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Cars Worth Noting: 2005 Buick LaCrosse

2005 Buick LaCrosse

GM product czar Bob Lutz popped in to chat with assembled journalists during a recent media preview of Buick’s ’05 LaCrosse, which replaces aging mid-size siblings Century and Regal and modestly kicks off Buick’s product renaissance. “Judge this car objectively,” he entreated. “Forget that it’s a Buick. Forget its nationality. Forget that it’s got some carryover parts (sharing the Chevy Impala/Pontiac Grand Prix platform).”

Lutz knows that car critics tend to prejudge new vehicles by national origin, reputation and past experience. Because they’ve long learned what to expect from every new product of every brand, it’s a major challenge for any automaker to wrench itself away from those established preconceptions.

Breaking such mental molds typically requires perception-busting styling (e.g. Cadillac and Chrysler), so this somewhat bland but surprisingly fine new Buick has its work cut out.

But while Buick’s new exterior design direction (as previewed by last year’s curvaceous Velite convertible concept) remains around the corner, its much-needed (Lutz-driven) interior revolution has clearly begun. The ultraquiet LaCrosse cabin is rich with quality fits and premium materials, lending credence to the division’s pursuit of its Lexus-level target.

Lutz also told the chassis team to morph its dynamic character from Buick soft to Euro lithe and supple, which they effectively did. Standard and up-level CXL models share Buick’s best-ever base suspension, and the sportier CXS — with quicker steering, tighter suspenders, bigger wheels and tires and GM’s terrific 240-hp 3.6L DOHC 24-valve VVT V-6 — can hold its own on challenging two-lanes with the planet’s best premium sedans.

Nice job, Bob! Now bring on the bold design.

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