The Buick LaCrosse exterior was designed in North America, the chassis was developed in Germany, and the interior was designed in China. It's no surprise, then, that the LaCrosse has a definite international look to it. It's distinctly original, and yet, the car remains recognizable as a Buick.
There is a notably high belt line, and the wheels are snugly enclosed at the outer ends of the body. Viewed from the side, the profile is not unlike that of a sport-compact coupe, but the LaCrosse is a roomy car, and bigger than it looks.
Cars with the eAssist powertrain have enhanced aerodynamic touches to improve fuel economy, including automatic shutters in the grille that close at road speeds over 30 mph, a front spoiler, and flat panels underneath the car to minimize chassis drag. Standard Michelin P235/50R-17 low-rolling-resistance tires further increase efficiency.
Design is thoughtful and materials are of good quality inside the 2012 Buick LaCrosse. Styled air vents on either side of the navigation screen, which mimic the design of early Buicks, have a vintage feel and an ample range of adjustment. Although there are several buttons on the center stack, they are logically placed, with clearly separate areas for climate control, audio and navigation functions.
Front seats are comfortable and have a wide range of adjustment, though, like most modern cars, more petite drivers might find themselves swallowed up in the broad, long cushions.
Leather upholstery is of good quality, though not buttery soft. Attractive wood and contrast stitching accents doors, dash and the shifter assembly. Cloth comes standard, but we haven't seen it. Cubby storage is sufficient with a center console, though the sliding, ribbed cover for it looks like it could collect dust and crumbs.
The instrument cluster looks premium, although it's tough to see the exact speed using the analog speedometer; it's best to use the electronic version on the driver information display. The optional head-up display projects the speed on the windshield, which is handy. The head-up display, or HUD, also shows compass heading and displays songs, which is handy. It also displays the outside temperature, which seems a questionable use for a head-up display. LaCrosse uses a traditional key, a welcome relief from today's keyless start systems that can create unexpected problems.
The navigation system features a massive 8-inch display that's bright and easy to read and decipher. Maps are crisp and easy to read. The rearview camera provides the driver with an excellent view of what's behind the car whenever the transmission is shifted into Reverse. It's a valuable safety feature because it can help the driver spot a child when moving in reverse. Guidelines give the driver a good idea of the path the car will take when backing and turning. The audio system is easy to operate. Buttons can be programmed to allow the driver to select among favorite AM, FM, and satellite radio stations by pressing just one button.
Heated seats warm up quickly, and the dual-zone climate control reaches the ideal temperature with haste. Like other Buick models, the LaCrosse brings fresh air into the cabin at the last selected temperature, even when the climate control is turned off, so driver and passenger must occasionally turn the system back on to make adjustments.
Front side visibility is somewhat marred by a combination of large A pillars and large, angular sideview mirrors, but models equipped with the optional blind spot warning system will help to alleviate fears. This system uses a silent light that displays on the sideview mirror, without the annoying beeps and chimes that other manufacturers employ. A steep rake in the rear window makes rear visibility adequate but not generous. The side mirrors are big and provide a good view rearward.
Rear seats offer ample legroom, but headroom is limited, making the back seat an option only for those shorter than six feet tall.
Storage space is slightly less than average for a car of this class. The 2012 Buick LaCrosse offers 13.3 cubic feet of trunk space in upper trim levels. Models with eAssist offer a mere 11 cubic feet to make room for the lithium-ion battery pack. By comparison, the Lexus ES offers 14.8 cubic feet and the Lincoln MKZ boasts 16.5 cubic feet.