FARMINGTON HILLS, MI – General Motors unveils at the Los Angeles auto show later today the redesigned ’17 Buick LaCrosse, an update to the premium brand’s flagship sedan featuring an all-new powertrain, fresh exterior sheet metal and a redone interior focused on quietness and craftsmanship.
“This is the next phase of where Buick is going,” says Duncan Aldred, vice president-sales and marketing at Buick.
The current LaCrosse has been a tepid seller for GM, accounting for 323,729 U.S. sales in its run so far, according to WardsAuto data. A recent consumer shift away from sedans to CUVs and SUVs has been a headwind this year, with sales off 14.1% to 35,526 units. It is the seventh-best seller in its segment behind the No.1 BMW 3-Series with 80,832 deliveries through October.
The heart of the new LaCrosse, now in its third generation and available next summer in the U.S. from GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, is an all-new powertrain: a 3.6L gasoline direct injection V-6 and 8-speed automatic transmission with shift-by-wire.
The DOHC 305-hp V-6 boasts an aluminum block and cylinder head and fuel-saving cylinder deactivation and stop/start technologies. GM claims the stop-start function on the LaCrosse will set a new industry benchmark for smoothness.
LaCrosse Chief Engineer Jeff Yanssens says integration of a stop/start function into the V-6 at the outset of the engine program delivered dividends.
“When you design that in from the very beginning, it makes a lot of difference,” he tells journalists during a sneak preview of the car here on Nov. 10.
GM estimates fuel-saving technologies on the LaCrosse will result in a 6.6% improvement in efficiency or roughly 1 mpg (0.4 L/100 km) in the city cycle from the current model’s 18 mpg (13.1 L/100 km) with front-wheel-drive.
The powertrain enhancements are complemented by a shift to GM’s P2XX architecture. It is a lighter, stiffer platform with a greater emphasis on ride rather than handling and is built to accommodate a newly developed twin-clutch all-wheel-drive system from the automaker.
The AWD system splits torque between the front and rear wheels, but also between the rear wheels individually. The independent clutch actuation determines how much torque goes to each rear wheel.
“We catch the vehicle more quickly to put it back on the road,” Yanssens says.
Up front, the LaCrosse retains its MacPherson-style suspension with isolated struts to reduce torque steer and maintain negative camber during cornering. The proven technology also provides direct steering feel and better overall road grip. In the rear, the LaCrosse switches to a 5-link independent rear suspension from a 4-link setup in the current model.
“Five-link is the most premium you can put on a car,” Yanssens says.
Continuous damping control further enhances ride comfort, while a rack-mounted electronic power steering system automatically adjust the steering angle to compensate for conditions such as crowned roads or high crosswinds.
Arguably the most notable change to the exterior of the redesigned LaCrosse is a new grille inspired by the Avenir concept car unveiled at last year’s Detroit auto show.
The design dates back to the 1954 Buick Wildcat II concept and is distinguished by a new, 3-color tri-shield insignia set on a wing-shaped element spanning the width of the opening and connecting the grille with the headlamps. The grille’s traditional waterfall bars are darkened this time around and the grille is set deeper into the fascia.
“This is something we feel is bold, recognizable and projects a new face for Buick design,” Aldred says.
New exterior proportions heighten the car’s road presence, GM says. The front wheels are pulled forward to extend the wheelbase 2.7 ins. (65 mm) but the car’s overall length gains just 0.6 ins. (15 mm). Width grows a scant 0.4 ins. (10 mm) to provide a bold stance. The roofline shrinks 1.6 ins. (40 mm).
“It’s a sleeker design that looks confident and purposeful,” says Holt Ware, director-exterior design at Buick. “Stretching the wheelbase, lowering the roofline and making it slightly wider creates a dramatic effect.”
Active grille shutters help improve aerodynamics, a capless fuel filler is standard equipment and the LaCrosse come with 18-in. wheels or an optional 20-in. variety.
The interior of the LaCrosse receives a new single-cockpit design aesthetic, a first for Buick. A horizontal form sweeps across the instrument panel and into the doors. It also features a “floating” center console with the by-wire controller for the 8-speed transmission set close to the driver.
“There is fluidity in the interior forms, a seamless ambience that flows throughout the cabin,” says Liz Wetzel, director-interior design at Buick. “Like the exterior, there is sculptural beauty in the interior’s functionality, complemented with high-quality, authentic materials and exceptional attention to detail.”
Wetzel points out soft-touch materials at every touch point of the interior; authentic French stitching on the seats, instrument panel and other places; genuine aluminum sill plates; and wood trim, depending on the model.
“There is a handcrafted essence that is inviting and rewarding,” says Wetzel. “It is a clean environment that is designed to refresh and inspire.”
Pricing and fuel economy estimates will be released closer to the vehicle’s launch.