Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rental Car Review - 2013 Buick LaCrosse

I recently went on a road trip with a good friend of mine visiting from Canada. The destination was southern California, but our plans expanded to Las Vegas as well. Instead of putting a bunch of miles on my car or his pickup, we elected to rent a car.

The rental company had exactly two vehicles available: a Toyota Yaris 5-door hatchback and a 2013 Buick LaCrosse. Neither car was something we wanted, but since the trip would involve mostly highway driving we selected the Buick.

I didn't want to like the LaCrosse. I had driven a LaCrosse previously at a GM Main Street in Motion event in 2011. The experience left me disappointed by the car's lack of handling prowess, and the seats felt unsupportive. I didn't really like how it looked, either, as the high beltline, chunky proportions and imitation portholes on the hood turned me off. That evaluation is all fine and good when your testing session is a closed course where the only rules are keep the car between the lines and don't lay rubber. Over the course of five days of actual driving, though, the car showed its true colors as a competent highway cruiser.

The Buick LaCrosse is a large mid-size car that comes with either a 2.4 liter four or a 3.6 liter V6 engine, and FWD or AWD. Our example was loaded with darn near everything including the 303-hp V6, Sirius/XM satellite radio, Bluetooth, OnStar, keyless ignition, a power moonroof, power rear window sunshade, blind spot warning system and heated and cooled leather seats. One of the car's niftiest features are high intensity discharge headlights that turn with the steering to help light around corners.

When I climbed into the LaCrosse I found it difficult at first to find a comfortable seating position. The power seats allowed for a lot of adjustment, though the roofline felt low and I was disappointed that only the driver seat had lumbar support. I spent most of my time on the passenger side. I found the soft blue mood lighting - which is installed in seemingly random places all over the cabin - rather silly. There is also fake wood trim which still doesn't fool anyone. The center stack design has long been a sore point with me as well; it works fine but I can't help thinking that it looks like a tabletop jukebox. Likewise, the armrests are awkward and too small to use effectively. The cooled seats, however, are a wonderful thing since one's back can become mighty sticky on a long road trip through the Southwest.

In highway performance, the LaCrosse did not disappoint. The gutsy V6 sounds great under throttle and makes short work of freeway on-ramps when needed. Cruise control is handled via a roller switch on the steering wheel - roll it downward  with a finger to engage cruise, then roll it up or down to speed up or slow down. I didn't like that method a whole lot, but it worked smoothly. The car's heads-up display proved useful for night driving, and the vehicle informed me of a possible black ice risk when outside temperature dropped below 38 degrees Fahrenheit while driving through the mountains.

The more time I lived with the car, the more I came to accept it. There are some vehicles that I can live with for four years and still hate them, but that wasn't the case with the LaCrosse. It offers quick performance, quiet highway ride and a fair amount of interior and trunk space. Would I buy one for personal use? Not likely. My money is still reserved for a clean used Pontiac G8 if I want a biggish near-luxury sedan, but the LaCrosse V6 is the best rental car I've had.


  1. Definitely one of the best rental cars I have ever driven. The previous ones being a Civic CX Efficient model and a Toyota Corolla. Very cheap, low quality cars that do just that. Exist as cars.

  2. Funny how once you get to drive a rental car they grow on you, even if you think you would not be seen dead in a particular model before hand :-)