He said/She said: Buick LaCrosse

He — Each time a new vehicle arrives, I play a game with She when we first drive it.? ?What?s the price?? I ask.? Invariably, she is right on, or within a few thousand of the sticker price.

I finally got her on the 2010 Buick LaCrosse CXL, though.? After looking at the stylish lines and opulent interior with plush leather seating, heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, French seam stitching on the dash and door panels, she answered confidently, ?$45,000.?

The ?sticker? read, $31,820, and $35,770 after options and destination charge.?? I couldn?t believe it myself.

She ? Even though our personal car is a Buick (a 20 year old Reatta two-seater with only 25,000 miles on it), I have to confess, I have not thought much about Buicks the last few years.? Between their declining popularity and the small number of them in the press fleet, it?s been the old ?out of sight, out of mind? scenario.

He went to the LaCrosse introduction last July and came back excited about the new Buick, but it had been more than two years since I had driven a Buick, including our own.? When the new LaCrosse arrived, I was impressed; it is certainly looked like a new and better kind of Buick.

He — Five years ago, Vehicle Line Executive – Global Midsize Cars, Jim Federico, was asked to build a new world-class vehicle platform that could be used on mid-size GM cars around the world.? Working with design and engineering teams from Europe, Asia and North America, Frederico led the development of a platform that serves as a basis for new GM midsize vehicles around the world.? The platform architecture can be used on a broad spectrum of applications and it has the capacity to be quickly modified to meet changing market demands.

The first application of this new platform is LaCrosse luxury sedan and it?s certainly an elegant comeback for Buick.

She ? From the waterfall grille and hood-mounted portholes to the taunt carved lines, the LaCrosse is unique among midsize sedans. ?Inspiration comes from classic Buicks and even and ancient Chinese art form of ribbon dancing.

The interior is a fresh interpretation of the cockpit design with controls surrounding the driver?s space.? As the center console sweeps down the center stack, all important climate and audio controls are easily at hand.? At night, the interior is accented with ice-blue ambient lighting that adds elegance and better visibility.

LaCrosse comes in three trim levels ? CX, CXL and CXS ? with three engines and for the first time for a Buick sedan, optional all-wheel drive.? Prices range from $27,835 for the CX, including the destination charge, to $33,765 for the CXS.? Loaded with all the available options (touring package, rear-seat entertainment system, HID headlights, head-up instrument display, moonroof, and premium audio with hard drive and navigation) the CXS tops out at about $38,000.

He ? A 3.0-liter, 255-hp, direct-injection V-6 is standard in the CXL and optional in the CX and ranks a 17 mpg city, 27 mpg highway EPA rating. ?As the volume model, the CXL is the only version available with the optional ($2,175) AWD system. ?The sophisticated AWD combines with the electronically limited slip rear differential to distribute power to the wheels with the most grip.? It can send up to 85 percent of engine torque to any wheel, front to back and side to side — most systems only do back to front. ?The fuel economy on the AWD version is lower at 16/26 mpg, and we actually averaged 22.4 mpg in this car.

The CXS has a standard 3.6-liter, 280-hp V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission producing the same EPA numbers as the 3.0-liter version. A four-cylinder, 182-hp Ecotec engine is standard in the CX with a six-speed automatic transmission.? The pair rates an EPA estimated 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

Zero to 60 mph acceleration is strong with the 3.6-liter engine making the run in 6.7 seconds, while the 3.0-liter takes 8.3 seconds.

The CXS also has an available real-time adaptive suspension that reads the road up to 500 times per second and continuously adjusts to the terrain and driving style.

She ? The mid-size Buick gets high marks for equipment with the wonderful heated and ventilated seating, heated steering wheel and many of the other features.? Our test car did not have the optional hard disc based navigation system ($1,995), but it did have a one-year subscription to the OnStar turn-by-turn navigation system, which actually works better for those who are challenged by moving maps.? To use the OnStar system, push the button and tell the live person where you want to go and they download the information right into your car.? The GPS than tracks where you are in relation to where you should be going and ?give you appropriate commands verbally and in text on the small screen on the center of the instrument panel.

He ? The LaCrosse is amazingly quiet, even on the porous surface roads we have near our southern Washington home.? Unless it?s under hard acceleration, you don?t even hear the engine.? That takes some of sportiness out of the LaCrosse, but it certainly makes for a comfortable ride and good place to listen to the Harman/Kardon audio system and XM radio.

One thing I didn?t like was the position of the shifter when the car is in drive.? The hand does not drop naturally to it, so manually shifting is done from a somewhat awkward position.? Other than that, they?ve done a great job on the new LaCrosse.

She ? Buick engineers and designers have done an outstanding job on the LaCrosse.? It?s great looking, comfortable and elegant with a nice touch of performance and handling to make it exciting to drive. We?ll enjoy watching the brand grow and get even better.

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