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Published on Sat, Apr 16, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

2011 Buick LaCrosse CXS
2011 Buick LaCrosse CXL

The USA may have a trade deficit, but Buick is certainly doing its part for deficit reduction. The GM division brand is one of this country’s most successful exports to China, and the LaCrosse is a major contributing factor toward this end. Editor John-Fredrik Wright wants to know what all the fuss is about and takes the keys to a 2011 Buick LaCrosse CXL and heads towards... Well, driving to China is a geographic impossibility, so he does the next best thing—and takes the coast up to San Francisco Chinatown and beyond. THE TRIP Friday Leave Newport Beach, CA early morning. Early enough to beat traffic out, so that would mean leaving the house at 06:00am. Head up the I405 north to Santa Monica. Out to the Hwy 1 (AKA Pacific Coast Highway), northbound. Drive through Malibu and then up to Santa Barbara via Oxnard and US 101. Park and walk around in Santa Barbara, lunch. Head north on the 101 towards San Francisco. Dinner and sleepover in Walnut Creek, just east of The City.

2011 Buick LaCrosse 4 Cylinder

Saturday Leave early to spend some quality time walking around in San Francisco Chinatown and the surrounding areas. Cross the Bay Bridge, park and explore The City. After lunch, drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and follow the 101 north to Cloverdale, in Sonoma County in the wine-country. Stay overnight. Sunday South on the 101 and over the Golden Gate Bride again. Lunch in San Francisco. Head over the Bay Bridge (again) and east on I-580. Connect to the I5 and head south towards Los Angeles. I-405 south. State Road 55 south. Home Sweet Home THE PLAN Complete this hectic, yet fun trip in comfort and style without a sore buttocks. The Car: 2011 Buick LaCrosse CXL with the new four-cylinder engine

2011 Buick LaCrosse 4 Cylinder

THE VERDICT Early mornings are usually a great time for a drive. In Los Angeles though, as soon as the traffic hits, fun becomes no-fun in a real hurry. Being two in the car, and thus using the Carpool Lane helped a bunch, and we made it out to PCH in Santa Monica relatively quickly that Friday morning. The first couple of minutes in the car are not cold, as you might expect early in the morning. No sir. We started the car remotely a couple of minutes before we headed out, so we settled in nicely into the heated seats and the comfortable temperature of a car that is already up and running. The I-405 is usually not the funnest freeway, and it’s no different today. Pacific Coast Highway, on the other hand, gets green pretty quickly (at this time of year) as soon as you leave Santa Monica and start to head up to and through Malibu. Driving on the I-405, I quickly realize the value of having my blind spots monitored by the built in safety system. If there is a car in, or somewhere close to, my blind spot, a yellow light appears in the outside rear-view mirrors alerting me of this. Convenient, seeing as traffic moves so quickly in and out of lanes on these freeways.

2011 Buick LaCrosse 4 Cylinder

The curves of Hwy 1, as well as much of the US-101 make one yearn for sporty cars hugging the corners at speeds beyond the scope of the LaCrosse. One must keep in mind what a four-cylinder LaCrosse is for. It handles okay, don’t get me wrong on that point, but I’m cruising, not speeding. The automatic shifts appropriately for the hills encountered on the way, albeit a little gruffly, and there are times when I wish for more power under the hood. But, knowing that gas-prices are over four dollars per gallon (yes, I am very aware that any readers in Europe are paying in excess of $7-8.00 per gallon, but in this country we aren’t used to that), I’m definitely not going to complain because a couple of hills slow me down a little. The luxurious interior of the LaCrosse keeps us very comfortable for the entire drive. The seats are effective at staving off butt-cramps, even when sitting for hours in one go, and the sound system keeps us good company when we got bored of talking (most of the time). It would have been nice if I can find a pause-button when listening to the USB-connected MP3 Player, so that we don’t have to miss songs when we turned it down to discuss where to stop and eat. (You can’t have it all.)

2011 Buick LaCrosse 4 Cylinder

The Heads-Up-Display, or HUD, takes some getting used to. It displays information to the driver in the air in front of the car, or, if you are in traffic, on the bumper of the car in front of you. The first couple of minutes, I’m not using the system because I’m too used to just glancing down on the dashboard. But, as I train my eyes not to wander, I get used to keeping my eyes on the road and just reading the info that magically appears. I usually chose to just have my speed displayed, but when I had the navigation system directing me to my destination I’m pleased to see that the turn-by-turn directions appear in mid-air as well. It feels almost patriotic cruising on the Golden Gate Bridge in a Buick, as opposed to the myriad of imports swarming around me. The color of the bridge is somewhat similar to the color of the car, although the car has more of a deluxe-feeling, whilst the bridge’s color spoke of timelessness. Speaking of Buicks, it feels great to park this new, ramped up, Buick next to my grandmother’s Buick Century from 1995. Both are red, but one speaks a modern luxurious language that I will listen to, whilst the other speaks of an ugly epoch. It’s impressive to see that this company has come this far; actually appealing to someone in their mid-twenties (me, a customer segment not even discussed way back when), this LaCrosse is definitely not my grandma’s Buick. Having an inquiring mind, I wanted to see how far away from the car the key can be while the car is still drivable. The answer: I don’t know. I start the car and park, then have a friend of mine walk away with the key. I then try to move the car, no problem. I know that the car registers that the key is not in the car, because I’m not able to turn the car off until the key is returned. So, the preliminary results of my study seem to indicate that you can start the car and drive off, throwing the key out the window. You won’t have any problems until you get where you’re going and want to turn it off. The good news is that, with OnStar, they will probably be able to turn it off and on remotely, if you find yourself in this particular predicament.

2011 Buick LaCrosse CXS

Another fun toy available in the LaCrosse to make your drive more pleasurable is the rear seat entertainment system with two movie screens to keep the back seat nice and quiet. I have yet to see any carmaker reveal plans to offer a partner/kid-mute system. They are tiptoeing around the subject though, by making personal screens available. The touch-screen, where most car-information is displayed and the entertainment system is controlled, is very easy to understand and use. It did not take long for me to get a hang of all the functions, and figure out what knob did what. Kudos to Buick for engineering a system that can do a lot without making the user interface too complicated. As a final note, I would like to proclaim myself as the most energy-efficient driver in all of California (maybe the world?). Dropping down the 5 towards Six Flags and Santa Clarita, I managed an average of 99.9 mpg. Pretty good for a Buick, although I don’t want to know what that number was going up the other side… SUMMARY JUDGMENT Deficit reduction should be this easy.

2011 Buick LaCrosse 4 Cylinder

SPECIFICATIONS: Name of vehicle: 2011 Buick LaCrosse CXL FWD Price: $29,055 (base) $36,660 (and as tested) EPA fuel economy rating (miles per gallon): 19 (city)/30 (highway) Engine size and type: 2.4-liter dual overhead cam, 16-valve 4-cylinder Horsepower: 182 @ 6700 rpm Torque: 172 pound-feet @ 4900 rpm Transmission type: Hydra-Matic 6T40- 6-speed automatic Drive configuration: Front wheel drive Steering (type): Electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering Suspension (front and rear): MacPherson front 4-link rear Brakes and tires: ABS 4-wheel disc with intelligent assist 18 in machine-faced alloy wheels Dimensions Length: 197 in. Width: 73.1 in. Height: 59.2 in. Curb weight: 3948 lb.

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