrosse is really a joy to drive on a freeway-heavy journey. Smooth, quiet, powerful, with supportive seats and a distinct lack of interest in emulating a BMW or Audi, this big Buick cruises like no other. Around town, the power-steering has that old-time feel, so you can whip the wheel around with one hand and glide in and out of driveways and parking lots.
Admittedly, the values embodied by the LaCrosse Avenir are those of a fading generation, but the cycle could be turning. Literally everybody has tightened up their sedans to match the Germans, but for the most part, performance driving isn’t in the picture for most families. Highway piloting is.
This remains a wonderful niche for Buick, and one that as it adds more premium content and technology to its vehicles can help the brand stay relevant. Sure, Buick’s crossover SUVs are where the action is. But it’s great to know that they still build the great American car.
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