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MKII LaCrosse: Buick’s Very Own CTS

Wednesday May 17, 2006

Could this be the new face of Buick? Could this be what their equivalent of the Cadillac CTS could be? Could this be the catalyst that enables the rebirth of the good old Tri-Shield, the “Spirit of American Style”?

Apparently, this is the Asian version of the LaCrosse. However, as GM follows the lead of some of their competition and goes more global, using all of their resources to form one global GM rather than five or six, could this possibly be the fabled new LaCrosse that is supposed to be the start of the next wave of Buicks that will apparently blow our minds? I think it quite possibly could be! If it isn’t, I believe that GM definitely should think about changing its plans so that it is the next LaCrosse. Come on GM, Buick needs this!

Compare this to our very own LaCrosse that we get here in North America and I’ll bet that many people would agree that this is much better. The fact is that this is a real new model while our very own LaCrosse is practically a warmed over Regal or Century rather than anything truly new. It’s based off a slightly updated W-Body platform and seems to have quite a lot of carry over parts that have made their way from that Regal to the new LaCrosse.

Think about this: Why should the “international” Buicks be much better than the ones that we get here in North America? If anything, shouldn’t this quintessential American brand be able to flaunt its greatest products here on its home turf? Why wouldn’t they? I guess you could argue that the brand is “damaged” over on this side of the world and therefore nobody would buy something like this over a Cadillac CTS that this would probably compete with to a certain degree. However, if they were to give us Buicks like this rather than a renamed next generation Regal and a cheaper, slightly decontented DTS, I’m sure that it could fix the brand or at least undo a bit of the damage. I’m sure it would not be a miracle fix after 20 something years of neglect, but it surely could not hurt.

On the surface the difference may not seem all that different, except they seem to have given it some sort of a Lucerne themed makeover. However, once you take a look inside of the car, you will quickly take notice at the great deal of refining that the LaCrosse has gone through between its initial release in North America and the release of this Asian version. First impression is that this interior looks more like something we’d expect to see in a Cadillac than something you’d see in a Buick. I mean, seriously… How could this possibly be gramps’ car?

Once again we see how GM should really stop protecting their spoiled brat favorite kid that is Cadillac and spend a little bit more time, money and energy on their red-headed stepchild, Buick. They need to realize that the two are aimed at a different piece of the same segment, to a degree, and therefore do not compete directly with each other. Thus, giving Buick their fair share of that good old GM corporate Apple Pie, rather than the scraps left on big brother Cadillac’s plate when it’s done, would really not risk hurting neither Cadillac nor GM corporate.

But doesn’t GM have limited resources you ask? Well, yes… But GM corporate culture is based on such an attitude and philosophy of sharing among brands, another aspect of their corporate culture seems to be a strong belief in a multi-tiered world where you really do get what you paid for. Keeping this in mind, would it be possible for them to, much like Chevrolet and Pontiac seem to do a lot of sharing, have Cadillac and Buick do a lot of sharing as well? Come on General, share the wealth fairly between all of your battalions.

Yes, this LaCrosse is a whole other animal when compared to the one we have here. This one would quite possibly be a class leader, while our very own LaCrosse is, admittedly, merely a middle of the pack entry and not even a serious contender for “Best in Class” when you really think about it. Why, you ask? Take a serious look at it and you’ll see that they vastly improved the old Regal, but they forgot one little minor detail that caused them to blow it. They forgot to give significant upgrades to the features list and to use “premium” components rather than go raid the Chevrolet and Pontiac parts bins.

Yes there very well may be a bit of an advert effect on the prices, but the brand’s image, which has been and is being diluted since the 1980s would need this clear assertion of prestige and superiority among its competition in order to possibly be restored. The problem with this brand, in the opinion of most individuals, is that they have failed to keep up with the times and have instead stayed behind back in their heyday. During those times, they were at the forefront of automotive styling and were among the most luxurious, especially known for their general cushiness and being loaded with all the features you could want and then some. Now, not much has changed, but that’s the problem. They still are the same cars they were over 20 years ago, with recent advancements in auto technology completely absent from their options lists throughout their lineup.

This version of the LaCrosse has nice modern styling, complimented by what seems to be all the bells & whistles that one excepts to see in a modern day premium midsized sedan. This is much more than what I can about the Century in this driveway, its royal big brother or their somewhat alluring successor. Sure, they’ve finally listened to their customers and consumers in general and have managed to step up to the plate and solve many of the problems that GM vehicles were reported as having, but many are still an embarrassment in the sense that they look like they were designed in the late 90s at best. It’s almost as if we finally got the late 90s refresh that many of their models should have received… well… in the late 90s.

If they really wish to keep the costs down by sharing components, may I suggest ditching the old “protect Cadillac” credo that seems to be all to popular within the old General’s way of doing things. They constantly seem to forget that Cadillac is not the only brand in GM and that, in fact, it’s not even the only luxury or “premium” General Motors brand. Only if they can realize this and therefore stop neglecting every other brand can they ever fully restore themselves to their past glory, assuming that’s possible. You have to admit that North-America, and even the world, is very different now than it was back in GM’s heyday. However, one cat not deny that such attention to all of their brands and products rather than a preferred select few could definitely not do any harm to their already damaged reputation and/or image.

On top of the forbidding the engineers and designers from raiding the GM communal parts bin and an attempt at updating that equipment and options list, probably for the first time in ten years, they may also want to take a look at the powertrain side of things as well. I know that messing with engine choices may be pushing it with a brand that seems deeply rooted in tradition and “classic American”, but with the gas prices on the rise they might want to think about offering some kind of efficiency oriented option at least.

I propose having a base model with a nice big I4. What’s this? An I4 in a Buick? Yes, as this particular engine produces almost as much power as the old 3100 (3.1L) V6 engine in the Century, I’m quite sure that it would make a decent base engine that they could at least drop into the lowest trim. The four cylinder engine that I am talking about is the 2.4 Ecotec VVT which is presently found in such vehicles as the Pontiac G6, Solstice and Chevrolet HHR.

The version found in the Solstice, the one I believe they should use in this case, produces 177hp@6600 RPM and 166lb-ft@4800 RPM; during it’s last years, the 3100 SFi V6 produced 175hp@5200 RPM and 195lb-ft@4000 RPM. While torque may be lacking a bit, the power of the small I4 is quite impressive when compared to that of some of GM’s previous Ecotecs. Fuel economy in the 3100 powered Century was rated at 20/30 mpg (cty/hwy) with a combined rating of 24 mpg, the 2.4 Ecotec VVT is rated, in the G6 (closest car to the LaCrosse available with this engine), at 23/36 mpg (cty/hwy) and a combined rating of 28 mpg. The small engine may not be ultra efficient on it’s own when pulling a larger car, but mating it to a 5 or 6 speed automatic, if not even a CVT, could eliminate this little quagmire should it arise.

Next, I propose the middle and top luxury trim get a couple of the “High-Feature” DOHC V6 engines. Do the unthinkable and get that 2.8L V6 from the CTS as well the already existing 3.6 VVT used in the current generation LaCrosse. The “Custom” would get a 210hp 2.8L V6 as its standard engine, which would also be an option on the base model; the 3.6 VVT would be standard on the “Limited” and would be an option on the “Custom”. The 3100 would definitely remain in the junkyard in the sky and the tried, tested & true 3800 would finally get the axe, seeing how OHC isn’t acceptable anymore.

The 2.8L VVT V6 produces a quite decent 210hp@6500 RPM and 194lb-ft@3300 RPM while the 3.6L VVT V6 would be the version currently found in the CTS as well, rather than the one found in the current LaCrosse, thus producing an impressive 255hp @ 6200 RPM and 252lb-ft @ 3100 RPM. Both of which give you a good amount of power, definitely enough to give you respectable speed and plenty of low-end grunt to get you going with much better than adequate acceleration. As far as fuel economy goes, the 3.2L is rated (in the CTS) at 18/29 mpg (cty/hwy) with a combined fuel economy rating of 21 mpg while the 3.6L is rated as getting 18/28 mpg (cty/hwy) with it’s combined rating at 21 mpg, meaning that this would be one powerful cruising machine that still would not be too hard your wallet either while rocketing you and/or your family down the highway in the utmost comfort.

Someone may also want to tell Maximum Bob, while giving him all this input, that it may be a good idea to bring-in some kind of performance line to Buick as well, much like they have to every other division. What’s this? Buick and performance? What the deuce? Well, sorry to break it to you, but Buick and performance has gone together in the past and should once again. I cannot fathom why they would’ve totally ignored this part of their heritage for so long, seeing how they’re supposedly a heritage centered brand and all. So, what do I propose for this performance line? Well, as far as the next LaCrosse would go, I would say that they would need to give it tasteful slightly distinctive performance modifications on the esthetic side of things, for one, on the performance side of things? Well, let’s see…

We could go and give it a CTS-V treatment and give this performance LaCrosse, let’s say LaCrosse GNX, and give it a nice little V8 to keep with the whole classic American gone modern that Buick is supposed to be. What V8 would I give it then, you ask? I would say that a premium sedan like a Buick would definitely need a premium engine, therefore eliminating the LS-Series of pushrod (OHC) engines as well as the ever so famous “Small Block Chevy” (SBC). I guess that means that once again, we will have to go to Cadillac to borrow something out of their not-so-thrifty parts bin…

I would go ahead and pick-out the 4.6L Northstar VVT V8 and not the version found in the Lucerne but the version that we can currently find in the Cadillac SRX, XLR and STS.

This particular engine generates a very impressive 320hp @ 6400 RPM and is one of GM’s torque monsters with a 315lb-ft @ 4400 RPM. With this engine, it would definitely put Buick back on the map, as far as performance would go, and would also not violate the whole “nobody can outdo Cadillac, ever” unwritten law of GM, as it would still not quite reach the levels of the 6.0L V8 found in the CTS-V.

Now I’m sure that many of you would argue with me that Cadillac powertrains would require RWD, well I’m going to play Captain Obvious here, just in case, and point-out that of course they should also make it RWD, which would work with every engine and their matching transmissions taken from the cars the engine were in as well, including the I4 which is found in the RWD Solstice.

Of course, I’m certain that they would throw the old “damaged brands” argument out there. However, if they would have neglected ever adopting that absolutely idiotic protectionist philosophy things probably would have never reached the wretched state in which they presently are. Also, these so-called “damaged brands” (Pontiac, Buick and GMC, apparently) that they seem to love labeling that way just to try and justify their unwillingness to save these less than favorite divisions. However Mr. Goodwrench, you certainly cannot possibly have already have already forgotten how Cadillac was in as bad a shape as the old Tri-Shield before it’s very own renaissance which is far from complete but well underway; The quick introduction of the Escalade along with the CTS provided a strong base on which they were then capable of building the Cadillac that we know now. Buick apparently has the Enclave on the way which is all too close to an encore performance of the rebirth of Caddy.

Unfortunately I must confess, the car picture above and which the subject of this article is NOT the mark II Buick LaCrosse, or at least it’s not necessarily the next LaCrosse. It is merely the Asian version of the LaCrosse which I speculate may be the next generation of the model in question. However, given the fact that they are supposed to give the LaCrosse a major redo soon and that it would fit with the “new direction of Buick” which is supposed to begin with the Enclave. I am hoping it will be: the Enclave could be the next Escalade (with better styling), so please let this be the next LaCrosse, Mr. Lutz, as it could be your next CTS!

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