Buick LaCrosse AWD challenges 300, Taurus

The 2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium AWD sedan is longer, lower, wider and lighter in weight than a year ago. (Bud Wells photos)

In days long gone, majority of sales successes in the automotive market of the U.S. were spurred by new models of the Big Three – General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

A few of those standouts remain, such as the Mustang/Camaro/Challenger competition.

And, of course, the intense domination of the full-size truck market by Ford/GM/Ram.

Another has emerged, this one close to home right here in Colorado.

The arrival of the third-generation 2017 Buick LaCrosse Premium all-wheel-drive sedan gave me pause to celebrate it.

To this point into 2017, it is a true Big Three battle aimed almost specifically at our state’s wintertime drives; it’s the full-size, all-wheel-drive-sedan comparison of the Buick LaCrosse, Ford Taurus and Chrysler 300 (and stablemate Dodge Charger).

For much of the rest of the country where there is less demand for AWD vehicles, the full-size market is a scramble with addition of Toyota Avalon, Chevy Impala, Kia Cadenza, Nissan Maxima, Volkswagen Passat, models which offer no AWD option.

While driving skill is primary, the addition of an all-wheel-drive option to large sedans is a secondary edge that increases security in this tough-driving part of the country. An example of the importance placed on the AWD security is that of Chrysler 300 sales nationally last year, 27 percent were equipped with the four-wheel mode; of Chrysler 300 sales in the Denver/Colorado region, 77 percent were with AWD.

Buick dealers in the Denver metro area have seen increased showroom attention drawn by the newest LaCrosse with AWD.

The new LaCrosse has grown by 3 inches in wheelbase and an inch overall, yet has shed pounds to a svelte curb weight of 3,840 in its AWD form, 300 lighter than a year ago. It sits lower and is a bit wider.

The Buick is equipped with a new five-link rear suspension, sharing a platform with the Cadillac XT5 I reviewed two weeks ago as my 2,000th new vehicle driven in the past 40 years. Also like the XT5, the LaCrosse uses a 310-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine tied to an 8-speed automatic transmission with a small electronic shifter and stop/start technology

A roomy, beautifully finished interior is very quiet and its head-up display is one of the most colorful I’ve viewed. The switch to the electronic by-wire shifter creates a floating console with good-sized storage space beneath.

The Buick, on a 10-degree night with snow and ice on the ground, carried Jan and me to Denver for the annual Christmas party of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP) in the Bud Wells Board Room of the Colorado Automobile Dealers’ Bill Barrow Building at Speer and Grant.

David Muramoto and Tim Jackson at Rocky Mountain Automotive Press party.

David Muramoto has begun his second year as president of RMAP and shared the podium with Tim Jackson, head of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association. Jackson referred to a 26 percent jump in new-car sales in Colorado in October, then appeared to be looking forward to a “possible wild ride ahead” with many new products, continued pent-up demand among consumers and change in political climate.

The high-end Acura NSX hybrid sports car and powerful Ram Rebel 4-by-4 pickup earned recognition from Muramoto for being voted “best onroad vehicle” and “best offroad vehicle”, respectively, selected by RMAP members in a driving extravaganza at Devil’s Thumb Ranch near Tabernash in September.

The Buick, built in Detroit, did well in the snow, with little slipping or sliding in its AWD setup. It averaged 23.6 miles per gallon during a cold, snowy week. It has no fuel-filler cap beneath the fender flap, thus it has joined Ford and Chrysler in that offering. A small button for engaging the heated steering wheel is positioned in the mix of controls for the active cruise and is, while driving in the dark, easy to be pushed unknowingly until the wheel begins to heat. The LaCrosse rode on Continental ProContact 235/50R18 tires.

With such additions as front automatic braking, pedestrian-detection, 4G LTE in-car wi-fi, navigation and Bose audio, the LaCrosse’s sticker price reached $48,970.



An 8-speed automatic transmission has been added to the Kia Cadenza for ’17.

The Kia Cadenza, a full-size, front-wheel-drive sedan built in Seoul, South Korea, was introduced to the U.S. market for the 2014 model year.

The Cadenza is 2 inches shorter than the Buick, both in wheelbase and overall length.

Like the Buick, the Cadenza has acquired a new 8-speed automatic transmission, replacing its former 6-speed. With its 290-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6 engine, the Kia is not particularly strong on takeoff, then moves very responsively in midrange torque.

Nicely quilted and perforated nappa leather seats, finished in white, are comfortable and bright. A 14-speaker harmon/kardon audio system is a highlight.

Though the concave grille has stirred remarks, both favorable and unfavorable, the exterior finish is sleek and smooth from that point rearward. The “intaglio” grille is of faceted blades vertically across the front and curved toward the engine compartment.

The Cadenza weighs approximately 3,700 pounds on a wheelbase of 112.4 inches.  It averaged 23.4 miles per gallon (EPA estimate 20/28).  It rides on Michelin 245/40R19 tires.

Pricing for the Cadenza begins at $32,890 for the base model and $39,890 for the Technology edition.

Sticker price on the review model, the SX-L, was $46,240, including intelligent cruise control, surround-view camera, blind-spot monitoring, head-up display, power trunk lid and heated outboard rear seats.