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car review

The 2015 Buick LaCrosse.

Few luxury vehicles garner the attention they deserve, and the 2014 Buick LaCrosse is one of them. The auto maker's luxury mid-size sedan offering, the LaCrosse discreetly exudes confidence with advanced performance and sculpted design, and the higher level of refinement and comfort with which the Buick nameplate has been synonymous.

Available in four trims, the LaCrosse starts at $35,795 (MSRP), powered by a 2.4L Ecotec Direct Injection inline-four engine with eAssist rated at 182 hp. For an extra $3,000, the same LaCrosse offers additional luxury packages with heated front bucket seats, leather, and a longer list of comfort and convenience features.

For more power and presence, the Buick LaCrosse Premium at $42,525 (as tested) gets bigger 19-inch chrome aluminum wheels replacing the 17-inch offering, with power from a capable 304-hp, 3.6L DOHC V6 paired to an electronic six-speed automatic transmission with overdrive.

The LaCrosse handled well and comfortably, with next to no cabin noise, due in part to a Buick exclusive called QuietTuning: an engineering process to reduce, block and absorb interior noise courtesy of laminated window glass, triple door seals, and liquid applied sound deadening. Accelerating out of corners was smooth with ample power by way of the 264-lb.ft of torque from the 3.6L V6. For better grip, especially for slippery conditions, the V6 offers an available AWD featuring an electronic limited slip differential.

The top-end LaCrosse starts at $43,095, with the even larger 20-inch machine-faced silver painted aluminum wheels.

Buick is attracting a younger market with the likes of the smaller, livelier (and affordable at $22,836) compact sedan Verano; the sportier 2.0L turbocharged mid-size sedan Regal built here in Canada; or Buick's best-selling, stylish Enclave SUV. But the iconic luxury brand still has love for the the old-school, brawny-sedan aficionados who won't settle for anything less than a V6. That's where the LaCrosse comes in.

Fortunately, the entire Buick vehicle lineup – from the Verano to the Enclave – maintains assertive exterior styling, both refined yet sporty, and the 2014 Buick LaCrosse is no exception. The fake chrome hood inlets could probably go (personal choice, I suppose), but from the waterfall grille to the LED-accented headlights and wraparound redesigned LED tailights, the LaCrosse styling is pure Buick and instantly recognizable.

Both the wing-shape LED daytime running front lamps and LED wraparound taillights are new for 2014, as well as new front fascia and a sculpted hood into the waterfall grille. Also new for 2014, and included in the Driver Confidence Package, are the Xenon HID headlights that articulate in the direction of the car.

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With sculpted curves and clean lines front-to-back, the 2014 LaCrosse manages to maintain elegance without compromising the youthful, sporty styling cues – from the dual-exhaust pipes integrated into the rear valance to the long flowing lines, LED lights, and larger wheels.

Few of the standard exterior features on the LaCrosse V6 trim include active aero shutters (front lower grille), light-tinted and solar absorbing glass, door handles in body colour and chrome strips, heated side mirrors with signal indicators and ground illumination. Plus QuietTuning, a Buick exclusive.

Inside, the entire cabin is spacious and incredibly elegant, as you'd expect from the U.S. luxury auto maker. Warm wood-grain tones throughout coupled with smoked-chrome accents, the LaCrosse feels less entry-level luxury and more inline with the likes of the Lexus ES 350 or Lincoln MKZ.

My LaCrosse tester had the $2,050 Ultra Luxury Package, stepping it up entirely with sangria opus perforated leather seating, driver/passenger ventilated seats, a wood instrument panel, more wood door inserts and wood console trim, leather-wrapped centre console, plus suede pillars and suede headliner/vanity mirrors with stitching. And above all, an oversized power sunroof for an extra $1,660.

New for 2014, the LaCrosse finds a redesigned centre stack with a clean layout design utilizing a nice mix of hard switches and on-screen buttons. Reducing the dial clutter and retaining the clean esthetic even further, the HVAC duties are now managed on-screen.

Front-and-centre, the driver now enjoys a sleek 203-mm reconfigurable information display and gauge cluster.

Over all, after spending some time inside the LaCrosse, it's clear Buick is striving to make luxury affordable without veering off course – the 2014 Buick LaCrosse certainly exudes class and confidence.

Standard entertainment and audio equipment includes the Buick IntelliLink AM/FM radio stereo with CD player, including Bluetooth streaming, enhanced USB music playback iPod control, and SD memory card slot with full song indexing, to name a few, all working alongside a Bose 11-speaker premium system. This LaCrosse found the upgraded IntelliLink with navigation for $995, plus a rear seat entertainment package for $1,660, adding a Blu-ray-capable DVD player, rear seat dual-display in seatbacks, and dual-wireless headphones.

While GM's product line has shrunk post-recession, the vehicle offerings are now more targeted, and arguably more logical. The performance-minded who are looking to compete with the BMWs and Mercedes-Benz can turn to Cadillac, while Chevrolet still caters to the volume-market of well-built family vehicles from sub-compact to full-size utility.

But for those entering the luxury market with the likes of Volvo, Lexus and Acura, Buick is certainly keeping up though perhaps overlooked, despite its analogous and inspiring relationship with German brand Opel. Nevertheless, the 2014 Buick LaCrosse is world-class luxury, exemplifying everything the iconic Buick brand has stood for.

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